Security experts and analysts have long identified ‘funding’ as the oxygen that keeps terrorists relevant in the cause of perpetrating their heinous crimes. Therefore, combating insecurity requires an urgent need to cut off the sources of finance for the terrorists.

This important task requires a multi-stakeholder approach involving various financial and anti-graft institutions, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks, and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, among others. According to the EFCC, about 70 per cent of financial crimes in Nigeria are traceable to the banking sector. This may ultimately serve as a source for terrorism financing.

It is against this background that the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa, lately appealed to the EFCC to track down the sources of funding for terrorists and terrorist organisations in the country with a view to disrupting their chain of activities. According to Statista, between 2018 and 2023, the risk index score for money laundering and terrorist financing in Nigeria remained stable at 6.9 points. The index score is used to “indicate the risk level, that is the vulnerabilities of money laundering and terrorist financing within a country.” The higher the number, the higher the risk.

The risk of money laundering and terrorism financing is measured by indicators such as the rule of law and financial regulations. Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest terrorism threat levels in the world. In 2022, it recorded the eighth largest number of deaths related to terrorism worldwide. The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa stated in a report titled, “Terrorist Financing in West Africa” that terrorists and terrorist organisations use both legitimate and illegitimate means to raise funds and formal and informal channels to move cash around.

Terrorism in Nigeria has become a persistent threat, casting a long shadow over the nation’s security and development. While military operations and intelligence gathering are vital components of the fight, another critical aspect not often spoken about is tackling the financial networks that fuel these organisations. Terrorist groups, like any organisation, require money to function. Disrupting their financial lifeline can significantly cripple their ability to operate, recruit and carry out attacks.

 Terrorist organisations in Nigeria employ a diverse range of methods to raise. Kidnapping, extortion, drug use, and human trafficking are all common sources of income for terrorist organisations. These activities not only raise money but also instil fear and disrupt communities. For example, bandits who abducted 16 residents of the Gonin Gora area of the Kaduna metropolis have recently demanded a ransom of N40tn, 11 Hilux vans, and 150 motorcycles in exchange for their release. It is obvious that if p aid, a larger percentage of the money will go towards financing another cycle of terrorism.

 Additionally, terrorists also blend with the civilian population to exploit legitimate businesses. They often infiltrate legitimate businesses or charities to launder money or generate funds through front companies. In some cases, terrorist groups may receive funding from external actors, either through state sponsorship or from individuals sympathetic to their cause. In the same vein, terrorists receive informal donations because individuals who share the ideology of the group may donate money, often through informal channels that are difficult to track.

The call made by the CDS is very apt, as denying terrorist groups access to financial resources has a multitude of benefits, especially by reducing their operational capacity. Without money, terrorists cannot purchase weapons, explosives, or fund training camps. This directly hinders their ability to carry out attacks. Terrorist organisations often use financial incentives to attract new members. Disrupting funding makes it harder to recruit and retain fighters; thus weakening their foot soldiers.

No doubt, terrorist groups rely on money to spread their message and maintain public support. By cutting off their funds, their ability to influence public opinion diminishes.

Similarly, money is needed for transportation, communication, and safe houses. Disrupting financial flows hinders a group’s ability to operate and plan attacks effectively.

 Therefore, as stated earlier, the fight against terrorist financing in Nigeria requires a multipronged approach. More importantly, the need to strengthen financial regulations can never be overemphasised. Implementing robust anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regulations are crucial. This includes stricter monitoring of financial transactions, and better information sharing between banks and law enforcement agencies. There is also a need to educate the public about the dangers of terrorism financing and how to identify suspicious activity, which can help prevent individuals from unknowingly contributing to these groups.

 Also, terrorism is a global threat, and defeating it requires international cooperation. Sharing intelligence and coordinating efforts to disrupt terrorist financing networks across borders is essential. More importantly, the government and other stakeholders should put efforts towards addressing underlying grievances triggering insecurity. Because financial disruption is crucial, it must be coupled with efforts to address the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, social exclusion, and lack of opportunity.

 In a nutshell, financing is the lifeblood of terrorism. By crippling their financial networks, Nigerian authorities can take a major step towards combating insecurity. Only by tackling the financial roots of terror can true security be achieved.