Boko Haram: A Business Empire Demystified?

By Richards Murphy

Let me ask Nigerians these pertinent questions. When security agents arrest suspected Boko Haram terrorists and find in their possession dangerous and high-caliber guns and bombs, does it strike anything in anybody? Or what do people think each time soldiers raid terrorists hideouts /caves and recover materials for the manufacture of lethal explosives  used in committing atrocities? Can we understand why the ownership of dangerous weapons is regulated or outlawed in Nigeria, yet terrorists never lacked the supply?

No plausible interpretation of such developments, outside the visible manifestation of the business or entrepreneurial component of Boko Haram Terrorism (BHT).  Nigerians are creatively very skillful people in everything they do. It did not take Biafran war mongers too long to begin the manufacture their bombs, called in Igbo vernacular as “ogbunigwe,” or “Ojukwu Bucket,”  and other dangerous weapons during the unfortunate Nigerian civil war.

When I first heard of the reality of Boko Haram insurgency years back,  my understanding of it was that of a small, negligible  sect of religious extremists cum aggrieved thugs waging war on their political godfathers in Borno state, Nigeria. But I was dead wrong as later experiences revealed. It began to expand tentacles to other parts of the Northeast, Northern Nigeria, including Abuja and even the Southern parts of the country.

In 2011, Kogi  and a few other states operated caves in forests for the manufacture of bombs and other weapons to feed insurgents with the raw materials they needed to commit the atrocities.  That was barely within three years Boko  Haram terrorism peaked in the country. Until security agents discovered and dislodged them, it became much easier for terrorists to attack Abuja, with bombs ferried from Kogi, hence it shares boundaries with the FCT.  While Nigerians groaned in pains and sorrows, some criminal minds smiled to the banks with fortunes from such transactions with terrorists.

I murmured out loudly upon news that a Christian was among the suspects later arrested by Nigerian soldiers for the Christmas day bombing of churches, including St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Suleja,  a Niger state suburb, near  Abuja . What motivations that could tempt a Christian to connive with Islamic religious extremists to attack a church. The suspect, arrested in Bauchi state gave his name as Victor Moses and during interrogation, actually confessed to acting as a surveillance spy to the Kabiru Sokoto-led terrorists gang that bombed churches on Christmas day in Suleja.

The chronology of these events is suggestive of the immutable fact that Boko Haram has an active business wing. The indulgence of Nigerians into crime is difficult to erase. That’s why, a criminal, arrested and convicted for a crime and later granted pardon after spending years in jail, walks out of the jail to contrive fresh criminal plots again.

This is Nigeria’s nightmare at the moment in its counter-insurgency war in the Northeast and other parts of the country. The Nigerian military defeated the religious wing of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in December, 2016.  Leader of the anti-terrorism campaigns and Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu  Buratai led  Nigerian troops to accomplish this exceptional military feat, with the final demystification and demolition of Sambisa  forest in  Borno state. The forest, a colonial reserve was terrorists’ safest haven, where weapons and food were stored. It served as their paradise.

But as a master of the art of war, especially guerrilla warfare, terrorists’ most potent strategy, Gen. Buratai deployed several tactics and strategies to clip the wings of terrorists into defeat. He ensured insurgents sources of  arms and ammunitions procurement were blocked; soldiers proceeded to also block sources of food supply to terrorists and their families, thereby ushering a period of unprecedented hunger on the deviants. Furthermore, soldiers combatively prevented insurgents from reckless abductions for ransom or for other such frivolous demands from the government.

As  Nigerian troops pursued insurgents, they also went after their veiled agents and fished out many of them as possible. The whole camp of BHTs was in disarray, a development that railroaded the willful surrender and denouncement of the act of terrorism by hundreds of insurgents. They were famished and weakened to an appreciable level, as others too afraid to surrender to soldiers,  fled Nigeria to take refuge in neigbouring countries.  With sustained sensitization, majority of terrorists faulted the ideological stand of the leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, which spared nobody, but attacked mosques and churches,  killed both Muslims and Christians’.

The disarray in the camp of BHTs reflected in the split into factions of Boko Haram leadership, one led by Shekau and the emergent faction spearheaded by Musab al-Barnewi.

But as the impact of terrorism in Nigeria waned considerably, agents of the devious sect who profited immensely in weapons manufacture and racketeering, which they found easy and lucrative markets in BHTs operations, were worried.  As it is in our character, the business wing of BHTs is the component of Boko Haram insurgents desperately registering presence now with bombs and recruiting new members to terrorize inhabitants of Borno state and Nigeria.

The  allied crimes identified with the operations of insurgents are refusing to go away.  Aside secret bombs manufacturing business,  Nigeria is also experiencing high level of secret importation or smuggling  of deadly arms into the country. And sponsors of the illicit trade want to recoup the monies spent, investing in  the business and also make profits. We should not live in deceptive illusion. The fact remains that for every cache of arms and ammunitions intercepted by the Nigerian Customs Service or security agents, much more of such arms importations have crossed the borders into Nigeria for circulation unnoticed.

It accounts for the current spate of bombings in parts of Borno. The Boko Haram entrepreneurs’ are not just ready to let go the business. The implied understanding is that if sounds of bombs no longer resonate, it will signal the end of terrorism in Nigeria and the abrupt termination of the thriving business.

This is the present battle against the peace, tranquility and stability of Nigeria. These agents of Lucifer are desperate to return Nigeria back to the dark old days and they have reached out to communities on Nigerian border nations to recruit more terrorists into the country. They have summoned every courage and arsenal to revive terrorism to rescue their business empire, both of which were perished with Nigerian soldiers’ defeat of Boko Haram terrorism.

So, for Nigeria, it is still a long night walk to dawn, insofar these elements have continued to operate almost freely. It is time for the security agencies to collectively resuscitate their intelligence network in partnership to confront these monsters.  The Department of State Security Service and the Police have a great deal of work to do in this regard in order to sustain the peace and the victory in the battle against terrorism in Nigeria, as imposed by the Nigerian Army.

Murphy, a security expert  writes from Ambo street, Calabar.


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