Prostitution in Lagos has lately gone bizarre with the initiation of kids between the ages of 12 and 15 into the illicit trade. ADELEKE ADESANYA, who went round some Lagos brothels, reports…
That prostitution is rampant in Lagos State may not be new to many people. The sad twist to this ignoble trade is the open involvement of kids, whose ages range between 12 and 14 years, in the world’s ‘oldest profession.’
According to findings by The Point, these young girls, who should be in school, have been initiated into the sex cult by a cartel of older prostitutes. The older women usually deceive illiterate parents back in some remote villages that they want to help take the children to Lagos to learn various trades or further their education.
Upon arriving Lagos, however, the girls find themselves as co-workers with elderly prostitutes inside small or moderate rooms in Lagos brothels. They thus become the source of income to the ageing prostitutes, who, for age factors and other sundry reasons, might have been experiencing low ‘patronage’.
Investigations conducted by our correspondent in some selected hotels and brothels in Lagos and its suburbs, revealed that most of these girls were either brought by their hosts from villages or picked up at motor parks for the sex-hawking business. In some cases, some of the girls were lured into the business either by relatives or friends.
BUSINESS AT IPODO BROTHEL
An area famed for the activities of teenage prostitutes is Ipodo, a boisterous community in Ikeja, Lagos. An uncompleted storey building and alow-profile bungalow both serve as shelter for prostitutes in the area.
A 14-year-old sex hawker, who called herself T Baby, screamed when she saw our correspondent: “Bros e, I no sweet as you dey look me so? You too be shine shine bobo; or abi you bi shakiti bobo?”
Sharing her experience with our correspondent, T Baby said she was introduced into the trade by an Aunt, who asked her mother in the village to release her to go to Lagos and make ends meet.
“Before now, many of us in the village used to think she was into buying and selling business,” she said. Investigations revealed that both the young and old prostitutes at Ipodo report to a woman, a veteran prostitute in her 50s, who they call ‘Big Mama.’
One of the kid prostitutes, who refused to disclose her name because of the fear of victimisation, said they previously paid the sum of N200 to their host, until recently when the price was inflated to N300 per day, adding that the fee “is between N700 and N1000, per ‘service.’”
A 15-year-old prostitute, who simply identified herself as Hannah, said the cost of room service recently increased from N700 to N1,000 “because of the rise in the value of the dollar.”
“I cannot ‘service you’ for less than N1000 because the prices of our materials have increased. You know dollar is expensive now.”
Responding to why she is into the business, however, Hannah told our correspondent that she joined the league of prostitutes at Ipodo to make ends meet, noting that her parents didn’t care about her and siblings.
ENCOUNTER WITH FAVOUR AND TEMMY
At Ibafo, an Ogun State suburb, a notable brothel, called ‘De Gorh’ is the base of kid prostitutes domiciled in the neighbourhood. There, our correspondent met Favour and Temmy, both teenagers, aged 13 and 15 respectively.
They shared their experiences while devouring plates of fish pepper soup, which our correspondent provided as a precondition for a press interview.
“This job, en, worrisome…but what can I do? When I got to Lagos with my other friends, I was helping a woman to sell ‘hot’ drinks in a car park; but later, I had to join others to do this job when I met a ‘sister’ who introduced me to it,” Temmy said in between tears.
The teenager, who claimed to have left her parents in a village in Abeokuta, Ogun State, without notice, said her desperation to be wealthy in life led her into prostitution.
“I pay N7,000 for the room I use in this hotel on a weekly basis. So, I need to hustle well in order not to be thrown out by the manager because I am new here…On a good business day, I make an average of N7,000,” she said.
Temmy’s comrade in ‘the trade’, Favour, though still in the league of kids at 13, appears to be more ‘enterprising than her older friend. She revealed how older prostitutes engaged them for older men, who preferred their type, revealing that some men, who were her church members also patronised prostitutes in the same hotel.
“I realised the job was against God’s wish, so I made it compulsory to pay my tithe and offering in the church. Some of our church members, the men, also patronsie us here,” she said. The young girl, who claimed that she shuttles up to four, five hotels in a week, maintained that “prostitution is a way of life.”
JENNIFER AT IBAFO
At another rendezvous in Ibafo; Omolayo Hotel this time, Jennifer, one of the resident teenage prostitutes, said she was involved in what she would describe as a “hot job.”
She said, “I came from Calabar (Cross River State) with a friend who introduced me to this prostitution. Our service price is always on the high side on weekends because people patronise us more on Friday and Saturday nights.
“On a short time service, we charge N1,000, but if it is in the morning, I may ‘service you’ with N500, because people rarely come out at that time. We do not have underage (sex) hawkers here anymore, unlike before, because this place is close to a police station. Some of the policemen usually come here late at night and if they see underage hawkers, there will be trouble. I am 20 years.”
THE OSHODI HUSTLERS
Underage sex hawkers also dominate the popular Oshodi community in Lagos. Findings indicate that most of the teenage sex hawkers ventured into the illicit act as a means of securing accommodation at night since they have no roof over their heads.
But here, the young girls, who have a secret association called Egbe Omoalaje (Association of Prosperous Traders) are mostly patronised by motor park touts, who sleep overnight at various parks within the community.
A commercial bus attendant (conductor), who simply identified himself as Mutiu, said, “The teen prostitutes at Oshodi always commence work when it is 6pm. They usually charge the sum of N500 for their service. Most of them do not have a place to put their heads at night except inside the market in Oshodi here. They are mostly patronised by drivers and conductors, especially those ones that sleep overnight.
“The girls vary in age. You have 12, 13 14, up to 20 years. Most of them usually pretend to be selling things like gala, pure water (sachet water) etc, but when it is 6pm, they take a bath and dress well for the business.”
Sadly, a very young prostitute at Oshodi, 12-year-old Dupe, found herself in the business as a result of parental neglect. The kid, who has stopped schooling, said one of her older cousins, a 40-year-old woman, initiated her into the sex cult in February, this year, by introducing her to an Alhaji, who wanted a very young girl to spend the night with.
“She gave me N2,000 on that first night. Even though it was very painful, I was happy because it was big money. I have been doing it since then,” she said. When our correspondent asked if she could take him to the big cousin, she refused and said, “if you want, you don’t need to go through her. Pay me directly.”
UNUSUAL BROTHELS AT IKORODU
Young prostitutes at Fola Ahmed Street, Agric Bus Stop, in Ikorodu, run a brothel made of wooden planks. Among the young girls on ‘duty’ when our correspondent called were Vivian and Sarah (14 and 17 years respectively).
Vivian, who took time to speak with our correspondent, apparently under the influence of alcohol, said she recently joined prostitution with her aunt’s prompting.
“I joined the job when my aunt, who brought me from the village in Calabar, said she could not afford to feed and take care of me again. She has been in the business for five years. While I was in the village before my mother died, she usually said she was into one business. But on getting to Lagos, she told me about this business and drew me in,” she said.
Sarah also had similar tales of being lured by an aunt.
CONCERNED NIGERIANS REACT
Meanwhile, criticisms have trailed the act of conscripting underage girls into prostitution. The President, Path of Peace Initiative, a human rights group, Dandi Eze, blamed parents of the kids for the involvement of their children in prostitution. According to him, the involvement of underage girls in prostitution is a taboo and a sacrilege, which is not acceptable in the Nigerian society.
“And I will put the blame on the parents who are weak to train their children appropriately. Even the holy books task the parents to train their children in the proper way to tread; but when they are weak to carry out the task, that is when you see their children going wayward in life,” he said.
He urged the Nigerian government to intensify poverty alleviation efforts to curb the menace. The President, Civil Liberty Organisation, Comrade Kenny Bakare, in his contribution, called on the Police and other law enforcement agencies to quickly embark on the immediate arrest of the teenagers, who were engaged in prostitution in different hotels around Lagos and its suburbs.
“The police and other government agencies should search hotels and brothels where these young girls are being used for commercial sex and arrest them and their hosts. After that, their houses should be traced in order to arrest their parents before they are sent for rehabilitation,” Bakare declared.
WE ARE WORKING
Speaking for the Lagos State Government, The Director, Child Development, Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs. Alaba Fadairo, said that the state government had enforced laws, which catered for the girlchild and other vulnerable children in the society. She also claimed that aggressive campaigns had been carried out in the nooks and crannies of the society, including market places, motor parks and the roadsides, to sensitise these girls and reshape their lives. Fadairo said anyone caught taking advantage of vulnerable children would be punished, adding that the Lagos State Government would continue to protect the children’s rights.