By Obiejesi Kingsley
An intelligence report by the United States Army on Boko Haram recently de-classified has revealed that the group is principally funded by a consortium of international terror organisations, with al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda being the major financiers.
The report compiled in October 2015 and entitled “Threat Tactics Report: Boko Haram” said aside the steady stream of fund coming in from these organisations, Boko Haram insurgency is also assisted by local financiers in Borno and Cameroon, specifically by Kanuri supporters of the group based in these locations.
Part of the 31-page report read: “Boko Haram is a well-financed organization, but determining the specifics of that financing is difficult. After the 2001 bombing of the twin towers in the US, al-Qaeda began funding Boko Haram and other groups in the region.
“There is some evidence that Boko Haram historically received funding from al Shabaab and other al-Qaeda affiliates. Boko Haram has found new financiers in Borno and in Cameroon’s northern region. These funders are often ethnic Kanuris like Yusuf, Shekau, and a large majority of Boko Haram members.
“These benefactors provide weapons and become intermediaries in negotiating with the Cameroonian government for ransom payments. Boko Haram’s recent pivot from al-Qaeda to swearing allegiance to ISIL may have as much to do with practical financing concerns as a major shift in ideology. The most identifiable and possibly the most lucrative funding sources are Boko Haram’s criminal activities.
“Beginning in February 2013, Boko Haram began kidnapping as a means of increasing revenues, creating distrust of the government, and discouraging Western business interests in Nigeria. The April 2014 kidnapping of 270 school girls from the northern town of Chibok gained international attention, but is only one of many kidnappings happening regularly in Nigeria.
“Seven members of a French family kidnapped just over the border in Cameroon on 19 February 2013 were reportedly worth $3 million to Boko Haram. Most kidnappings, however, tend to be more modest. During attacks on villages, women and girls are often taken to be used as slaves or sold in human trafficking networks.”
To ensure an unceasing supply of fund, the group has also turned to crimes and drug trafficking.
“Boko Haram benefits from Nigeria’s geographic positioning as a hub for drug trafficking. About a quarter to two-thirds of the cocaine transiting from South America to Europe passes through the West African countries of Cape Verde, Mali, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, and Ghana.
“Increasingly, Boko Haram is becoming a player in Nigerian drug smuggling. Potentially the most devastating of Boko Haram’s revenue-generating activities is pillaging and robbing villages. Boko Haram has targeted banks as a means of getting quick cash.
“Other means include taxes; extortion; stealing; and looting of villages, military facilities, and other civilian infrastructure during attacks… Capitalizing on its geographic location along drug and arms smuggling routes as well as other criminal activities, Boko Haram has a sustainable way to continue its operations.”
The intelligence by the United States Army also revealed that the group, which initially had an army of less than 5000 members, has sustained its insurgency in Nigeria’s North East through forced recruitment of young boys and girls kidnapped during raids on rural communities in the region and trained in Cameroon.
The boys are reportedly often sent to “re-education camps” in Cameroon where they are indoctrinated or killed if they refused to comply. Non-forced recruitment, according to the report, “is being carried out mostly in Cameroon, not Nigeria, because of the violent attacks in northern Nigeria and the mass migration of men out of areas of Boko Haram violence.”
“The region where Boko Haram operates in Cameroon is an area of endemic poverty with as much as 60% of the population living in terrible economic conditions, making them easy targets for recruitment. Police are also easily bribed and co-opted by Boko Haram. In January 2015, a senior inspector of police in Balaza was arrested and accused of issuing Cameroonian ID cards to Boko Haram militants.”
US army said the counter insurgency campaign begun in 2013 by Nigerian military pushed Boko Haram into safe havens in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon-countries where poverty and dissatisfaction mix to make them fertile recruiting grounds for Boko Haram fighters.
The report, which seemed to cover Boko Haram operations up till 2015, said “Women and girls are also increasingly being used in operations, including wives of slain and imprisoned fighters and beggars.”
“In June 2014, six female suicide bombers, all under 16 years of age, were involved in attacks at universities, fuelling stations, and military barracks. One 10-year-old girl was caught with a suicide vest. Kidnapped women and girls are used as slaves, intelligence gathers, and to lure targets into a kill zone.”
The report however noted that Nigeria’s military onslaught and mass resentment by Muslim and Christians in Northern Nigeria against the group would continue to make further recruitment an uphill task.
“The group is not winning friends in northern Nigeria where Muslims and Christians alike fear its arbitrary violence. The loyalty of those forced into fighting will always be viewed with a degree of suspicion by Boko Haram. Increasing use of women, girls, and heavy recruitment of non-Nigerians to fight for a Nigerian insurgency point to Boko Haram’s potential limitations,” the report stated.
The report also stated that while Boko Haram primarily focuses on the goal of establishing a Sharia law-based government in Nigeria, current developments seemed to be shifting those goals.
Evidence gathered by the US army points to Boko Haram fighters supporting the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, MUJAO, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,AQIM, and Ansar Dine in 2012 and 2013 in Mali.
“Boko Haram fighters have come from the border states in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. As many as one-third of Boko Haram members fled Nigeria during the 2009 Nigerian government crackdown on Boko Haram.
According to relatives of former Boko Haram leader and founder Muhammed Yusuf, in 2011 as much as 40% of its funding came from outside Nigeria.
“Boko Haram has used Niger, Chad, and Cameroon to hide, train, plan, recruit, and transit, historically focusing attacks on Nigeria to avoid crackdowns in countries where it has safe havens. Yusuf found refuge in Saudi Arabia in 2004 and there have been historic relationships with groups in that country.
“Boko Haram has also taken inspiration from the Taliban, with some of its fighters having trained in Afghanistan.
In March 2015, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau swore allegiance to al Baghdadi and ISIL. The move away from al-Qaeda to ISIL was an evolutionary process. Yusuf considered Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, to be one of the four Salafist purists all Muslims should follow.
“In 2002, bin Laden sent emissaries to hand out three million dollars in local currency to Salafist groups in Nigeria, one of whom was Boko Haram. That relationship was severed when Shekau threw his support to ISIL. An integral reason for Ansaru’s separation from Boko Haram was both ideological and tactical,” the report said.
While the report did not contain any definitive intelligence on the weapon capability of Boko Haram, it however said the group “can be assumed to have any number of heavy weapons and equipment as well as small arms and ammunition included in the Nigerian military inventory.”
While the group also has a robust arms-smuggling network and unregulated and unguarded cross-border transit routes, the report noted that “it has not been able to fully capitalize on weapons it now holds.”
However, the report observed that the “newly-formed relationship with ISIL will open up new opportunities for training on weapon systems and improved tactics in response to an intensified Nigerian military counter insurgency”, adding that Boko Haram’s “improvement in the use of air defense weapons will be particularly challenging for the NAF’s current air superiority.”