Nigeria: Loans to lure needy youth

Money Transfer

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

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 US-based aid agency.

“Boko Haram is tapping into the yearning of Nigerian youth to get ahead in an environment of inequality,” said Lisa Inks, the report author and Mercy Corps peace-building adviser.

“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,” she said.

Six in 10 Nigerians live on less than a dollar a day – a figure which rises to three quarters of the population in the north-east, 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.

Boko Haram has therefore filled a critical gap in financial services, said Mercy Corps, which interviewed 145 people including young former Boko Haram members, family of former members, and youths who resisted joining.

The report called for increased access to financial and business services, more support for conflict-hit communities and greater efforts to reintegrate people who have fled Boko Haram.
Source: Reuters 3 June 2016