Emmanuel, a 25 year-old Nigerian living in Palermo, Italy claims his face was scarred with a machete by members of the feared Nigerian clan, Black Axe.
Austin Ewosa,32, the head of the Nigerian Black Axe in Italy, a criminal organisation born as a sort of student fraternity in the 1970s at the University of Benin City, was among the three Nigerians sentenced to prison on Friday, July 22.
His street name is John Bull and he was arrested in September 2014, in a local bar in Ballarò. He was accused of assault, intimidation, criminal association, attempted murder and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Prosecutors in the Sicilian capital of Palermo have revealed a new alliance between Italian mafia and Nigerian criminal gangs moving in from Libya.
“Even the Sicilian mafia has to deal with the wave of migration from Africa,” said Leonardo Agueci, Palermo’s deputy chief prosecutor. “The neighbourhoods under mafia control have changed profoundly in recent years due to the growing presence of foreigners, especially Nigerians coming on boats. Among them, there are a small number] of people who want to transfer their illegal trafficking, linked to prostitution and drug dealing, to Sicily. And the mafia was quite happy to integrate them into their criminal business.”
On the night of 27 January 2014, Ewosa and his thugs allegedly dragged a 27-year-old man called Don Emeka down Via del Bosco, not far from Piazza Ballarò, where they brutally disfigured him with axe and machete blows. Emeka, like Emmanuel was one of dozens of Ewosa’s victims and was punished for not having submitted.
According to the prosecutors, some of the Black Axe members, including Ewosa, and also his victims, arrived in Sicily by boat. Most of them were temporarily hosted in the immigration camp at Caltanissetta, in the centre of the island.
Legal and well established Nigerians in Sicily are paying the price for this new criminal alliance between the gangs and the mafia.
“Many honest Nigerians live in Palermo,” says Osas Egbon, 35, vice-president of Women of Benin City, an association that tries to take Nigerian prostitutes off the streets. “They work hard and live in fear. These families are victims on two fronts. They are victims of both Sicilian and Nigerian criminality.”
Photo credit: Francesco Bellina. Additional report from The Guardian UK