Boko Haram Gave Loans to the Poor to Win Recruits, Group Says

  • Militants provided people credit of as much as 1 million naira
  • Some of the poor found Boko Haram loans easier to access

Boko Haram militants in Nigeria operated a network of financial services including interest-free loans and goods supplied on credit in order to recruit members for the Islamist group, according to the international aid agency, Mercy Corps.

In many cases the militants approached people with the offer of credit and protection for their family and livelihood, the U.S.-based agency said in a report “Gifts and Graft,” released on Thursday in commercial capital, Lagos. There were community members who sought out Boko Haram’s financial services because they were more easily accessible than formal credit lines, it said.

Respondents interviewed for the report said they received from 10,000 naira ($32) to 1 million naira or “in-kind” support such as helping them restock their shops for free, according to the report.

Boko Haram is in the seventh year of a violent campaign to impose its version of Islamic law on Africa’s most populous country that has left tens of thousands dead and forced millions to flee their homes. Nigeria is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.

The Nigerian government needs to improve access to finance for young people and informal businesses, and win the trust of the people through good governance and better transparency, in order to counter the influence of Boko Haram among the poor in the country’s northeast, according to Mercy Corps.

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