This rapid literature review collates academic and grey literature pertaining to the war economy in North-East Nigeria. The review finds the evidence base on this subject to be limited and disjointed. There are few regional analyses focussed on this issue, with those that exist approaching the subject from different thematic or sectoral positions. Sub-national (i.e. state-based) reviews are absent, rendering it difficult to compare how (it at all) the war economy varies between states or indeed within a state (i.e. urban versus rural areas). There is also a lack of studies that examine how the socio-economic impacts of the conflict have created a space in which a war economy could emerge, how these conditions have changed over time, or what form this has taken. Finally, it is important to acknowledge that the conflict has and is evolving, influencing opportunities to accrue resources open to both militant and state actors within the
The conflict with Boko Haram provides an opportunity to interrogate long-standing theoretical assumptions about the economic consequences of violent conflict in complex spaces such as Nigeria’s north-east. Nigerian growth and the Boko Haram-led insurgency highlight the contemporaneous inter-linkages between economic emergence, growth, security and conflict.
A summary of key findings from the limited and disparate literature is presented below. This highlights what the war economy may involve and how it may explain the persistence of conflict. It includes an overview of how Boko Haram may finance itself, why people may be attracted to the organisation, the opportunities for personal enrichment available in the conflict and how the security issues, and responses to these, have prompted an evolution of how organisations operate. This summary is drawn from anecdotal evidence, isolated studies, and limited literature
and should be treated as such. Findings include:
- Boko Haram has financed its activities and secured income through the imposition of mandatory payments and the collection of tribute from producers. This imparts a by-product of an environment in which Boko Haram can influence, if not control, the flow of goods and finance. Given the high risk of providing financial services in the region, consumers have had to resort to accessing and engaging in less formal spaces (Ikpe, 2017).
- Opportunities for enrichment are evident within various sectors, this includes through activities such as skimming from soldiers’ salaries and taking kickbacks on military procurement. The military can extort “protection” money from traders and shopkeepers, and charge fees to provide escorts through dangerous areas. Guarding aid camps can also be “monetised”. Within the humanitarian sector, some Nigerian NGOs are
suspected of being used for fraud. For traders, contractors and labourers in places like Maiduguri, the arrival of international aid agencies are associated with financial gain. (Freeman, 2019).
- Perceptions of motivations for joining Boko Haram are also linked to financial rewards. In total, 65.90% of respondents in one study identified financial reasons as the primary reason for joining Boko Haram. In terms of Boko Haram’s funding, respondents expressed a strong perception that politicians were the main source. Over 45% ranked politicians as the primary source of funding for Boko Haram. Other terrorist groups were also perceived as a major source of Boko Haram funding, with 14.56% of respondents believing it is the primary source of funding. Drug trafficking and armed robbery were also perceived to be significant sources of funding for the group. Taxes, which include membership dues, tax for business and jizya (tax for non-Muslims), were perceived to be a minor source of funding, accounting for only 0.5% of respondents (Ewi, & Salifu, 2017).
- Omenama argues that there is an economic dimension of Boko Haram terrorism. Rebellion is an investment either defined in the loot of commodities or where the payoff is to attain some political gains in the future. Boko Haram is partly motivated by economic gains, whether defined by oil and gas resources or the control of informal trade routes of Lake Chad region and Sahel areas. The shift in the character of Boko Haram activities from internal conflicts of political opportunists as well as radical Islamist ideology to more regionalised interventions is possibly motivated by interstate competition for resources i.e. strategic control of the economic mainstay of the Chad Basin cross-cutting fishing, all-season farming, water, and control of cross-border trade routes will be good bargaining instruments. (Omenama, 2019).
- Historically funding sources, before the group morphed into a violent insurgent organisation in 2009, were derived from membership dues as well as foreign donations. Boko Haram’s first leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was said to have received funds from external Salafi contacts, which he used to fund microcredit schemes for his followers and to give welfare, food, and shelter to refugees and unemployed youth. While Boko Haram
remained a quasi-legal religious movement, it also enjoyed a limited level of local patronage, including donations from businessmen, politicians, and government officials. As the movement transitioned into a militant insurgent organisation, Boko Haram increasingly financed its operations through local criminal activities such as bank robberies, robbing cash-in-transit convoys, assassinations for hire, and trafficking illegal weapons and drugs. Boko Haram also employs large-scale extortion schemes (Asfura & McQuaid, 2015).
- Despite the conflict, the north-east has been identified as one of the fastest-growing markets in Nigeria, companies keen to tap into this are (including Unilever and Coca Cola) have adopted their activities. Traders now travel to state capitals, often with military escort, to buy products at the wholesale market to distribute to more dangerous parts of the state. A unique economy of private security contractors has thus emerged that depends on a level of insecurity for their continued existence (Munshi, 2018).