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Italy's fifth mafia

Ascia nera. La brutal intelligence della mafia nigeriana
Forfatter: Leonardo Palmisano
Forlag: Fandango libri (Italia)
HUMAN TRAFFICKING / The Nigerian mafia is smuggling both people and drugs. Threats, violence and voodoo rituals are used to force girls into prostitution.


In the street Giudecca Vecchia in the infamous mafia neighborhood Forcella in Napoli I see the Nigerian girls standing close together. They wait for customers. I usually choose the neighboring street when I go to the train station, although it is a detour. But on some nights I can't resist the temptation: I have to have one fried pizza from Antica Pizzeria d'è Figliole. They opened in 1860, long before Italy's Queen Margherita ate her first pizza in town and got Pizza Margherita named after her. But it is uncomfortable to walk this short street stump and get so many offers for buying sex.

It is these prostitute girls who are the protagonists of Leonardo Palmisano's book on human trafficking, organised crime og mafia i Nigeria and its branches to Italy.

His previous two books were about organizations in the Italian mafia; this book deals with the Nigerian Mafia Network Neo-Black Movement of Africa (NBM) and its violent branch Black Ax.

Inspired by Black Panthers

NMB was established by students at the University of Benin City in Nigeria 7.7.in 1977. Inspired by the American Civil Rights Organization Black Panther Party (BPP, Black Panthers) NMB wanted to become an intellectual Pan-African liberation movement.

But slogans like "forgiveness is a sin" as well as the ax as the organization's symbol indicate that not only intellectual abilities are valued. While the leader of the NMB, Felix Kupa, denies any link between the NMB and the Black Ax, others are certain that the Black Ax is a violent cult so closely associated with the NMB that they do not see a difference between them.

From brothel to brothel

Palmisano has interviewed Nigerian Diana who sells her body on the street in Palmisano's own hometown of Bari. He has spoken to Robert – the King of the Palermo Nigerians in Palermo, met Laura and Clara, who have worked their way from brothel to brothel through the Sahara, to end the street in Italy. The author has also had conversations with a Nigerian journalist who was granted asylum in Europe – killed by Black Ax.

Leonardo Palmisano

Palmisano has interviewed Adele, who was captured by Boko Haram in Nigeria and sold further as a whore to a brothel in Libya to end up as a prostitute in Bois de Boulogne in Paris. No merry reading. But it gets worse as he becomes more concrete.

When Mia (36) tells her to increase the price by € 10 for each additional customer when she has to have group sex. stomach. If she gets HIV, she says, she will only be sent back to Nigeria by Black Ax; there is so much else one can die from that customers do not think about AIDS when having sex with prostitutes.

Members are rarely taken. Those who stay there never silence. They fear juju.

Most interesting is the book when Palmisano tries to get inside the NMB / Black Ax network. But it has not been an easy job; 15 pages are devoted to the special rituals that Nigerian girls must undergo before they end up as prostitutes in Italy, and what punishment awaits them if they try to break out. The girls must participate in the West African voodoo-like ritual jujuwhich links them psychologically and religiously to the Black Ax. The ritual, which dates back to the 1500th century, but has been processed for the present purposes, uses, among other things, the girls' blood, hair and clothing. If the girls try to break out, family members will lose their lives. From the few who have tried, everyone knows that it is true.

Trafficking in human beings and prostitution

control Black Ax has over the Nigerian prostitutes, is almost total, and the work on trafficking and prostitution is virtually impossible. No one dares to talk.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) claims that the number of Nigerian prostitutes arriving in Italy has tripled in the last three years. In Sicily alone, more than 8000 Nigerian prostitutes, victims of trafficking, arrived in the "peak year" 2016.

Leonardo Palmisano reproduces interviews he has had with the network's computer-savvy people and financial advisers. NMB / Black Ax operates in any major city on six continents. They compete against other criminal networks, and they expand their business to not just trafficking. Smuggling of diamonds, gold and the mineral coltan has become major. Drug trafficking, especially heroin and cocaine, is deeply involved.

In Nigeria, there is so much else to die from, that customers do not think about AIDS when having sex with prostitutes.

Members are rarely taken. Those who stay there never silence. They fear the consequences juju.

In Nigeria, NMB promotes democracy and non-violence in newspapers and at conferences. The network's leader, Felix Kupa, does charity work in a number of cities in his home country; he sponsors schools and opens hospitals. And he is friends with both police chiefs and lawyers who protect and defend him. Unlike the Italian mafia, where the biological family is the core of the network, it is juju-the ritual that binds the Nigerian mafia together.

Palmisano has written an easy-to-read book about a powerful Nigerian mafia organization involved in all types of crime. Of course, he cannot be completely accurate with information about his sources; he doesn't want them to be tracked. He himself is killed in Italy by the Nigerian mafia.

Read more: Black Ax is spreading fear all over the world 

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Ketil Fred Hansen
Hansen is a professor of social sciences at UiS and a regular reviewer at Ny Tid.

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