How Boko Haram turned to kidnapping to raise funds in Borno

Al Shabab used to illustrate the story.

The sect has proven more brazen with each successful operation.

Since 2009 when the Islamic religious sect, Yusufiyya – which later became popular with its ideological identity, Boko Haram – began to blossom, the deadly sect has continued to deploy various tactics to sustain its resolve in undermining the Nigerian state.

From a bunch of radicalised Islamists with versed but seemingly skewed orthodoxy seeking to impose a totalitarian rule of Sharia in a multi-religious Nigeria, the sect began to embark on selective killings and maiming of politicians and security agencies.

Later on, the group acquired the knowledge of making Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, which it used effectively to target mostly security operatives, security formations and churches within and around Borno State.

Boko Haram later became notorious for its attacks and heists on banks and other financial institutions, as well as the robbery of bullion vans in which millions of Naira were at different occasions stolen to “promote the Jihad of God,” as they claim.

Between 2010 and 2012, the group resorted to extorting hapless civilians, especially public office holders and business moguls by either sending text messages with threats on their lives if millions of Naira were not delivered to them at a designated rendezvous or harassing their victims by dropping sealed threat letters with a piece of live bullet asking for money. Many innocent persons have fallen victims and died for either failing to meet their demands or for daring to involve the security operatives.

With the growing presence of the Joint Task Force, JTF, and the continuous development of counter intelligence by the Department of State Security, DSS, the Boko Haram, though still very formidable had to resort to tactics that are less confrontational but very effective.

On January 30, 2012, the erstwhile spokesman of Boko Haram, Abul Qaqa (now deceased) had in a teleconference with journalists threatened that they would soon embark on abduction of spouses and children of security operatives and public office holders, for allegedly detaining their (Boko Haram) family members.

They did not fully commence threat until early this year, when the sect embarked on a ransom-driven kidnap of civilians. Most of their targets often gained their freedom after the payment of huge money by either government or relatives of the captives. Some few others were not very lucky as their whereabouts are still unknown.

The kidnaps

On February 11, an Administrative Manager of Maiduguri Flour Mill, Baba Maisalati, was kidnapped by gunmen who ambushed him as he was leaving the flour mill complex. His abductors took him to an unknown destination where he was kept for about three days until he paid N2 million as ransom.

Barely a week after that, news came from Bauchi State that suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight Lebanese construction engineers working with Satraco Construction Firm. How the seven expatriates were released is still shady till date.
Shortly after that seven members of a French family were kidnapped by the Boko Haram who kept them under captivity until their release in April.
A Nigerian government report said the sect was paid half a billion Naira to release the victims- a claim which has not been officially confirmed or denied.

On February 24, a university lecturer, Abba Kagu fell into the hands of the Boko Haram kidnappers, who picked him up in error as he was mistaken for an undisclosed relative of a Borno State top public office holder. The abductors who earlier demanded N50 million had to reduce the ransom to N5 million when they realised they were holding the wrong man. But till date, Mr. Kagu’s whereabouts remains unknown to both the security agencies and the university community.

Also, a renowned grassroots politician and ex-local government chairman in Borno State, Mustapha Gadobe, was on April 7 kidnapped on the outskirts of Maiduguri by gunmen who identified themselves as Boko Haram. The kidnappers who took Mr. Gadobe away in his car to Marte border area demanded N50 million. After a week of negotiation with government, Mr. Gadobe got his freedom after an undisclosed amount was paid.

On April 27, another kidnap occurred. This time, it was the General Manager of Borno State Water Board, Baba Gujbawu. He was picked by two young gunmen as he set out to attend a meeting in his office. Mr. Gujbawu’s abduction was even more dramatic as he was taken away alongside his Tiv neighbour who happened to witness the scenario. The Water Board GM’s friends had to part with N3 million to secure his release. Unfortunately, Mr. Gujbawu came with the sad news that the Tiv man was beheaded in his presence.

JTF’s late warning

After several successful kidnaps for ransom, the JTF, through its spokesman, Sagir Musa, on April 28, issued a caveat warning residents of Maiduguri and environs that the Boko Haram had resort to kidnapping prominent citizen with the aim of getting money from their relatives.

Mr. Musa’s statement read, “Intelligence available to the Task Force has indicated that Boko Haram Terrorists have resolved to concentrate more on kidnappings than robbery. They alleged that kidnapping is more lucrative, less dangerous and requires short time to plan and execute. Similarly, a special kidnapping squad has been earmarked and tasked by the Boko Haram sect to kidnap persons who could be wealthy relations, politicians, business women/ men, traditional rulers, senior civil servants and foreigners alike.”

Shortly after Mr. Musa’s warning, some brazen gunmen whisked away nonagenarian elder statesman, Shettima Ali-Monguno, in broad daylight. Mr. Monguno was abducted amidst hundreds of people that performed the Friday prayer near his old family home. That singular incident underscored the height of the Boko Haram sect members’ daring impunity and their undermining of the security system.

Though government of Borno State has severally denied paying any ransom to secure the release of Mr. Monguno, who spent three days in a remote camp of Boko Haram in Kirenowa border village, it is generally believed that the N50 million demanded by the sect was paid.

Again, on May 3, a gang of Boko Haram stormed Ngamdu Village of Kaga Local Government Area and abducted the father and mother of a House of Representatives member, but failed to get them far before security operatives intercepted them and rescued the victims.

A serving Borno State House of Assembly member, Zakariya Dikwa, currently has his mother in captivity after Boko Haram members abducted her two weeks ago in Dikwa Town. All efforts to get across to the abductors have for now yielded no result.

On May 12 in Bama Town, gunmen defied the 24 hours curfew imposed on the town after the massacre of 55 persons, to kidnap a younger brother of the Shehu of Bama, identified as Abba Zaru. There is no report of Mr. Zaru’s whereabouts or whether he has been released.

The above scenarios feature only prominent personalities in the society. Many other people, private civilians, are believed to have suffered a similar fate and probably even paid heavy ransoms to gain their freedom without anyone knowing. Others who could not afford such heavy ransoms could have been killed.

The belief in security circles in Borno is that the sect increased its kidnap activities to fund its various violent operations across Northern Nigeria.

The declaration of a State of Emergency in Borno and the subsequent massive deployment of troops there; are, however, expected to quell the kidnap and other criminal activities of the sect.

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