Boko Haram

Zacheaus Somorin with agency report

Boko Haram has lured young entrepreneurs and business owners in northeast Nigeria to join the Islamist militant group by providing or promising capital and loans to boost their businesses, aid agency Mercy Corps said on Monday.

According to Reuters, seeing successful business ownership as a way to escape poverty, many Nigerian youths – ranging from butchers and beauticians to tailors and traders – accepted loans for their businesses in return for joining Boko Haram, Mercy Corps said.

Yet the lure of business support is often a trap, as those who cannot repay their loans are forced to join the militants or be killed, said the report from the U.S.-based aid agency. “Boko Haram is tapping into the yearning of Nigerian youth to get ahead in an environment of massive inequality,” said report author and Mercy Corps peacebuilding adviser Lisa Inks.

“It is incredibly clever – either such loans breed loyalty or Boko Haram use mafia style tactics to trap and force young people to join them,” Inks told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Six in 10 Nigerians live in absolute poverty, on less than one dollar a day, a figure which rises to three quarters of the population in the northeast of the country, according to the latest statistics from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Many young people told Mercy Corps they would struggle without the support of powerful “godfathers” to provide capital for their businesses, or cash transfers for equipment and goods.

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