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The Black Axe


Everywhere and nowhere: tracing the evolution of a notorious Nigerian fraternity

If you have an email account, you’ve almost certainly received an email from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince. Yet despite the notoriety of this scam, it continues to net billions of dollars every year—and, as Sean Williams explains in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine, these scams constitute just a fraction of the criminal activity committed by Nigerian cults like the Black Axe. Though its membership now focuses on accumulating as much wealth and turf as possible, the group grew out of a pan-African movement that endeavored to embrace the richness of Nigerian culture.

In this episode, Williams speaks with web editor Violet Lucca about the social, economic, and political factors unique to Nigeria that contributed to the unfortunate evolution of this particular organization, its ties to the Italian mafia, and the internal and external attempts to curb its violent activities.

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