The Nigerian mafia has taken root in Italy, as one of the emerging powers of the Italian criminal landscape, a world once dominated by Cosa Nostra and by the pact between its mammasantissima (the top bosses the Sicilian mafia) and the godfathers of the Camorra and the ‘Ndrangheta (respectively, the Neapolitan and Calabrian mafias).
The Africans maintain very close relations with their homeland, which is key for trafficking drugs and humans, but they now also have permanents bases for their activities in Rome, Turin, Padua, Naples and in Sicily.
The Cults, also known among investigators as ‘cultists’, don’t have an international cupola, or high command that organizes, supervises and, most importantly, distributes riches. The different elements of the black mafia are therefore very contentious and become extremely aggressive when they have to defend their territory and their interests in Italy, which reportedly “for the most part revolve around the issues of the Nigerian diaspora.”
Wars between clans are not infrequent.
In the Casilino and Tor Bella Monaca suburbs of Rome, for example, two groups, headed respectively by Osagie Jubrilla Bello with Charles Ezeifeanyi (also known as Dan) and by Martins Ukuwrere (known as Edwin) battled for a long time.
The first gang, according to documents of one of the investigations that outlined the balance of power of the African mafia in Rome, had one main enforcer, Damian Iniyere, nicknamed Ecomog after the African mission that supported the rebels in the conflict in Liberia; Ecomog took part in the operation as a soldier of the Nigerian army.
Bello and Dan’s clan is called Eye, which, according to a star witness, stands for “supremacy of man over planet earth.” Edwin – a former Eye – is the leader of the breakaway group known as Aye. The name “indicates membership in a sect.”
The battle over the control of drug trafficking and the prostitution racket is mainly fought hand to hand in the streets of the Roman suburbs, with “knives, swords, machetes and swordsticks.”
The owner of a bar told the investigators: “in various occasions the two groups met in my bar and clashes with bottles, hammers and baseball bats erupted every time.”
The man, an African, said that he too was a victim of the gangs’ violence. He recalled: “I was once beaten because I tried to throw them out; some of them were sharing some ‘white powder’ in my bar.” Apparently, the criminals heard that he had spoken to the police. “For the past few evenings Jubrilla and Dan have shown up at my bar and threatened me, they told me not to talk to the Carabinieri, claiming that I would pay for it when the trials are over. I also received an anonymous phone call: ‘It’s Ecomog, you will see me again someday’ they told me, and then hung up.”
And then there are the women of the clan members. On one occasion, five of them showed up at the man’s bar and accused him of being the cause of the arrest of their partners, aggressively asking him to withdraw his statement to the police, or “bad things would happen.”
The violence of the Eye and of the breakaway group is confirmed by various depositions.
“Shitty old man, we’ll chop your head off, come out,” the Aye yelled at one of the rival bosses who had found refuge in a shop after he had been assaulted.
The Aye hold a grudge for anyone originally from Benin City, in Nigeria, and their goal is to gain leadership of the entire Nigerian community in Rome. Wire-taps have revealed that the conflict has often made the clans ‘go to the mattresses’ (be ready for battle). “Do you know that I’ve been stabbed?” one clan member told his incredulous boss, to whom he reiterated: “they stabbed me yesterday, so be careful.” In another conversation, the boss told his interlocutor: “I heard that the people from Yoruba and those from Benin fought. I stayed home, as you had advised.”
According to reconstructions, the Eye and the Aye always act in groups of ten or more.
Their raids, as well as their ceremonial gatherings, are marked by rites that explicitly demonstrate membership. The Eye wear black necklaces, bracelets and hats. The Aye, on the other hand are identified by the color blue.
Among the other gangs that are active in Italy, those known as the Azighiri and the Black Ashes are worth noting.
June 23, 2014