TERRORIST sect Boko Haram has resorted to wooing young men across northeast Nigeria with informal micro credit schemes and promises of safety in a bid to get fresh recruits as the military onslaught it is facing has depleted its ranks.
Over the last year, Boko Haram has suffered serious setbacks as the Nigerian Army has stepped up its attacks on the sect’s bases, regaining control of the 14 local government areas it once held. Backed up by air attacks, the army has also launched a ground offensive into Boko Haram’s main stronghold of Sambisa Forest, forcing many of its fighters to flee.
Faced with a dearth of fighters, Boko Haram is now desperately trying to woo young men from northeast Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic with sweeteners. International aid organisation Mercy Corps has revealed that the sect is now using informal micro credit schemes and promises of safety to recruit hundreds of youths and pupils as fighters.
It added that the beneficiaries receive amounts ranging from N10,000 to N1m in order to buy motorcycles, restock their trading stores and grow their small-scale businesses. Mercy Corps’ lead researcher and global director of conflict management Rebecca Wolfe, said that many of the locals did not know that the credits were from the insurgents, however.
She added that roughly one out of three respondents had completed secular secondary school and about the same number had completed some sort of Islamic schooling. In a report titled Motivations and Empty Promises: Voices of former Boko Haram combatants and Nigerian Youth and Gifts and Graft: How Boko Haram uses Financial Services for Recruitment and Support, Ms Wolfe revealed that peer pressure and the availability of girls were also incentives to the beneficiaries.
According to Ms Wolfe, 47 former members of the insurgent group, comprising 21 females and 26 males, 45 community members and seven others, who refused the sect’s incentives were interviewed during the study. Her report recommended that the government should, in the post-conflict era, increase the quality, availability and diversity of financial services, particularly to youths with small, informal businesses.
“One male recipient shared how he was complaining to a friend that he wanted a job so he could better provide for his parents. The friend then liaised with Boko Haram leaders to secure a motorcycle to allow the recipient start a business,” she said.
A member of the Mercy Corps team, Ballama Mustafa, who urged the government to make its presence felt in remote communities in the region, added that its intervention should be interest-free and should not exclude locals, who are not literate. He also recommended that communities and schools should create counter-narratives to dissuade youths and pupils from joining the sect.