Indications have emerged that the dreaded Boko Haram Islamist sect is being sponsored by children of some of the most wealthy and influential families in Northern Nigeria.
An exclusive investigation by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has revealed the various tactics with which these Muslim fundamentalists use to obtain their funding through the children of the rich and powerful, some of whom are in detention.
Some of the involved persons, according to the investigation, have provided support in terms of intelligence, logistic support, food, transportation and others, while others have directly provided funds to oil the wheel of the deadly insurgency campaign waged by Boko Haram against the Nigerian state and its people.
Among the detainees is a 21-year-old graduate of Engineering from the Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University, Bauchi, Ismaila Gambo, (pseudonym) and his 17-year-old sister, Khadija, (pseudonym), a second year French undergraduate of the University of Jos, who were apprehended on Saturday, October 4, 2013 during a secret trip from their homestead in Bauchi to Maiduguri, the epicentre of Islamist insurgency.
It was learnt from the report that the duo had been hatching their trip for over one year and had been communicating over the phone and Internet with their cohorts who share the same ideology on how Boko Haram is a pathway to salvation.
Luck ran out for the duo of Ismaila and Khadija after a mix up of the phone number of their Boko Haram contact with that of a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri, who according to the plans, was to provide them with an accommodation at GRA in Maiduguri.
Speaking without remorse, Gambo said, “I made a mistake with the numbers they (Boko Haram) had given me in Bauchi, and by twist of fate it was another University of Maiduguri lecturer’s number.
“The lecturer played along, and while we were waiting, the house was raided.”
He further revealed to the investigators that a handful of them were successfully recruited from ‘very influential homes’ to work for Boko Haram adding that they often laugh at the belief that insurgency was stirred by poverty.
According to an army major and one of the officers at the camp, Adegboyega Sam, the sum of almost N3 million in various currencies, several banks’ ATM cards, four smartphones and three laptops, were found in the possession of the Gambos when they were arrested.
“There are many of them here, children of influential Nigerians, some we have been keeping for more than three to four years. We only await instructions from above; ours is to follow orders,” he said.
During interrogation, the male Gambo who revealed that he had never handled a gun all his life, said he wanted to play a “public-service role” for the insurgents by delivering food, or perhaps, providing intelligence and maybe “a combat role”.
He further explained that he wanted to help Muslims and possibly die while fighting a “holy war”.
On whether he would accept to go on a suicide mission, Gambo replied, “Yes, if it pleases the Almighty Allah.
“I did not just run with my sister. An Islamic State had been established, and it is thus obligatory for every able-bodied male and female to fight to keep it. I wanted the comfort of a new khalifah (caliphate).”
One of the detainees, 18-year-old Musa Awal, said to be the third son of a rich man from Borno State, vehemently stated that education is not just harmful, but “living in this land is haram [sinful]”
It was learnt that he had pleaded during his arrest that his highly influential parents should not be contacted else they would get killed if he confessed.
Another source at the Directorate of Behavioural Analysis which is part of the office of the National Security Office, NSA, revealed that they had been tracking finance and supplies to Boko Haram for long and it was no surprise that many influential families had set up some sort of fund which they released in the shape of “protection monies” to Boko Haram.
According to the source, the areas occupied by rich families like the old and new GRA in Maiduguri, have never been subjected to insurgency despite their numerous attacks because the insurgents receive huge sums from them.
“Go to both the new GRA and the old one, none of them has been attacked all these years that the insurgency has lasted,” he stated.
The source whose identity was withheld for security reasons said, “Some of them watch helplessly as their kids become radicalized and when we nab them, some even prefer that their wards are left in detention out of fear.”
An Islamic scholar in one of Maiduguri’s many Islamiyya (Islamic schools), Aliyu Ibrahim, explained why many kids from influential homes support the insurgents.
He said, “We have a lot of experience with these influential children. Many of these kids are Boko Haram fans. Something just goes wrong. It probably begins from drugs, stealing, waywardness and then sympathy for Boko Haram.”
Additionally, a psychologist with the NSA office’s Counter-Terrorism Department,Kunle Nwosu, works on a de-radicalization programme started recently for “rich misdirected boys”, as he called them.
He said, “In many cases, most of their parents are nice, regular people and the kids seem well adjusted. They are obedient, well-mannered, got good grades in school and are volunteers in mosques. Religion plays a central role in their lives and they make efforts to pray five times daily.
“To be honest with you, you can’t imagine their kids being Boko Haram.
“If you read many of their statements, there is a similarity to them as if they’d been copied from a script. For example you keep seeing the phrase “I simply cannot sit here and let my brothers and sisters get killed by infidels; I am ready to die and so forth.”