The Nigerian mafias in Italy: Eyie and Black Axe


(Translated by Google)

by Neila Zannier – October 27, 2020

Eiye and Black Ax: two Nigerian brotherhoods born to regain control of Nigeria from the multinationals that invaded it in the 1960s, have become the two most powerful Nigerian mafias in Italy. Driven by the desire to have a positive impact on the socio-political fabric of Nigeria, in order to free themselves from neo-colonial domination, they now control the trafficking of people, prostitution and drugs on a transnational level.

Their birth

The Supreme Eiye Confraternity (SEC) , also known as “Air Lords” states, on its Facebook page, that it was established in 1963 at the University of Ibadan in the State of Oyo, Nigeria. The purpose of their birth is “to keep African culture alive and to have a positive impact on the socio-political psyche of Nigeria to ensure the complete break from any form of colonial and / or imperial cultural domination”. The UNODC (UN Office On Drugs and Crime) describes the Iye as a “criminal group made up of members of an old secret society turned into a criminal association “. 

Similarly, the Black Ax , also called the Neo Black Movement (NBM) began as a fraternity at the University of Benin on July 7, 1977. For the same reasons as Eiye, she believes that the Neo Black Man must begin to “create a better world where racism and Apartheid no longer exist ”. The Black Ax logo is a hatchet that breaks the chains from the wrists of a black man, a symbol of the chains that forced African slaves during colonialism.

The growth of the brotherhoods follows the history of the country. The hatred of neo-colonial control stems from the presence of multinational oil companies which, after the discovery of oil in 1953, have established themselves in Nigeria. These have monopolized the country’s economy, making it quickly dependent on oil profits and, consequently, creating a huge number of unemployed. The dissatisfaction of the population , already protagonist of an exponential demographic growth, broke out in 1983 when there was a military coup. Military leaders realize that brotherhoods are gaining powerand admire their organization. In fact, the brotherhoods have become real organized criminal groups. Both the Black Ax and the Eiye have a specific way of recruiting new members: it is necessary to be a man, to be introduced by a member of the organization, and entry “for life” into the fraternity includes spiritual rites of initiation. These intend to test the ability to suffer and inflict violence in the newcomer.

The markets for sex, drugs and weapons

In Italy, the Eiye is the first Nigerian cultist organization by number of affiliates, followed by the Black Ax. Their arrival can be traced back to the 1980s due to the increase in migrations from Nigeria to Europe and in conjunction with the changing routes of the cocaine trade to Europe and Asia. In the globalized economic system and with a capitalist and liberal tradition, the Nigerian mafias are real economic actors : they control the business of trafficking in human beings, sex slaves, drugs and weapons.

In the 2000s the presence of Nigerian women in the Italian prostitution rings was consolidated for three reasons: the rooting of the Nigerian mafia in the country, the increase in the organization of exploitation mechanisms and the increase in the demand for sex , especially during the economic crisis. . A crucial contradiction characterizes these two criminal organizations: they are driven by pan-Africanism, but they exploit both Nigerian women and men, as well as take advantage of the racism of European white supremacy. In fact, the system of exploitation of prostitution originates in agricultural fields in Southern Italy , where it is known that Nigerian workers are enslaved and easily recruited for drug trafficking, weapons or women.

The Black Ax and the Eiye are in a ‘ cult war ‘, a clan struggle that broke out in 2010 in conjunction with the elections in the state of Edo (where the Black Ax is native). The tensions present in the territory of origin have also reached Italy; the two groups clash for supremacy over the cities and thus control of illegal businesses. The clashes include armed robberies, kidnappings, mutilations, murders in order to prevail over the other clan.

Relations with the local mafia

Their modus operandi is similar to that of our local mafia, they respect a rigid top-down structure based in Nigeria – the “Head” with whom they always maintain close contacts – and a separate one for each country in which they are established. In Italy the Iye is based in Turin while the Black Ax in Verona and from there they control the operating cells present in the national territory; in Southern Italy the Iye is numerically more present in Palermo, while the Black Ax in Naples. 

The investigations assessed a great affinity between the organizations and the Cosa Nostra mafia model . In the sentence issued for the Black Ax, as a mafia association, by the GUP of the Court of Palermo in May 2018 it is reported that “it has replicated the organization of a confederate state on a worldwide level . It is in fact endowed with statutes, legislative and executive authorities, judicial bodies and its own law enforcement agencies “.

Nigerian mafia organizations have crept into places less frequented by homegrown mafias, but when the Black Ax started taking over the drug business , controlled by the Camorra, its members immediately threatened the Nigerian pushers. After a violent clash in September 2008, where Camorra affiliates killed six African men, probably associated with the Black Ax, the agreement was not long in coming. If Black Ax had not stolen the Camorra’s clientele and paid the protection money, there would have been no more deaths, indeed they could have collaborated in the import and distribution of drugs. However, this created a drop in the profit of the Black Ax which decided to expand the business of trafficking in sex slaves. In fact, the circulation of profits in the organization happens in this way: the money obtained from sex slavery is invested in the drug business and in the development of other operating cells in the world. 

The Eiye and the Black Ax are present throughout Europe, in particular they have been traced to Germany and Spain. In Barcelona, ​​Eiye controls an international women’s market. In addition to trafficking in people, the Catalan police are investigating the illicit importation of fake passports, narcotics and stolen crude oil. The BBC reports that both Eyie and Black Ax members operate in Europe, Africa (North, East and West), South and North America and Asia. Yet their transnational presence is little known and underestimated .

To be able to counter such a large market it is necessary to outline the dynamics of these criminal organizations. In addition, the knowledge of the geopolitics of Nigeria would facilitate the overall analysis of the phenomenon of the Nigerian mafia in Italy as it would allow us to understand effective ways to prevent its advancement. How is it possible that ‘simple’ brotherhoods have become the most powerful Nigerian mafias present on Italian territory? To answer this question it is necessary to study in depth the socio-political situation of the country and at the global level the development of both illegal markets and migration and therefore their transnational expansion. This would be possible in the case of international cooperation, especially by promoting a synergy between Nigeria and Italy.

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