- Most are victims of local trafficking in persons, broken marriage
Between 9pm and 11pm every day, some Lagos housewives stream to the adjoining streets around the notorious Ojuelegba in Lagos. While some of them stand in small groups as if waiting to be picked up for a crucial assignment at a nearby hospital, others simply stand in pairs, flagging down passing cars or simply fiddling with their iphones, which they fondle like babies. Appearing in apparels that have no regard for incognito operations that should have been the rule of engagement for their class in such a seedy trade, they are poised for the real business of the night, expecting a big rake-off.
A week-long monitoring of activities at the notorious red light district of Ojuelegba by The Point was quite revealing.
Up on the roadsides, the housewives, most of who wear red lipstick, clutch handbags containing the ‘tools’ of their illicit trade - tissue papers and protective rubber - with their skimpy dresses giving them away as professional street walkers.
The headlight of the stream of cars ferrying potential patrons into some of the upscale drinking joints in the ever-chaotic community, intermittently splash the rays of light on the women’s scantily dressed bodies, revealing their curves and bumps as well as giving potential clients lurking in the dark corners better view of the ‘fishes.’
The scores of scarlet women surge at every moment a passing car slows down around them, hoping to catch their ‘customers.’
Our undercover reporter approached one of the ladies standing at the entrance of Abeo Street, who later identified herself as ‘Iya Tope’. Appearing in heavy make-up and spotting bum-shorts, ‘Iya Tope’ said she would clock 42 years in three weeks’ time.
“Do you want me? Let us walk to the next beer-parlour up there. It is a fun paradise. It’s just a stone throw,” she said seductively.
Already seated at the drinking joint were her kindred, dressed in revealing apparels in such a manner that even the most recluse of clerics could be tempted to want to have a ‘taste’. They all smoked and drank as if their lives depended solely on it. While the whiff of smoke from cigarettes took over the entire atmosphere, under the transparent blanket formed by its cloud, the housewives and their male clients fondled and caressed away into the night.
An old school hit, “Last night, the DJ saved my life,” was blaring from loud speakers, bringing back the memories of those days. But that particular night, it was these Lagos housewives that were actually “saving” the lives of their male clients as regal dance steps were done with hands in the air waving left, right, centre and backward.
But The Point’s findings revealed that most, if not all the housewivesturned- prostitutes plying their illicit trade along the Ojuelegba axis, were victims of local trafficking in persons.
“Ojuelegba is a microcosm of a community in a mega city, where trading in illicit sex has been elevated to an art. It is the same all over Lagos, where prostitution has actually assumed the status of a growing industry,” The Point gathered.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that these housewives, some of who come from as far as Iyana-Ipaja, Egbeda, Agege, Lagos Island, Orile –Iganmu, LASU-Iba, Ajegunle, Apapa, Ikeja, Shomolu and other places to congregate at Ojuelegba, undergo some form of unpalatable treatment that could only be better imagined than experienced.
According to Iya Tope, ”I started coming to Ojuelegba two years ago, having been introduced to the business by my neighbour. That was when I complained to her that I could neither feed well nor pay my children’s school fees because their father was out of job. My first customer almost killed me. He pounded me as if he wanted to turn me inside out, perhaps, because he discovered I was new in the trade. I cried my eyes out when the man gave me a miserable N500. But the woman who brought me there said I should endure. I soon learnt the tricks. I dare not tell my children how I get money to feed them because I would not sleep outside.
Ojuelegba is a microcosm of a community in a mega city, where trading in illicit sex has been elevated to an art. It is the same all over Lagos, where prostitution has actually assumed the status of a growing industry
“That first day, I managed to make N3, 000, but for the next three days, I stayed put at home, trying to get over the trauma”.
But has her story changed? “Yes, I have learnt the rudiments of the trade with a lot of tricks that go with it. Initially, we could do it in a hotel, but now a dark alley would do. It would not last more than five minutes”.
Further checks revealed that Ojuelegba is the ‘official’ headquarters of the sex trade in Lagos, closely followed by Allen Avenue These two axes of Lagos have only formed a thriving sex-trafficking industry that have been operating for years, satisfying the appetite of those wanting to “catch some fun.”
Checks revealed that Ojuelegba, as a hot sex centre, was elevated in the 1970s, when the late Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was reigning over his Kalakuta Republic around the area. Fun-seekers, most especially women, who went there to hawk sweets and other petty items, soon realised that engaging in the sex trade was far easier and more profitable than selling cigarettes, Nikko and kolanuts.
Today, an average of 500 women, especially housewives, patronise Ojuelegba on daily basis to seek patronage and over N500, 000 is realised from each zone.
According to a sociologist, Mr. Idowu Oladimeji, “An average prostitute plying her trade at Ojuelegba go home with nothing less than N10,000 daily. This does not include money spent on drinks, drugs and sundry by their clients. They often steal from their drunk customers”.
It was further revealed that majority of these women of easy virtue do not bear their real names while plying their trade on the ‘beat.’ They operate under pseudonyms.
“We live a secret life. We know the implication of being called a prostitute. We fear being labelled by outsiders.
Nobody wants to be stigmatised,” one of them said. Twenty-two-year-old Rhoda from the Eastern part of the country explained that the urge to provide good things of life for her children actually pushed her into prostitution.
She said, “I did not attend any good school and my husband simply exploited me after having two children for him. He later abandoned us. My husband exploited me as a result of abject poverty and lack of opportunity to have gone to school like others. He promised to send me back to school, but soon reneged on his promise. Now, I live as a single mother that must survive.
“We were living in Onitsha before we quarreled. Then, he sent me packing; opportunity to come to Lagos came when I saw people come back from the ‘Centre of Excellence’ and they would tell us that we could also have good life in Lagos. In the East, there was absolute nothing of immediate commercial value to hang on to. Then, I wanted more for my children and myself. So, I came down and here I am today. I have a rented apartment in Agege. My co-residents do not know what I do for a living. I tell them I am a nurse.”
But apart from the dirty job of prostitution, Rhoda also has a shop at Computer Village in Ikeja, where she sells phones and computer accessories.
“I will soon quit this job. I just need little money to add to my market, if not for the day armed robbers robbed me when I was returning from a night run. That day, I had withdrawn N400, 000 from the bank, which I neatly hid in my bag. But a man I had a quickie with stole all after giving me a drugged fruit. I slept off. The man robbed me of my hard-earned money and dumped me by the road side. I woke up the next day to find myself naked on the street. Now, I am wiser. I do not come out every day. Maybe thrice in a week, but if it rains, I could go for business five times in a week. Then, I make more money, maybe, N20,000,” she said.
Rhoda, however, described prostitution as a dangerous trade.
“The work is bad and dangerous. Some men could be violent. Some see us as nothing but slaves meant to be used and discarded like a leftover food. Come to think of it, I have more than four times been beaten up by a bunch of drunkards, who talked to me as if I did not have blood running in my veins. They behave like savage animals during love making. I have even been threatened with a gun, when I boarded a car from Ojuelegba on my way back home. My only consolation, most of the time, is that I would soon quit the job. Nothing lasts forever, after all,” she added.