Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
Despite the gradual ease of lockdown by the Federal Government, operators of some vocations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, are still reeling from heightened suffering. These include commercial sex workers, strippers, bouncers and operators of nightclubs.
Investigations revealed that commercial sex workers, strippers and bouncers are the worst hit. They are beginning to venture into other businesses to eke out a living.
Some have relocated their families out of Abuja to cheaper cities in Nasarawa and Niger states, as they can no longer afford to live in Abuja. Commercial sex workers lamented that their customers have disappeared, despite lowering the price of their services to a frightening minimum. Some of them claim they now offer sex for food just to survive.
They appealed to the FCT Administration and the Federal Government to lift the restrictions on night activities as some states have done, so that their economic lives affected by the coronavirus pandemic can once again bloom.
A club operator in Kubwa, Charles Ikem, told Daily Sun: “It’s usually at night that we make reasonable sales, but since curfew was introduced, people no longer stay out till dawn. So, it is really affecting our finances.”
A bouncer in Jabi, Abel, said life has been unbearable since the COVID-19 pandemic started. He added that even when the Federal Government announced the ease of lockdown, it forgot to include the night workers:
“The last time I went to work was in March (2020). Since then, we have been feeding from savings. I don’t know why government does not want to consider the plight of night business operators. Are they trying to tell us that the virus only operates at night? If people can go to the bank, office, church and even to the market, why won’t we be allowed to resume our night business? We are really suffering and it is no longer funny.
“I have stopped going for exercise because there is no food at home. I am now like every other person; nothing to show that I am a bouncer again. Everything has disappeared because of hardship. I am appealing to our leaders to please consider those of us that are connected to the night businesses.”
Another bouncer from Kuje, who pleaded anonymity, said he has relocated his family to the village because he could not provide food and basic needs for them: “If people could go to the market and worship centres, why is it that night activities can’t be allowed to function? Please, we are suffering.
“Some of us have children in school. What if they resume, where are we going to get the fees? We are begging government to consider us. I have joined my neighbour to operate a commercial bus even though it took a lot of pleas for him to accept me because he is afraid of my body size.”
A resident of Maitama, Henry, said: “I have not been myself. I have missed my good time with friends. No more clubbing. I am missing that loud music and all that accompany it. I can’t wait to club again.”
A commercial sex worker in Wuse 2, Baby G, confessed: “Most of us you see wandering up and down find it difficult to get any offer from men now. Whether short rest or lodging, irrespective of the fact that prices are cheaper now compared to what we used to charge before COVID-19 pandemic. Although, things were also tough before it started, but not as bad as it is now.
“Now, we close early because of the curfew. But apart from that, most men are afraid of patronising us because they can’t do it without body contact. Though, most of us carry our sanitizer along but there is still no permanent customer.
“If you Are lucky to see any man now, just look for extra way of convincing him. If not you will go to sleep hungry. The economy has been unfavourable even before the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we now find it more difficult to survive.”
Another commercial sex worker, Ene, said: “This coronavirus has spoilt business for us as men patronising us don’t stay out at night again. Night is the major time for our business. Some men you see in the day who will be claiming big in the daytime are all our customers. This curfew has chained them indoors. Even most of us settle for as less as N500 now so as not to go back home empty handed.
“Sometimes, I trek home. And no one knows when they will totally lift the curfew. That means we still have a long way to go. Coping without customers is now extremely difficult. Some of us even fight because of men now because very few men patronise us. I don’t have any other trade than ‘runs’.
“I pray that the pandemic should end as quickly as possible so that the business will pick up again. Even feeding is now a very big challenge. The other day, I had to beg one of my old customers to patronise me even if it had to be in exchange for foodstuff because my house is empty.”
Meanwhile, some housewives who spoke with Daily Sun are happy at the turn of events. Mary Daph, a resident of Mpape, was elated: “COVID-19, thank you. You have done me well. Before now, my husband hardly spent time at home with me and the children.
“He always came back around 2 am and left the house before 6am. But with the second phase of lockdown, he has no option but to spend time at home and we like it.
“I pray that the second phase of the lockdown would continue so that the love and care will not be shifted to other women outside.”
Another woman, Okpe Loveth: “It has really helped my relationship with my husband that was on the verge of collapse. These days, he is always available. He gives it to me the way I want it unlike before when he would always come back very late and tired after enjoying himself with other people outside.”