Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Private businesses and government institutions are not the only ones smarting from the bites of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commercial sex workers, aka prostitutes are also reeling from the crippling impact.
Those with lean reserves are currently penniless as they pray fervently for the Federal Government to relax the lockdown so their clients can come out of isolation to patronize them. A few of the sex hawkers with some pocket change are cocooned in various brothels awaiting the rough times to blow over.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, sex hawking was a booming business in Abuja. It varies in different kinds. There are quickies done in brothels where the whores rent rooms and male customers visit them to ease of within 30 minutes. If you wish to stay longer, you would have to part with more money.
There are also overnight services and that starts from N5,000 in some brothels. Whether it is a quickie or a whole night service, the fact remains that in Abuja, many women, young and old, eke a living as commercial sex hawkers.
There are also corporate prostitutes are augment their paid with expensive sex. They target politicians and top government executives. But the COVID-19 crisis did not spare them. They are also casualties.
At a popular brothel in Nyanya, a sex hawker, Lady J, wept as she narrated the impact of COVID-19-induced lockdown to Daily Sun: “Since this lockdown, it has been tough. We are just surviving by God’s grace. Guys are no longer bringing out money even when some of us have crashed our price. There is no money. To survive, we just dey hustle. I joined prostitution voluntarily because I have to survive in this city.”
Another prostitute who refused to give out her name said: “My friend introduced me to runs (commercial sex work), and I see money because I am fine and I get plenty customers. I do send money to my people for village.
“Today, things are no longer the same. No money and our customers are complaining. The situation is terrible. I do not believe in that bullshit (COVID-19), anyhow death will come. My mother is a widow and I have five siblings. Most of them are in school and I have to hustle to support them.”
Maria, 27, said: “I came to Abuja with a female friend, but she got a job because she knows somebody who is connected. I joined because I do not know anyone to connect me with a job.
“With the situation, I am ready to take any amount to survive. On a normal day, I take N10,000 for a long night and N5, 000 for short service. But as things are, I can take half of the amount for each of the services.”
A visit to the various sex camps and hang-outs in the city showed low activities by both the hosts and customers. Most of the areas were deserted except those located at the suburbs.
At one of the sex camps on the Nyanya/Maraba boundary junction, about 55 kilometres after the Dunamis International Church, sexual activities were still taking place. It was gathered that most of the practitioners and customers here are of low-income earners. As can be rightly observed, most customers were Okada riders and artisans.
Prices range from N1,000 to N500 for a round of sex, while an all-night service is negotiable. Some of the sex workers, mostly in their 20s, lamented the decline in patronage and blamed the situation on the lockdown.
Hajiya, a sex worker said: “My family members in the village pressure me a lot for money. They call me all the time to send money to them for one thing or the other because they believe that I am doing a government work here in Abuja. But due to low patronage, I can no longer afford to send money to them. No customers as it used to be.”
From interactions, a lot of the sex hawkers are breadwinners, picking the bills of their families. It was also discovered that sex hawking comes in variants.
The first is the escort worker, where the women contact their clients by phone through the hotel staff. They are relatively expensive due to the expected low customer turnover and exclusive home service which they offer to their clients.
Then, there is the club, pub and dancehall workers. This category of commercial sex workers solicits for customers by hanging around club houses, bars and dancing halls.
Another category are the beer girls. These are girls employed to sell and promote goods and services in bars and pubs. These girls engage in commercial sex with customers as a means of augmenting their income.
There is the opportunistic gang made up of women that only have sex with certified wealthy men. They are like vultures. They wait for the right meal.
Again, there is the femme libre. This consists of single or divorced women who trade sexual services for gifts, which may be converted to cash in the long run.