Kidnapping for ransom, black marketing, local and international supporters, al-Qaeda connections and other well-funded groups in the Middle East are some of Boko Haram’s sources of funding.
By Azore Opio
Being in possession of high-tech machinery supports strong suggestions that formidable forces are behind Boko Haram. Abubakar Shekau and his masked minions could not have picked up vast arrays of heavy weaponry, vehicles, bombs and ammunition from the forest of Sambisa.
In the name of a “holy war”, Boko Haram unleashed attacks on banks and robbed millions of Naira from bullion vans, The Washington Post reported.
The Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium says bank robberies account for 6 million US dollars of Boko Haram’s wealth.
As Boko Haram ravaged financial institutions to bankroll its terrorist campaigns, it began acquiring the technology to make explosive devices which it used to blow up churches. Borno State in Nigeria received the brunt of these crude explosives. Many lives were lost. At the same time, kidnapping of high-value personalities such as politicians, religious leaders, wealthy businessmen, traditional rulers, senior civil servants and foreigners raked in huge ransom money for the Islamic sect between 2010 and 2012.
Beyond selective murders, kidnappings, and robberies, there are suspicions that Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda are closely linked and benefitting from some of the money, training and weapons leaking from Syrian rebels. It is an open secret that the US is supporting the Syrian rebels with military aid and other logistics.
Reports say Al-Shabab united with al-Qaeda in 2012.
According to the International Crisis Group, Boko Haram’s story of fundraising dates as far back as the World Trade Center disaster. Osama bin Laden, then leader of al-Qaeda, reportedly dispatched the equivalent of 3 million US dollars in Naira to Nigeria to be shared among groups with matching passions to impose Islamic rule. Boko Haram reportedly received part of this war incentive.
“Al Qaeda are our elder brothers. Our leader travelled to Saudi Arabia and met al-Qaida there. We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them we ask them,” a Boko Haram spokesman reportedly told the Guardian, a Western newspaper, in 2011.
When Boko Haram felt it had taken possession of northern Nigeria, and even started collecting taxes, it became overambitious and spread its attacks to neighbouring Cameroon, a faulty step the group might regret. Their world of terror began falling apart when Cameroon, Chad and Niger joined Nigeria to counter-attack in the region where the borders of all the four countries meet. But before that, Boko Haram had wrecked havoc in northern Cameroon and reaped huge sums in ransom money. The terrorist sect reportedly pocketed 3 million US dollars in exchange for a French family it had abducted in Cameroon. And, although the Canadian government denied it, reports said a Canadian nun and an Italian priest captured by Boko Haram were bartered for money, Agence France-Presse reported.
The tide, however, seems to have turned against Boko Haram. The three-month offensive driven by the four nations has seen the terrorist group retreating, their force burning out and their captives, mainly females, being rescued by Nigerian troops. More unfortunate for Boko Haram is the fact that they had little or no sense of the Cameroonian national solidarity stakes at play.
Cameroon’s ability to defuse events that threaten its stability has been its strong point in the central African sub-region. This has been enabled by the nation’s capacity to shore up domestic morale and sometimes spend its way out of trouble. That stratagem has often come under pressure from many vested interests competing in a delicate regional security situation; piracy in the sea, poachers and traffickers, civil strife in neighbouring countries and illegal cross-border trade.
Beyond marching to demonstrate their distaste for Boko Haram terrorism which has claimed the lives of Cameroonian soldiers as well as civilians, the compatriots have thrown in their monetary weight to boost the morale and support the fight against the horrendous Islamic sect. Through several public fundraising campaigns nationwide, Cameroonians have gathered close to 2 billion francs cfa. A solidarity meeting at Bongo Square in Buea, Southwest Region, on April 17, 2015 for example, raised more than 80 million francs cfa. The Northwest Region raised some 80 million in anti-Boko Haram campaigns; the Far North, over 20 million, Befang collected 36 million and the South Region; 99 million, just to name these few.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by a cleric called Mohammed Yusuf. The group was originally known as Yusufiyya founded as an alternative to Western education. Yusufiyya transmogrified to Boko Haram and since 2009, the group has cut off limbs and lives from humans; upwards of 15,000 and displaced over 200,000 Nigerians.
Mohammed Yusuf was later killed and Abubakar Shekau stepped in his shoes.