One of their customers, Mohammed told Saturday Sun that the girls were brought from the north to entertain them.
Aisha, a 14-year-old girl, was sketching on the ground absentmindedly when a man (later identified as Usman) ordered her to go inside and get some rest ahead of the night’s show. Her employer calls himself the Kalulu specialist. To the locals, he is known as the organiser of erotic shows that parade teenage girls who dance sensuously to traditional music.
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Aisha, one of the dancers was allegedly lured to Lagos from the north with a promise of a better life. Co-opted into the racy troupe she now regularly entertains male residents of the mushroom community located close to the Navy barracks, Oriade LCDA, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos. The neighbourhood, popularly known as Barracks Extension, is populated by northerners predominantly from Adamawa, Yobe and Kano.
They live in makeshift structures and the salacious entertainment provided by Usman and his ilk is one of the few pleasures that make their life bearable. Such kind of entertainment is reported gaining ground in northern communities across Lagos.
Usman’s troupe, Saturday Sun learnt, performs only at night. The event is a floating show with no fixed venue due to incessant raids by security agencies in the past.
The dancers who are clothed in their traditional attire perform erotic dances for their mostly-male audience, while the men in appreciation throw money at them. Those with a carnal interest in the dancers negotiate with their employers, and the girls, mostly teenagers, are obligated to have sex with whomever their masters recommend after the show.
We do not encourage child trafficking
In an interview with Saturday Sun, Usman shot down the allegation that the girls were lured into prostitution.
“They are here on their free will. We do not have any slave camp. They are free to run away anytime. Most of the girls here are divorcees looking for other sources of making money to train their children. We simply created an opportunity for women who are decently dressed to earn money through dancing.
“Many years ago, you could find little girls here, but since security agents raided some of our parties, they are not allowed. The youngest person that you will find here will be about 16 years old. These girls travel from the north to look for us. They beg for employment and anyone not up to 16 years will not be employed because we do not want any problem.”
On why he organises the show, he said: “Most of our people will love to relax but they can’t afford to walk into a regular clubhouse. Over here, with as little as N200, you can enjoy the show, which starts by 8 pm and ends latest 12 am. This is our own little way of relaxing after a hard day at work.”
Confronted with complaints that he rips off the girls by taking the lion share of the proceeds, Usman laughed and said, “I am the organiser and everyone that comes to the show is my customer. The said amount is like insurance, in case anything goes wrong. We have had cases where some of the girls stole from my customers. As expected, they came after me to help find the girls. I am a guarantor and I should be ready for any problem that might occur.”
Usman denied using the girls for prostitution: “I do not force these dancers to follow any of the customers. It’s their choice as adults.”
Aisha narrated to Saturday Sun how she ended as a dancer. Her parents were convinced by a relative to allow her travel to Lagos and work as a maid with an assurance that her employer will facilitate her going to school.
“My father has many wives and more than 40 children. He is a farmer and was finding it hard to feed us. If you don’t want to be married off to an old man, you have to find a reason to leave the house. My mother wanted me to go to school, that was why she allowed me to follow that man who is her relative to Lagos in 2016.
“When we arrived in Lagos, the relative handed me over to Usman and left. I was forced to dance and have sex with any man that my employer recommends. I have not seen that relative for the past two years.”
Continuing, Aisha insisted that her parents do not know what she has been doing in Lagos.
“They live in the village. There is no way I can get across to them except I travel to Yobe. I am sad because I have spent two years of my life dancing and sleeping with men but I cannot afford to travel back home. If I get pregnant, they will force me to remove it.
“I have tried severally to run. If I run away, in less than 24 hours, Usman will come to meet me wherever I am and pick me up. I always find myself in the house of someone who knows my employer. They know themselves and news spread fast in this area. I have resigned to my fate but I am praying to Almighty God to rescue me and send a man that will marry and protect me.”
Asked about the plan to further her education, Aisha replied unequivocally: “I don’t want to study. I just need a husband who will marry me before Usman renders me barren. I am 14 and ready for marriage.”
Another dancer, Maryam, aged 16, is not bothered she was forced to dance and sleep with men for money. “I am a big girl and old enough to be married. Most of my mates in the village are married with children. They rushed into marriage and today they are suffering. I am not ready. I want to build a life for myself and dancing will surely get me there.
“Most of my customers are rich businessmen. I know that one day, one of them will fall in love with me and decide to marry me.”
According to Maryam, she was initially working for one Sani but left when she discovered that she could not save a kobo. “There are many organizers in this area; you are free to work for any of them. The first person that employed me was Sani and he takes almost everything, so I stopped working for him. Luckily, I met Alhaji Musa who is also into entertainment but pays well. I have been able to save and send money to my parents in the village. His show is more organized and big men normally attend his dance party. A customer gave me this gold earring I am wearing. Sani would have collected it from me. He will sell it.”
Maryam debunked the rumour that she danced naked. “It is always at night, and we are allowed to wear our complete native outfit when dancing. It is so to avoid any problem because if any Imam should hear that we dance naked, they will attack and ask the police to arrest us.
“We dance to our native songs while our guests who are mostly men will dance and touch our bodies. If they can afford it, they will discuss with the organizer and any girl of their choice will spend the night with them.”
Another dancer, Esther, a Christian from Adamawa, like the others, was handed over by her family to Sani to take her to Lagos for a better life.
“I am 18 years. I came to Lagos six months ago. After my secondary education, it’s either I work and save money for university or I get married. I wanted to continue my education, that was why I agreed to follow Sani to Lagos. The agreement with my mother was that I would serve as a maid for a rich Hausa family and be paid N15,000 a month.
“The day he came to pick me, there were four other girls who also travelled down to Lagos with us. They told me that they were coming to Lagos for the same reason. When we got to Lagos, only one of us, Amina, was taken as a maid in Apapa. Sani told the rest of us to wait until there is a vacancy before we can be employed. I was disappointed and asked him to take me back to Adamawa where I had a roof over my head and feeding was not a problem. I was willing to be a farmer or learn a trade than to hang around doing nothing. At my age, I knew what will happen after spending days without a job.”
Just as she feared, two days later, Sani informed the remaining girls they would serve as entertainers during any northern event, Esther claimed.
“Two of the other girls, Jamilah and Halima were just 12 and 14 years respectively. I convinced them not to agree because they will soon be converted into prostitutes. When they revolted, Sani threw us out into the street at night. He threw us out around 10 pm when he knew it would be difficult to find help. We had no phone or money. We had a horrible experience. As we walked towards Kirikiri, to an area where many people from the north usually gather, some boys came out from nowhere and started chasing us. They caught us and beat us. We were dragged into a dark area and they raped us.
“We had to run back to Sani and begged him to take us back. I suspect that Sani hired those boys who raped us. This was how he converted us into dancers and if any of his customers can afford to pay, we are forced to sleep with him.”
Esther paints a picture of enslavement: “Sani collects the money and pays us peanuts. He claims that the money is used to pay for our rent and the expenses he incurred to transport us down to Lagos. So, we can hardly save any money.”
Customers recount beautiful moments
One of their customers, Mohammed told Saturday Sun that the girls were brought from the north to entertain them. “You must see such a gathering anywhere that people from the north are resident. You know that most of us who are Moslems cannot go to the regular club to have fun because our religion forbids it. It’s our own little club. They dress well but can dance very well. If you are lucky, you can pay their contractors to allow you to spend the night with them.”
According to Mohammed, a night is as expensive as N5000 out of which the girl will only be paid N2000.
“Their employer takes N3000 and give them N2000. If the girl satisfies you very well, you can pay her extra money. N5000 is for the whole night; if you want her for a few hours, you pay N2000.”
On the exact location, Mohammed said they were using a makeshift room close to Navy town until security agencies raided the place and shut it down.
“We no longer have a specific address; the man now arranges for a certain location and spread the news. We know ourselves, so it very easy to spread information anytime Sani decides to organize a party for us. Initially, we had a good location but the security men raided and Sani paid so much money before he was released. They accused him of using small girls for his business. Those girls, none of them is less than 12 years and they were not kidnapped. Most of them were chased away from their husband’s house while others lost their husbands during Boko Haram or Fulani herdsmen attack.
Such a gathering can be found in any area where our people are living. I have attended several in Agege and Mile 12 when I was staying in those areas. If we enter the regular club, they will maltreat us and if there is any fight we will be the first to be arrested.”
Another customer who gave his name as Peter could not hold his excitement. He said, “Kai, madam, you are free to come this night and enjoy the show with your oga. You have to hold him well because those small small girls can roll their waist.”
You mean that they dance naked?
No, said Peter.
“You are free to hold their waist when they are dancing and you can take them home if you can afford it. I am still single so these girls help some of us,” said Peter laughing and scratching his head in excitement.
Peter relocated to Lagos from Adamawa four years ago. He said: “I have to come to this area because this is where my village people are. It is easier to survive here. You can see that there are so many boys in this area. When the killings became too much, our parents had no choice but to send us away because we are always the target.”