Guns and a police helmet are displayed at a barrack after a shootout between suspected members of Islamic sect Boko Haram and the military in Nigeria's northern city of Kano March 20, 2012.


Boko Haram (BH) is pushing Nigeria’s government and its people towards a chaotic and bloody confrontation that will not only negatively impact the nation but threatens to further destabilize Sub-Saharan Africa. Known for its corruption and fraud, Nigeria has now added terrorism to its negative global image. Image: 2012 Kano, Nigera. Guns and a police helmet are displayed at a barrack after a shootout between Boko Haram in March 20, 2012.

FOR MORE ON  Boko Haram: Coffers and Coffins; A Pandoras Box - the Vast Financing Options for Boko Haram

Transnational Terror

Prior to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who on Christmas day 2009 attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound flight from the Netherlands, no one would have imagined that a Nigerian would  be capable of committing an act of transnational terrorism. 

For More on Security and Aviation (non Military)

Growth and Adaptation

Since the 2009 death of Boko Haram’s (BH) founder, Mohammed Yusuf while in police custody, the global threat of Boko Haram, especially to Western interests, has grown in leaps and bounds.  BH’s operational complexity and lethality keeps Nigeria’s security apparatus on the reactive and perplexed mode.  Conversely, Boko Haram seemingly adapts and adjusts effortlessly to Nigerian efforts to suppress it.  Since 2009, more sophisticated tactics, as well as weaponry, has assisted Boko Haram in its ability to acclimate so quickly, begging the question: Where is Boko Haram receiving its funding?

For More on Arms Supplies and Terrorism

For More on Finance and Terrorism

Video: 2013 Eighteen soilders face trial for aiding Boko Haram.


What is certain about Boko Haram (BH) is that the organization is very well funded; without an ever-increasing cash flow, the movement would have died out long ago.  Government and private intelligence organizations believe that BH is sponsored mostly by foreigners, along with Nigerian ex-pats and locals. The American Foreign Policy Council’s World Almanac of Islamism (last updated August 21, 2013) indicates that BH has received funding with the help of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and from organizations in the UK and Saudi Arabia. A BH spokesman claimed with a degree of reliability that Boko Haram leaders met with Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia during the lesser hajj (umrah) in August 2011.  By successfully mounting spectacular operations throughout the Maghreb and Sahel regions with worldwide media coverage, and providing advance training and financing to groups like the Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and others. AQIM’s value to al Qaeda (AQ) in Pakistan and the jihad cause has also grown and significantly spread its influence beyond its Algerian base, deeper into Central and Western Africa.  AQIM has become the premier AQ franchise that everybody wants to buy into it, including BH.   In addition, the Nigerian news organization PUNCH recently confirmed a September 13, 2013 US Congressional report that BH is being supported by AQIM.  The Los Angeles Times had made the same conclusion two years prior in an article dated September 13, 2011, “Nigeria militant group Boko Haram's attacks attract speculation”.

For More on Diasporas and Terrorism

For More on Declaration of Boko Haram as a FTO

Charitable Organizations and Internet Fraud

The Nigerian Tribune of Lago (February 13, 2011) reported that the country’s State Security Service was working with domestic and international agencies to track funding going to the group.  The Guardian (September 8, 2012) quotes Nigerian media reports that some money raised by the Al Muntada Trust Fund (HQ in London) and the Islamic World Society (HQ in Saudi Arabia) may have found its way into BH coffers. A London charity of that name raises money for disaster projects in Africa.  In a recent Radio France broadcast, a security expert suggested that though the really big money comes from Europe, the smaller trickle of financing comes from Lagos in South Nigeria via via Internet fraud.[1]  The current BH operational uptick is showing that the federal authorities are unsuccessful in stopping such practices.


BH uses a comparatively new source that has solidified their notoriety – kidnapping.  It is said that one of the main reasons for the Ansaru splintering from Boko Haram was a debate over kidnapping foreign nationals.  Within the past year Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (JAMBS - Ansaru) folded back into Boko Haram upon an agreement that kidnapping would be high on the agenda of activities.  Certainly, kidnapping is assisting BH in maintaining their monetary strength. Reuters reported that BH picked-up over $3 million from French and Cameroonian negotiators for the release of a French family kidnapped in Cameroon earlier this year. 

Video: 2013 Unlike Boko Haram, which focuses only on Nigeria, Ansaru has a wider initiative, aligning itself with other Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA).

For More on Kidnapping/Hostage Taking as a Terrorist Tactic

Expansion Efforts

Nigerian political and security consultants are baffled by the organization’s sustainability, as little is known of the group and its funding.  Some speculate that the funding could be coming from a larger regional push by radicals to acquire territory in West Africa, which would make the transnational concerns of the group much greater, no longer focusing on the near enemy to gain more territory. What is certain is that BH’s funding has been elusive and that the security apparatuses, domestic and international, need to significantly improve their intelligence gathering capabilities to figure it out.     


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About the Contributor

Ioannis Papathanassiou

John I. Papathanassiou is an international business consultant with nearly 30 years of experience in defense and security analysis in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. His work with Omega...