Investigation links Nigerian politician to fraud and worship
Investigation report by the BBC linked a Nigerian politician to a deadly sectarian group and an international network of internet fraudsters.
The politician, identified as Augustus Bemigho, is a member of the ruling party Congress of All Progressives in Edo State, south-south Nigeria.
He ran for elected office in 2019, according to the report released on Monday.
Mr Bemigho, who is also a businessman, is believed to be from a dangerous sectarian group known as Black Ax, originally from the University of Benin, Edo.
The banned group uses another name, the Neo-Noir d’Afrique Movement, which is registered and recognized by Nigerian law, to operate publicly and sometimes engages in charitable work, according to the report.
âOver the past two years, BBC Africa Eye has followed Black Ax, spoken to former members and combed through thousands of documents that appear to have been hacked by a number of prominent members of the group. It was not possible to verify the entire cache, but key documents were verified by the BBC.
“Among our findings were emails suggesting that a prominent Nigerian businessman and 2019 APC party candidate for political office, Augustus Bemigho, was a senior member of Black Ax and was involved in the orchestration of fraudulent Internet scams that bring in millions of dollars.
The document cache contained more than 18,000 pages from an email account linked to Mr. Bemigho, including emails suggesting he sent advice on the scam to a network of collaborators on 62 occasions and communicated with others on specific scam targets, âthe report said.
The victims, according to the report, were swindled with around $ 3.3 million in scams involving Mr. Bemigho and other members of Black Ax.
“Operations of international law enforcement agencies indicate that profits from the Black Ax scam may run into the billions,” the report said.
The BBC said Mr Bemigho did not respond to the allegations when contacted.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach Mr. Bemigho for comment.
Black Ax’s involvement in Edo politics
The report, a video version of it, tells a story of lawlessness, ruthless killings, and how the black ax penetrated Edo state politics.
The 52-minute video showed the bodies of sectarian murder victims lying in the streets of Benin, widowed women and orphaned children helplessly crying, and motorists, traders and passers-by running to safety during the shootings.
The BBC interviewed John Stone, senior lecturer at the University of Benin and former member of Black Ax.
“Why will they come after me?” If they come after me, can’t I also come after them? The speaker said when asked if he was not afraid to break their oath of secrecy.
Mr Stone pulled out a sword disguised as a walking stick from inside his car, as he was interviewed by the BBC.
The sword was for his personal care and safety, he said.
The speaker said that members of Black Ax are part of the Nigerian military, the justice system in the country and everywhere. âWe have people who are pastors,â he said.
âPoliticians cannot survive without the black ax,â he said. “They have to work with Black Ax for them to survive.”
Nigerian politicians are deploying members of the sectarian group in the elections, he said.
The BBC also interviewed Tony Kabaka, an influential member of Black Ax and a young leader of the APC in Edo.
The video showed that Mr. Kabaka was revered and greeted in the streets by several people – young people, market men and women, members of the vigilante service and even a police officer.
In the street, Mr. Kabaka is called the godfather. He distributes money indiscriminately to people.
He lives in a multi-million naira house which he says was built with the help of Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole. He said he was a tax collector for the Edo government during Mr. Oshiomhole’s administration.
A street is named after Mr. Kabaka in Benin.
In his house hung photographs he had taken with prominent Edo politicians, including then governor Mr. Oshiomhole and a member of the House of Representatives, Julius Ihonvbere.
âPolitics has elevated Kabaka from sectarian to executor to multimillionaire. In Nigeria, this is a dream for many young Axis men, âthe report said.
But, as the report says, politics also drew enemies to Mr Kabaka who became more visible when Mr Oshiomhole was ousted from power by his protege who later became his great political rival, Godwin Obaseki, who is the current governor of Edo.
Mr. Kabaka’s house was at one point attacked by unknown gunmen and his hotel demolished by the state government.
âBigotry still exists because the government is involved. It’s the truth, âKabaka said.
Mr Kabaka said politicians used him and his network of sectarians in the elections in Edo.
He said he could identify Black Ax members in the Edo government.
The BBC said: “Two documents indicate that in Benin City 35 million naira ($ 85,000; Â£ 64,000) was funneled to the Neo-Noir d’Afrique Movement (NBM) to ‘protect the votes’ and ensure victory in a governorate election in 2012.
“In return for the support, the records suggest that ’80 locations (have been) allocated to the NBM Benin zone for immediate employment by the state government. ‘
The Edo state government has yet to respond to the report.
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