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tv   Africa Eye  BBC News  December 18, 2021 8:10pm-9:01pm GMT

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a secret death cult is thriving in nigeria. more terrifying than anything i've ever seen. they've been accused of countless murders at home and abroad. around the world, crime agencies are cracking down on their multimillion dollar internet fraud and human trafficking network. but here in their homeland, the cults seem unstoppable. and thousands of young lives have been destroyed. after 20 years abroad, i've come back to nigeria
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to investigate this deadly mafia. how have they become so powerful? are politicians behind the violence? who are the men in the shadows, pulling the strings? makoko, one of the largest slums in nigeria. i'm on the trail of the black axe, my country's deadliest cult group. this place is incredible. we're literally travelling over raw sewage, but this is the only way
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we can access the black axe cult in makoko. it's taken months to negotiate a meeting and we have no idea what to expect. we're having to go through the back way, in order to get to this place because we can't be seen to be coming there openly. we're trying to avoid being tracked by, possibly, rival cults or even the police. cults — secret brotherhoods of young men — are terrorising communities across nigeria, robbing, raping, and murdering. black axe spread fear wherever they go. the closer we get, the more hostile the situation becomes. you can already hear hostile comments, people talking about, "why are we here? "why are we filming?"
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distant shouting as night fell, we went deeper into the maze of wooden houses. we were going to a place known as the arena, where local axemen gather at night. singing they have agreed to let us film what they call a gyration, a cultist ceremony. the axemen had been drinking and some were high on drugs.
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black axe have a strict code, enforced with violence. leaked footage shows a member punished for breaking the rules. new recruits are beaten and tortured during initiations. they are then forced to swear an oath of secrecy. black axe ideology blends old nigerian religion with anti—colonial activism. the brotherhood claim they are fighting oppression. these men claim that they are fighting forjustice, but i've seen the reality of cult
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violence on the streets. somewhere around here, about 2k years ago, i witnessed a murder of a young man by a cultist group. his name was dapo. we grew up together. i was on my way home and i could hear somebody wailing. he kept crying. he was delirious, and i followed them and i saw a body lying face down. there was this kind of pool of blood on the floor and i realised that i was actually standing on his blood. cultists shot my friend, dapo, in the chest. the killers have never been caught. the memory of that night still haunts me. today, the cults are even more powerful and thousands more young people have been murdered. i just want to know who are behind all of these senseless killings.
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this is more thanjust an investigation, for me. this is personal. i've seen the blood spilled by cultists. who do we hold responsible for this loss of lives? i've come to benin, in southeast nigeria, the heartland of the black axe cult. the city's in the middle of one of the bloodiest periods of gang warfare in years. gunshots black axe are fighting for supremacy over rival cults. jesus! the police are nowhere to be seen. all over the city, people have formed armed vigilante groups to protect themselves.
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screaming black axe have enormous power here. they have thousands of members in benin. ordinary people are at their mercy. they are heavily armed and seem to operate with impunity. i'm on my way to the university of benin to understand where all this violence began. the black axe formed here a0 years ago and students are still being murdered on campus, today. gunshot the black axe emerged out of a student fraternity known as the neo—black movement of africa, or nbm. the movement initially stood for peace, but over time became linked to crime. today, many people use the names
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black axe and nbm interchangeably. singing dr stone is a political science lecturer at the university and an expert on the axemen. dr stone was once a senior member of the black axe, a chairman. he has agreed to share secrets from the inside, breaking his oath of silence. is there any concern that members, some of your colleagues will come after you? that looks like a walking stick.
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in his office, dr stone showed me the ceremonial ropes he wore as an axeman. they tell you? singing: that great day... ..is coming. that great day is coming... the name black axe comes from the old fraternity, the nbm symbol of an axe, breaking chains of oppression. the cult has become a vast network. axemen have infiltrated all levels of nigerian society. pastors ?
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not all members are killers or criminals, but everyone has a role to play. dr stone claims black axe have spies known as "the eyes" everywhere. the eyes? in your days as a member, what was your role? what was the job of a butcher? and did you eliminate?
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dr stone warned me investigating the black axe too deeply could come at a price. me? the impact of the black axe is being felt across nigeria. i am on my way to ikorodu, just an hour's drive from lagos. this once—peaceful town is under
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constant attack by cultists. gunshot in the first three months of 2021, cultist gangs murdered more than 50 people here. a turf war is raging between the black axe and their rivals, the eiye. the people of ikorodu are frightened and angry, but now they are fighting back. vigilantes are taking the law into their own hands. suspected cultists have been brutally beaten and even killed when caught. the most powerful vigilante group is the 0nyabo. it means "we come in force". in ikorodu, they say these
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are the only men that cultists fear. i'm joining them on an operation to hunt down cultists who recently attacked their office. their commander, lanre 0labinjo, summons ancestral spirits to protect his men. at dusk, the 0nyabo head into town, some on bikes, others in cars. the commander and his men co—ordinate everything on their phones... ..calling their spies to pinpoint
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the exact location of the cultists they are looking for. they say their prime target, known as bouncer, recently peppered their office with a machinegun. so, the 0nyabo�*s intelligence is that some of these cultists have come into town. today being saturday, they're going to be hanging out, having a good time. but what they don't know is that 0nyabo is coming for them. we split into groups, some on the road, others down the side streets. they try to surround on the targets. when they see the 0nyabo, the cultists run. shouting 0ne escaped down by the lagoon. hey, hey! another dove into thick bush, filmed by a vigilante. the suspects escaped and snuck back into the city,
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but the 0nyabo don't give up. as night falls, the commander's spies direct them to more targets. they search known cultist hang—outs, stopping and interrogating dozens of young men. it's impossible to know if they are cultists or not. mixed feelings about seeing how brutal they're being towards some of these people. i mean, this is like war in this community between cultists and 0nyabo. and you get the sense that everything goes in a situation of war, it's like there are no rules whatsoever.
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moments later, they find bouncer... ..the man they claim shot at their office. just before midnight, they locate the remaining cultist suspects they've been hunting. shouting bouncer begged the vigilantes for mercy, but the commander's men seem sure they have the right man. the suspects were marched back to the 0nyabo�*s office before being handed over to the police.
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if charged with being a cultist, they could face 21 years in jail. i felt disturbed by what i was seeing. i questioned the commander on his methods. he told me the 0nyabo show no mercy. some people might say this is a violation of human rights. the 0nyabo say all the suspects were taken to the police station to be charged. the commander invited me to his office. he wanted me to understand why he wants cultists in jail and off the streets.
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so, some of your people have been killed? your own officer? the 0nyabo photograph every cult murder they find. there are hundreds of photos too horrifying to show. i mean, just the expression of... on his face. it's... this is stuff of nightmare. the commander says the black axe commit the worst atrocities. the nigerian police estimate more than 90% of the country's cult killings are never reported. the 0nyabo say they take these photos to bring the killers to justice.
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before leaving ikorodu, the commander wanted me to meet the family of one of his men. bukola's husband, an 0nyabo officer, was murdered and mutilated by cultists. she's now on her own, caring for his mother and five children. was he a nice dad?
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can i see his photograph? it's been five years since her husband geleti's murder. with little income, her family are struggling. she sobs i'm so sorry. she sobs
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when you kill somebody, it's notjust that person you've killed, you've destroyed a lot of people. his mother is devastated, his young wife is devastated, these children... it's heartbreaking. it's like... this could change the course of their life completely, having their father taken away from them. i mean, i've got children. i've got... i've got an aged mum. just the thought of not being around for my family... just... it would... utterly devastating. thousands of tragedies like these are playing out across nigeria. why is all this cult violence happening? even in the richest parts of nigeria, in lagos,
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cultists wage war on the streets, attacking in broad daylight. nigeria has one of the youngest populations in the world. the average age is just 18. in the last decade, youth unemployment has doubled. 23 million people have nojob. gunfire with millions of unemployed young people, it's easy for cults to find new recruits. gunfire and screaming see them, see them! the gangs are expanding, and it's rumoured they have the backing of powerful men. who are the men secretly controlling the cults? i've come to lagos to find out. i've made contact with some cultist assassins, butchers who are prepared to break their oath of silence. we'll call you when we get
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to the roundabout. they insisted we meet at night, on their turf, on their terms. the arrangement as to how we get this interview done was not exactly tidy. one minute, they agreed to speak to us, the next minute, they tried to cancel. a black axe member met us on a motorbike. we followed him to a hidden location. soft singing he sings
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these young men seem to have no remorse. but then they told me why they were initiated into the cult. all of them were teenagers still in secondary school, joining after people close to them were murdered by cultists. for some, the past was too painful to talk about.
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what they told me next was even more disturbing. they claim they are funded and protected by politicians.
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are politicians secretly working with violent cult gangs? i went to ask the former black axe chairman, drjohn stone. but there is more to black axe than just brute force. dr stone claims the cult use an alias to cover their role in society and politics. the organisation's original name, the neo—black movement of africa, is registered as a company
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in nigeria and around the world. the official nbm is not banned. members operate in the open, claim to be freedom fighters, donate to charity, and even elect a president. dr stone says this provides the black axe with cover. dr stone claims axemen exploit the name nbm to infiltrate the highest levels of nigerian society.
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one of the most famous members of the nbm in nigerian politics is tony kabaka. officially, he's a youth leader for nigeria's ruling party, the all progressive congress. but here on the streets, they call him the godfather. they say he commands the loyalty and votes of thousands of men in benin. they shout he claims he provides protection.
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kabaka has been a member of the neo—black movement since he was a young man. he says he joined seeking protection from assassins. law enforcement in benin seem beholden to kabaka. as he walked, handing out money, a policeman came to salute him. when he got too close, one of kabaka's boys pushed him aside. even the state vigilantes seem loyal to him. gunshot one of the vigilantes just shot.
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my heart literallyjumped in my mouth, because you never know, with kabaka, you never know whether his detractors might be trying to get him. kabaka's work in politics has made him rich. a street is named after him and he lives in a multimillion—naira mansion. inside, kabaka was keen to show me how connected he is with the political elite. governor adams oshiomhole recognised kabaka's street popularity and made him an asset. at one point, kabaka commanded over 7,000 tax collectors, gathering billions in revenue for the governor.
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come. politics has lifted kabaka from cultist enforcer to multimillionaire. in nigeria, this is the dream for many young axemen. louis... louis vuitton shoes? yeah. when was the last time you wore this? but kabaka's involvement in politics has made him enemies. in 2020, kabaka's political overlords were voted out of office and he fell out
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with the new governor. unknown gunmen sprayed his house with ak—lfl fire. soon after, the state government demolished his multimillion—naira hotel. kabaka claims it was an act of revenge by his political enemies. kabaka feels betrayed by the politicians he once served. he's now willing to reveal their most—guarded secret — that cultists are working in the very heart of government.
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he confirmed that politicians use him and his cultist network as muscle during elections. despite his ruthless reputation, kabaka denied he's ever been involved in cult violence himself. he claims the nbm are trying to end the killings. he says the people with the power to stop the killings are the cultists in government.
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kabaka's allegations are backed up by secret black axe documents that have been leaked to the bbc. distorted vows: | came - into possession of a large amount of criminal evidence, the activities of the black axe. politics is really rotten in nigeria. there are members within the government today and they don't want this information to come out. this evidence has been hacked by an anti—fraud investigator, known as uche tobias. we've hidden his identity to keep him safe. he's targeted the email accounts of high—ranking members of the nbm, revealing the intersection between the black axe, politics and crime. distorted voice: the neo-black movement as an organisation - isjust a charade. the endgame of the organisation is to subvert the opinion
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of the public into believing that they're legitimate, when, in fact, the opposite is true. it's a big smokescreen for what they really are, which is a mafia. uche's obtained potentially explosive evidence, thousands of emails exposing the long history of axemen infiltrating politics in benin. a hacked email from 2012 suggests politicians funnelled 35 million naira to the nbm to assist with an election campaign in edo state. in return, axemen were allegedly promised 80 roles in government. distorted voice: politicians reach out to the black axe, _ mobilise young people, and, for that, they're promised money and they're promised roles within government. so, when elections come around, you just have more and more cultists getting into positions of power through this nepotism and corruption. but politics is not only funding cultism. the evidence suggests a politician was once the head of the black axe. his name is augustus bemigho, a member of the ruling apc party in nigeria,
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who ran for office in 2019. he's also the former president of the neo—black movement of africa. during that time, hacked emails suggest he orchestrated millions of dollars of internet fraud. distorted voice: augustus bemigho was a very typical _ member of the black axe. he was an advance—fee fraudster, stealing money off people, laundering money. he was providing victims with evidence of being a businessman and people were falling for it. he's the head of a criminal organisation. that is a scandal — that the head of a criminal organisation can run for politics. we sent our allegations to bemigho and he never responded. axemen don't want this information getting out. uche claims they are desperate to kill him. distorted vows: in one year, - i received 200, 300 death threats. these people are capable of the most horrific crimes. i knew that investigating the nbm
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was a dangerous business, but myjourney was nearly over and i needed answers. after weeks of negotiation, the president of the neo—black movement agreed to meet me. i had to ask him, face—to—face, if the nbm is the real power behind the black axe. we've gotten a couple of security operatives to go with us. we have an armed escort at the back. i mean, i would be lying if i said that i'm not slightly concerned, especially when the allegations are put in front of him. the nbm came in force. the newly—elected president, ese kakor, was accompanied by two lawyers. behind me, the boys filmed our every move. the president was quick to dismiss any suggestion the nbm is a front for black axe. some people say that the neo—black
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movement of africa is actually a smokescreen for the black axe. how do you react to that? i then show them evidence their former leader, augustus bemigho, was not only black axe, but also involved in multimillion—dollarfraud. mr augustus bemigho is the former president... yes. ..of this organisation. yes. but after seeing our evidence, they promised to investigate the matter.
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the nbm strongly deny any responsibility for black axe killings in nigeria. but there's more of that. there's more of the killings. does it bother you ? the president admitted criminal
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elements have infiltrated the nbm, but claimed he is determined to flush them out. as the interview came to an end, the president wanted to make one point clear. despite the president's denials, the nbm is facing mounting international pressure.
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weeks after our interview, the fbi arrested more than 35 nbm members in the us and south africa, charged with multimillion—dollar internet fraud. the nbm claim all the individuals involved have been suspended indefinitely, but a us department ofjustice statement names the neo—black movement of africa as a criminal organisation and part of the black axe. in nigeria, no action on this scale has been taken. black axe feel untouchable. when we asked the government in benin city for an interview on cultism, they refused to talk. nobody in power here is taking responsibility for this tragedy. at the university of benin, i met dr stone for the last time. after a lifetime of cult violence, he's fighting to end it.
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he's formed what he calls a rainbow coalition, a network of former cultists and professors who are trying to prevent killings. the former butcher... ..has turned protector. it seems almost everyone touched by cultism is burdened by trauma, even those who commit the atrocities. do you remember the faces of the people you killed?
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dr stone may want to forget his past, but the countless cult killings he witnessed still haunt him. as we sat, a painful memory returned.
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a0 years of cult violence has sent countless young men to their graves. my friend, dapo, was one of them. he was just 25 when he was murdered. this is dapo's grave. and it looks completely abandoned. it's literally falling apart.
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even the headstone's missing. coming here is supposed to give me, like, a sense of closure, but seeing his grave in such disarray... it just. .. it hurts. this is the final resting place for somebody who had aspirations, who had dreams. not even a photo of dapo survives. it feels like he's been forgotten, totally. it's like... no memories of him. like he was never here. thousands and thousands of young men have died like this in the last four decades. and just nobody remembering them, it's like they died in vain. shouting every week across nigeria, more young people are being murdered by cultists.
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wailing pain of the family goes viralfor all of us to see on social media. how much longer can nigeria continue like this? when will those in political power finally say, "enough is enough"? wailing
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hello there. we have seen some huge contracts and weather conditions today. some parts of scotland, northern england, wales and at the south—west have been gloriously bright and sunny, but cold and gloomy elsewhere. the reason for it is this blocking aid of high—pressure scenting to the north of the uk, very few isobars in the charts. through tonight, where we hold onto the cloud, temperatures will hover above freezing. but under the clearer skies, it will turn cold and widespread frost year and the risk of some dense mist and fog patches. a cold start for sunday for certain parts of the north. greater chance of seeing a few breaks in at the cloud for northern ireland, but much of central and eastern england
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will stay grey and gloomy once again, perhaps some drizzle in the thickets of the cloud. through sunday night, it's a similar performance. lots of cloud through central and southern and eastern areas and across northern ireland where skies are clear it will turn cold and frosty. into the new working week, it looks pretty similar, lots of cloud around. the chance of seeing some breaks in a cloud into one central and eastern england. the best of the sunshine probably again across parts of scotland and wales. then as we move through the run—up to christmas, we could start to see these different working from the south—west with
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milder air, working from the south—west with milderair, but working from the south—west with milder air, but colder working from the south—west with milderair, but colderairwill battle and from the north as well, so it is a sort of battleground around the christmas period. for next week, it looks likely start of the week will generally be chilly, with more sunshine around, and then it turns more unsettled for the christmas period with a mixture of rain, and snow.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. lord frost — the man in charge of the uk's brexit negotiations — has resigned from borisjohnson�*s government, according the mail on sunday newspaper. the dutch prime minister puts his country into a tough new lockdown, as the latest coronavirus variant spreads. translation: the netherlands will go into lockdown again from tomorrow. netherlands is again shutting down. that is unavoidable because of the fifth wave that is coming at us with the omicron variant. another 90,000 covid—19 cases are reported across the uk, as the mayor of london declares a major incident in the capital. british holidaymakers are forced to cancel trips as france imposes tight travel restrictions on those arriving from the uk.

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