I hear people talk about stopping Boko Haram funding, asking how they get their weapons, people talking about using intelligence and all other James Bond/Jack Bauer stuff they watch in movies. I will try to give a little insight covering as much ground as I can. Boko Haram started in 2002 founded by Mohammed Yusuf who was later executed in July 2009. Before his death, there was a mass radicalization by him and members of his group that led to his arrest and subsequent execution.
After his death, Abu Shekau took over in 2009, the entire dynamics of Boko Haram changed following a mass prison break in 2010. Many of their arrested members were released and other inmates conscripted to join their already large ranks. Boko Haram first started as an offshoot of al-Qa’ida. Both local and foreign intelligence all reported that the founder of Boko Haram, deceased Yusuf, fled to Saudi Arabia to escape one of Nigeria’s major raids on the group before 2011.
It is believed certain leaders of al-Qa’ida met with him where modalities were put in place for training of fighters, funding & weapon acquisition. A Boko Haram spokesman once quoted to have said: “Al-Qa’ida are our elder brothers. We enjoy financial & technical support from them. Anything we want from them, we ask them.” It is also said Boko Haram gets cash from other terror groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia and local al-Qa’ida affiliates operating in Africa.
While they have these as their international sources, they also have the local sources of funding which brings us to the Ansaru group or the ‘al-Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel (Jamāʿatu Anṣāril Muslimīna fī Bilādis Sūdān) as they call themselves. This is a splinter group/faction of Boko Haram, who carry out independent operations/attacks & also collaborate with Boko Haram and new mushroom terror groups springing up. These groups have been known to source funds by:
1. Kidnapping: We all know about the popular Chibok and Dapchi girls’
abductions that made waves. Apart from such daring kidnaps, there have been lots of kidnappings not only in the northern parts of the country but also southern and western parts. Foreigners, government officials and rich people are profiled, then kidnapped. Our media has failed us in the way they have spun the narrative such that most have taken their eyes off the problem of terrorism but instead
concentrating on ethnicity/religion especially when headlines carry phrases like ‘Fulani herdsmen
Ransoms paid for kidnappings range from as low as N50, 000 to as high as millions of dollars. The Nigerian government will neither deny nor affirm that ransom was paid to effect the release of some of the Dapchi and Chibok girls. Families of kidnap victims have been made to pay so much money, it is even estimated that the kidnap for ransom ring is estimated to worth as much as N100m weekly, if not more. Unfortunately, ransom monies are difficult to track since they are paid in cash and not by bank transfers.
2. Slave trade: Apart from people being kidnapped for ransom, there is the slavery aspect where most people abducted especially women within a certain age are sold off either locally or across our borders. Some of these ladies have been sold to buyers coming all the way from Mali, Chad, Niger, even Egypt and Libya. All these transactions are done in cash, gold or exchange for weapons.
3. Extortion: Terrorists have been known to enter villages/towns/markets demanding for protection money. Locals are forced to contribute funds daily/weekly so their markets, cities or farms are raided and destroyed.
4. Rustling: When security forces setup an anti-rustling unit, many people, including the media, came up with the narrative that the government values the lives of livestock to humans. What many do not know is that, these terrorist groups use the stealing and selling of livestock to fund their operations. Imagine 500 cows rustled in three towns alone, how much is a single cow? A well fed, full grown cow can go as much as N200k-350k depending on size. So they are sold in the cattle black-market for N100k; that is N50m in a single transaction.
Now many of these sales happen daily, weekly, monthly?
5. Bank robberies: we all know how that works.
6. Smuggling & sale of drugs: There was a raid on a Boko Haram camp sometime ago; cartons of codeine, tramadol and medicines used on livestock were recovered in that camp. What is the average price of a bottle of codeine or sachet of tramadol? Apart from the ones being sold illegally by some pharma companies or the ones that come through our ports, what about the ones we have no stock of that flow through our borders? Millions of naira made by selling banned substances in the black market by agents of these terror groups.
What I have listed above are businesses valued at billions of naira and mostly cash transactions that are run in such a way that partners do not know they are indirectly funding terrorism. How easy do you think it is to track and stop such black market cash/gold funding? Obviously, not a walk in the park.
Weapons acquisition: Small arms like Ak47, hand guns and even RPGs are easily acquired if you have the right contact. With corruption/corrupt officials, we have weapons entering through our ports. We also have the big weapons like tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks that have been adapted to carry heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, mortars, bombs, shells etc that are acquired from international arms black markets and brought in by road through the Sahel via our porous borders. Since the war broke out in Libya with their militaries armoury thrown open, there has been easy access of sophisticated weapons to these terrorists. Countries like Iran, parts of eastern Europe/former soviet countries etc are all big markets for weapons with no regulations.
Some of these weapons are flown by air as supplies and parachuted in caches to coordinates given by insurgents
right inside forests/mountain regions within the conflict areas or desert areas outside and later smuggled in. I read people refer to Boko Haram as a ragtag group, you might call them that because of how they look in their videos or when arrested but there is nothing ragtag about their operations. First of all, they are a well coordinated group. They are so coordinated that most members do not know themselves, do not know certain leaders etc. They are broken into cells, sectors, divisions etc and each is independent of the other. They use both sophisticated and crude means of communications. While you expect them to use the conventional cell phone/sms/e-mails to pass info among members, most commanders use satellite phones which connect to
other members by designated frequency through orbiting satellites. This is different from normal cell phones that use cell sites/towers that can easily be tracked.
Instead of sending e-mails, they set up several e-mail addresses and share passwords of these e-mail
accounts among cell leaders/commanders.
When messages are composed, instead of clicking on ‘send’, they are saved in draft. Every member who has the password regularly opens the e-mail and goes straight to draft to read and then delete. With this method, there is no case of e-mail sent from one address to another making it difficult to track since there is no originating IP. They also use social media; imagine someone setting up a Twitter account with the face of a pretty lady all clothed Properly. Daily, she posts tweets like Hadiths or just normal good stuff. It is normal that people will start following such a handle. What many do not know is, among the regular followers are also members of different cells. These members already know handles or profiles that belong to their commanders using fake pictures. So one of such handles does a tweet like, ‘I will be traveling to Baga to see the fish market tomorrow. Travel time, 2pm.’ This could be nothing, it could also mean a message to cells around that area to plan a strike in that particular location by 2pm. There are lots and lots of ways these people communicate that are very difficult to track. This is not an excuse or justification, this is simply stating that successes are 50% intelligence & 50% sheer luck. What about their fighting numbers?
The U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) estimated that not less than 10,000 boys were reportedly abducted and trained by Boko Haram between 2014 & 2016. With the dismantling of ISIS in Iraq & Syria, more fighters are moving through the Sahel to west African countries like Mali, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroun to join in the fighting.
On October 4, 2017, four US, five Nigerien soldiers were killed & 10 wounded in the ‘Tongo Tongo ambush’ that happened in Niger Republic. Since 2013 till date, 41 French soldiers have died in the Sahel fighting Islamist terrorist groups, the numbers increased in just one year. 71 soldiers were killed with 12 injured in December 2019 in an attack on a military base in Inates of western Niger. There is more to the war; the armed forces will not put out certain information on ongoing operations for security reasons.
I am putting these out so people will understand that the war isn’t like some movie game or conventional war where you go bomb their bases. The enemy has no base, the enemy is mobile, the enemy could be that mai-shai, or mai-lemu, or meat seller you patronize. They hide in plain sight, they use human shields. An American parent will report a child who suddenly starts exhibiting strange behaviour or lifestyle. A wife will report the husband if she sees him reading a Jihadist/militant material online.
Our own people will either shield them or take them for evil spirit to be caste out. It’s a very complicated war such that I have my doubts it will be ending in the next 10 years (I pray it does). So when spinning conspiracy theories about people feeding fat or whatever enters our magination ask yourself, if it were that easy how come US troops are still dying in Afghanistan? How come al-Shabaab kicked the US’ ass in Somalia and has waxed stronger even in Kenya for over 15 years? Insurgency is more than what you read on social media. As usual,
we are a people who know about soccer more than footballers and coaches, as we sit behind our devices to insult Lampard, Ole, Lukaku or Ronaldo. A few Google clicks and we all become experts in warfare/insurgency.
Let me stop before they say I am being paid 30k to launder government.