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Organized crime in Nigeria

Organized crime in Nigeria
Founding locationNigeria
TerritoryNigeria, South Africa, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, United States, India, Japan
Criminal activities419 Scams, Drug trafficking, Weapon trafficking, Prostitution, Contract killing, extortion, illegal diamond smuggling, Robbery, Fraud, Money laundering, Human trafficking, Kidnapping.
Sicilian Mafia

Organized crime in Nigeria includes a number of fraudsters, drug traffickers and racketeers of various sorts originating from Nigeria. Nigerian criminal gangs rose to prominence in the 1980s, owing much to the globalization of the world's economies and the high level of lawlessness already in the country.


Crime organisations in Nigeria, typically do not follow the mafia-type model followed by other groups. They appear to be less formal and more organized along familial and ethnic lines, thus making them less susceptible by infiltration from law enforcement. Police investigations are further hampered by the fact there are at least 250 distinct ethnic languages in Nigeria. Other criminal gangs from Nigeria appear to be smaller-scale freelance operations.[1] Groups from Benin City are especially notorious for human trafficking.[2]

Area boys

Area boys (also known as Agberos)[3] are loosely organized gangs of street children and teenagers, composed mostly of males, who roam the streets of Lagos, Lagos State in Nigeria.[4] They extort money from passers-by, public transporters and traders, sell illegal drugs, act as informal security guards, and perform other "odd jobs" in return for compensation.[5][6]

One of the methods Area Boys use for extortion is to surround pedestrians, drivers, and passengers in vehicles, which are stuck in traffic, and force them to pay for some actual or fictitious service before letting them go.[5] To aid in collecting money during traffic jams, the area boys place nails in the road and dig up the streets.[7] Among the area boys are both sellers and users of illegal drugs.[8] A study states "most of them use drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc.) either as occasional users or addicts, or as peddlers." Of 77 respondents to a survey, 12.2% dealt drugs, while 60.3% were addicts themselves. Sale of drugs takes place both in Nigeria and abroad, and sales abroad have earned a small percentage of the sellers significant amounts of money.[8]


The Neo Black Movement often claim to be entirely unrelated to Black Axe in public statements, however the symbol is shown on their posters.

Highly organised Nigerian confraternities/campus gangs operate worldwide. For example the Neo Black Movement of Africa. In its own words, the Neo Black Movement of Africa is a "registered non-partisan, non-religious and non-tribal organisation that sincerely seek to revive, retain and modify where necessary those aspects of African culture that would provide vehicles of progress for Africa and her peoples".

Behind the welfare facade of the Neo Black Movement[9] hides indeed the most dreaded Nigerian campus cult, the Black Axe confraternity.[10] NBM usually state that they are not identical with Black Axe for propaganda purposes. While the atrocities committed by campus cult members are well-known, very little is known about other activities of the Neo Black Movement. Offiong claims that the group's initial goal of promoting black consciousness and fighting for the dignity of Africans and their freedom from neo-colonialism has deteriorated into self-serving behaviour that is "notoriously and brutally violent".[11] He maintains that violence has in fact become the cult's official policy.[12]

Apart from the atrocities in the orbit of NBM, most members of the confraternity are involved in fraud and cyber crime. The main reason to join the confraternity is (besides the pressure and intimidation[13] that is applied to students to join) the fact that the confraternity has infiltrated all spheres of Nigerian society and serves the main purpose of helping its members climb the career ladder and going unpunished for their crimes by means of their nepotistic structure.

Investigations and a number of arrests of members of NBM by the Italian police brought to light various crimes committed by members of NBM. NBM and other cults were found guilty of smuggling of drugs, extortion, 419 fraud, prostitution, passport falsification, and cloning of credit cards.

In 2011, eight more members of NBM were arrested in Italy for the same offenses mentioned above. They are referred to as an international criminal organisation and Nigerian Mafia.[14] According to internal documents, the confraternity helps members to immigrate illegally to Europe. Nigerian fraud rings have been exported to Europe, America, and Asia (see external links section). In 2015 a sophisticated car theft ring run by the Black Axe organized crime ring was busted in Toronto, Canada. The ring had stolen more than 500 luxury cars in one year, valued at 30 million US dollars.[15][16]

According to the police, the Nigerians are increasing their alliances with the Neapolitan Camorra and the Sicilian Mafia, the alliances are most regarded to prostitution, drugs and human trafficking business.[17]



An advance-fee scam is a form of fraud and one of the most common types of confidence tricks. The scam typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires in order to obtain the large sum. If a victim makes the payment, the fraudster either invents a series of further fees for the victim or simply disappears.[18]

Drug trafficking

Nigerian criminal groups are heavily involved in drug trafficking, shipping heroin from Asian countries to Europe and America; and cocaine from South America to Europe and South Africa. The large numbers of ethnic Nigerians in countries like India and Thailand give their gangs ready access to around 90% of the world's heroin.[19]

In the United States, Nigerian drug traffickers are important distributors of heroin, from importing it into the country to distribution level and selling it to lower-level street gangs.[20] These criminal groups are also known to launder drug money through domestic football clubs in the Nigeria Premier League, and are rumored to make additional money through match fixing activity within football matches.

Human trafficking

Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution. Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within Nigeria - women and girls for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, and boys for forced labor in street vending, domestic servitude, mining, and begging.[21]

Nigerian women and children are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, primarily Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia, for the same purposes. Children from West African states like Benin, Togo, and Ghana – where Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules allow for easy entry – are also forced to work in Nigeria, and some are subjected to hazardous jobs in Nigeria's granite mines. Nigerian women and girls are taken to Europe, especially to Italy and Russia, and to the Middle East and North Africa, for forced prostitution.[21]


According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nigerian criminal enterprises are the most notable of all African criminal enterprises. They are considered to be among the most aggressive and expansionist international criminal groups, operating in more than 80 countries of the world and are established on all populated continents of the world. Their most profitable activity is drug trafficking, though they are more famous for their financial fraud which costs the US alone approximately US$1 to 2 billion annually.[22]

See also



  1. ^ La Sorte, Mike. "Defining Organized Crime"., May 2006.
  2. ^ People and Power. "The Nigerian Connection - People & Power". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  3. ^ Ngwobo, Chris (July 2004). "Area Boys: Menace to Society". This Present House. Freedom Hall. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-04.
  4. ^ Simon Heap,“Their Days are Spent in Gambling and Loafing, Pimping for Prostitutes, and Picking Pockets”: Male Juvenile Delinquents on Lagos Island, Nigeria, 1920s-60s’, Journal of Family History, 35(1), 2010, 48-70; [][permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b IRIN (2005-07-14). "Area Boys -- a growing menace on the streets of Lagos". NEWSfromAFRICA. Koinonia International. Archived from the original on 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  6. ^ Momoh, Abubakar (2000). "Yoruba Culture and Area Boys in Lagos". In Jega, Attahiru (ed.). Identity Transformation and Identity Politics under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria. Nordic Africa Institute. p. 184. ISBN 91-7106-456-7.
  7. ^ Momoh, p. 193
  8. ^ a b Momoh, p. 195
  9. ^
  10. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld | Nigeria: The Black Axe confraternity, also known as the Neo-Black Movement of Africa, including their rituals, oaths of secrecy, and use of symbols or particular signs; whether they use force to recruit individuals (2009-November 2012)". Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  11. ^ Offiong 2003, 69–70
  12. ^ Offiong 2003, 70
  13. ^ []
  14. ^ Arresti in Campania per Black Axe, la mafia nigeriana
  15. ^ "GTA luxury vehicle thefts linked to Nigerian crime ring Black Axe". CBC News Toronto. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  16. ^ Ross, Selena (17 January 2016). "GTA Sophisticated car theft ring targeting luxury vehicles". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  17. ^ "Mafia nigeriana sempre più potente, nasce l'asse con Cosa Nostra e camorra". (in Italian). Retrieved 2019-10-31.
  18. ^ "Advance Fee Scams".
  19. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Organized Crime: African Criminal Enterprises".
  20. ^ "National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 - Heroin". National Drug Intelligence Center, December 208. Accessed 1 July 2010.
  21. ^ a b "Nigeria". Trafficking in Persons Report 2010. U.S. Department of State (June 14, 2010). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  22. ^ "African Criminal Enterprises". FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 15 October 2015.

Further reading

  • Stephen Ellis: This Present Darkness: A History of Nigerian Organised Crime. London: Hurst & Company, 2016. ISBN 978-0-19-049431-5.
  • Offiong, Daniel A. (2001). Secret Cults in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions. Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-9781565922.

External links