An investigative report posted on the BBC website has revealed that Boko Haram regularly employs thugs and miscreants from Niger republic whom they pay as much as N500,000 each for their services.
In a report published this month, the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group noted that Boko Haram has “resorted to forced conscription and recruiting criminals and thugs, paying them for attacks”.
Below are excerpts from the report:
A member of a gang in Niger says Boko Haram Islamist militants from Nigeria regularly come across the border, looking for recruits.
“We can’t contact them, they come to us,” says the young man.
According to the report, five members of this gang in Diffa, near the border, have joined the group; two have since been killed on operations, he says.
In total there are about a dozen gang members in a tiny, dark room, built with local mud-bricks.
There are a couple of homemade stools and weights for them to exercise just outside the door.
When asked if they agree with Boko Haram’s reason for fighting, they answer in unison: “No. We only do it for the money.”
They had agreed to meet earlier on a street corner in Diffa.
Arriving one by one, they all wore skinny jeans, bright coloured T-shirts and shiny chains – like those seen around the necks of American rappers on music videos.
Their attitude and brand new clothes make them stand out when they walk down the dusty streets of Diffa.
The fashion style is clearly inspired by Western consumerism rather than Islamist militancy.
The gang members agreed to talk on the condition that their identity would not be revealed.
“We break into houses for cash; sometimes we beat people for money, we steal their animals so we can eat and then we gather up and take Tramol [an opiate drug], smoke ganja [marijuana] and drink alcohol,” one says.
“We have no jobs; some of us are still at high school but we need money. Violence has become a form of work for us.”
While taking the reporters back to their hangout, they explained their association with the Nigerian militants.
“They have paid 500,000 Nigerian naira ($3,085, £1,835) to those of us who followed them over there,” one of the young men says.
“The rest of us, here, we give them information.
“When they come, we inform them about what’s going on, what the security forces are up to.”
The young gang members also showed the BBC reporters a stash of machetes, knives, knuckle-dusters and traditional axes. They also claimed to have firearms and grenades but refused to show them.
“If they tell you to set off a bomb and it succeeds, if it kills a lot of people, they will pay you a lot of money,” one of the gang members said.
“We are ready for that.”