from Africa in Transition

Funding for Nigeria’s Boko Haram

September 12, 2012

Blog Post

Baron David Alton of Liverpool, a member of the UK House of Lords, has raised with Baron David Howell of Guildford, a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (the UK foreign ministry), his concern that a London-based Islamic charity, Al Muntada, is providing some financial support for Boko Haram.  The London press reports that Lord Alton raised these concerns in July;  it is not clear why the UK media is only carrying the story now.  However, spokespersons for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the UK’s military think tank, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide have, during the past year, issued alarms about Boko Haram activities and the possibility that they could spread to the UK. For the RUSI report, see here.  It is well known that a number of radical Islamic organizations are based in London where, presumably, their activities are monitored appropriately by the Metropolitan police.  A spokesperson for the UK Charity Commission (the entity that regulates registered charities in the UK) confirmed knowledge of Lord Alton’s concerns, but cautioned that there are a "number of registered charities with a similar name to this organization, so the commission is not able to confirm at this stage whether or not this relates directly to a UK registered charity."

There has been speculation in Nigeria and elsewhere about how Boko Haram funds its operations. It would seem intuitive that radical jihadist organizations outside Nigeria may be funneling money to it.  But, if so, the amount and significance is unclear. Boko Haram operations do not seem especially costly. Explosives are readily available, and cheap, in Nigeria and Boko Haram elements appear able to steal weapons from government armories.  It is likely too, that the flood of Libyan weapons has reached Nigeria, depressing the prices. Given the huge number of unemployed Muslim "youth" in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram can recruit "foot soldiers" for its operations for little money. Further, elements of Boko Haram have been directly linked to bank robberies, likely an important source of funding.

Boko Haram appears to be essentially an indigenous phenomena, with any international links having marginal influence.  Its funding, too, is likely to come mostly from within Nigeria.