Islamic group Boko Haram has since 2009 terrorized civilians living in the northern part of Nigeria and have carried out numerous bloody raids on villages around the region’s largest city, Maiduguri.
It still remains a mystery how the ISIS-linked jihadist group has managed to finance its operation for this long without fizzling off.
According to an Africa Intelligence report, the group could be getting a lot of its financial support from drug traffickers who are using Nigeria’s strategic location as a crossroad for global narcotics transport.
A BBC report cited findings by the International Crisis Group saying that the group had forged ties with arms smugglers and drug traffickers who use their territory as a transit route.
A 2012 report from the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies alleged that Nigerian terrorist groups are financed by drug cartels in Latin America.
While it looked farfetched, an Italian journalist and terrorism finance expert, Lauretta Napoleoni, said the Nigerian route opened up as far back as 2001 when the Patriot Act made it difficult to transfer drugs through the U.S. to Europe.
“Nobody wants to admit that cocaine reaches Europe via West Africa,” Napoleoni told IBTimes in 2014. “This kind of business is a type of business where Islamic terrorist organizations are very much involved.”
But that’s not the only way Boko Haram get their funding.
They use other tactics such as kidnapping of local businessmen and foreigners and charging arms smugglers from the Sahel region who use this established drug routes to move their goods.
It is estimated that group gets as much as $1 million to release wealthy Nigerians and about $3 million in ransom for the release of foreign nations like a French family of seven they seized in northern Cameroon in Feb. 2013.
They are also involved in the billion-dollar rhino and elephant poaching industry, according to a report from US-based wildlife conservation organization, Born Free.
UK-based finance and security analyst Tom Keatinge estimates that Boko Haram makes an annual net income of about $10 million, which is more than enough to run their low-cost insurgency that consist of crude bombs and young people from rural areas.
“What is certain about Boko Haram is that the organization is very well funded; without an ever-increasing cash flow, the movement would have died out long ago,” the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, a research initiative of the reference publisher Beacham Group, said in a report.