By Ngozi Nwoke
These are certainly not the best of times for many workers in the commercial sex industry. They are contending with the economic downturn like other Nigerians.
Indeed, investigation revealed that recession has hit the sex trade in Lagos, making life difficult for the flesh hawkers.
From Lagos Island to the Mainland, commercial sex workers, who are variously known as ‘Big girls,’ ‘runs girls’, ‘hook-up babes,’ ‘hospitality girls’ etc, are lamenting shortage of clients.
Their predicament is further compounded by the usual vibes that come with the festive period, after most people would have lavished their savings on celebrations during the Yuletide.
The implication of the economic downtime is that the number of clients who patronize them has reduced.
The reporter gathered that sex hawkers now charge as low as N500 in the suburbs of Toyin, Ikeja, while N1,000 could fetch any fun seeker a nice time in some parts of the metropolis, compared to N1,000 and N6,000, respectively, prior to this period.
At Makoko, a densely-populated ghetto, where sex workers contend with very hard times, some of them complain that it is getting more difficult to find men who would pay N500 for a round of sex because of the economic recession. One of them, who gave her name as Abike, said that some clients these days struggle to pay N500 for a good time.
She said they sometimes accept since it is better than nothing. “We are in a terrible situation. We have to pay for the accommodation here, feed ourselves, protect ourselves against any disease and also try to save something. Now a pack of condoms is N1,500. Most of the men will insist on having us without wearing condoms. We will be the ones to buy the condom by ourselves just to stay protected. They just come to the bar to drink and go home. Even my old customers who used to pay N2,000 for one round sometimes now beg to pay N500. For me, if I know you before as a customer, I will collect any amount.”
Jenifer, who operates around Lekki, said she joined the venture three years ago and has not experienced this kind of hardship. She said: “This Buhari administration has spoilt things for us. We are all suffering because there is no money. In the past, people made money regardless of the type of business they operated because there was money in circulation. But this present administration is the opposite. The men are angry and broke. How can someone who is hungry and angry have urge for sex? It is extremely frustrating for us. We have to pay for our rent which is weekly. I have not even seen money to feed. Not to talk of the one to pay for the rent.”
Another lady, Faith, operating around Balogun Street in Ikeja admitted there is low patronage. She said: “Before now, towards evening, I would have made up to N5,000 with three rounds of meeting with clients before going for the last match which is usually all night. But now, it is very difficult to get a customer. The few men that come around will be negotiating as if we are buying crayfish and onions in the market. Some men will even request for sex on credit. I don’t blame them most times because I understand the situation.”
Popular places like Adeniyi Jones, Oba Akran and Opebi Road, where prostitution has thrived for years, are not left out from the economic challenge as sex workers were seen roaming the streets for hours without patronage.
In Lekki, one of the largest satellite towns in Lagos, call girls at two places visited by the reporter also complained of poor patronage.
The Island has been known as an area of easy catch over the years because of the large number of men and boys who live in wealth and affluence.
A visit on Friday and Saturday night by the reporter showed a few haggard-looking girls scrambling for the attention of some prospective customers.
At a popular brothel with a sweet name on Balogun Street, Ikeja, where commercial sex workers discreetly ply their trade, the only available girl at the time the reporter visited, who identified herself simply as Debra, bitterly lamented about the hard times.
The lady, who claimed that her father hails from Delta State while her mother from Abia State, disclosed that she had been the only person there since November. She said: “This brothel has five rooms, but since I moved in early November this year, I and one other lady have been the only people here. I am sure that it is hardship that made others leave. We pay N1,500 every day for lodging here. But look at the time, 10pm, and as I speak with you, I had only one customer today who paid me N2,500 after our meeting.”
Debra revealed that she would be leaving Lagos for her state for the yuletide, where she would be sure of at least food every day, adding that she might stay there for about three months until things may have improved before returning to Lagos.
However, it was business as usual at some brothels on Ogunaike Street, as they continued to host the highest patronage of resident commercial sex workers in Ogba.
Not many men who patronized these brothels took time to enter into the area occupied by the call girls. It was gathered that the driving force of the business at these brothels was the cheap price of pleasure they derive and the numerous commercial sex workers available.
A young lady, who gave her name as Thelma from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, explained their methods and tactics without knowing she was speaking to a journalist. Thelma, an apprentice hair stylist, claimed to have come to Lagos about six months ago. To her, the job does not call for desperation.
“I prefer short time because I am new in Lagos. Some people will charge you N4,000 for a short time but I take N2,000 because I know that things are hard. I will pay N500 for the room.”
Asked where the deal would be consummated, she led the reporter to a house on Joseph Adekunle Street, Ikeja, where, it was gathered, the security man had converted to arena for quickie” sessions.
People strolled into the uncompleted building at will to have rounds of sex. The first point was the gate house, where a small mattress was placed on the floor, with a locker as the only other item in the cubicle.
The security man who gave his name as Blessed, charges N500 only for the use of the place for a quickie. Blessed must be making a ton of money daily, given the number of people that patronize the place.
Thelma said she could take N5,000 for a night, but added that some could charge N3,000 for ‘day break’ anytime from 1am.
“You see this place, as small as it is, many men used to come here per minute to have fun. They don’t mind how ordinary it looks. All they want is a place to catch fun and enjoy their money. As for me, I bring my clients here, though some of them don’t like the place. But I beg them to manage the place because when they leave without doing anything with me, they will not pay me and I will go empty handed. “Sometimes, I offer to give them blow job if they insist on a better place, just so that I get some money to pay the security man and also feed.”
A young lady named Rita, in her late 20s, who volunteered to share her experience with the reporter, offered to do so for N1,000.
A ‘total package’ meant any service required by a client, including blow jobs. Rita further said that, for N20,000 each, she and her friend usually do a threesome with clients: “I and my best friend always go along together for hustling. Most times we suggest to the clients that we could offer the threesome. It is better we do threesome; we always enjoyed it very well. I and my friend are good at the job,” she said
Rita lamented that they were passing through unbearable hardship. She said that the greatest burden for those who live in brothels and chalets was paying daily rent. She said that the managers of the place usually locked up the room of any occupant who failed to meet her financial obligations.
However, the case was different for another call girl named ChiChi, who claimed that she lives in a self-contained room in Ikeja G.R.A. She said she charges between N50,000 and N80,000 for a night and takes N100,000 from foreigners. She added that she also offers her services in her house.
“It’s been rosy for me all the while, even during the rainy or sunny seasons. I have built my client database up to the point that I don’t lack any patronage. I try my best to satisfy them and maintain a sweet relationship with them in that they call me on their own. I don’t struggle for them to invite me. My secret is my beautiful physique and personal hygiene. I am a Porsche babe because I spend money to take care of myself and I live in a well-furnished house. That is why I charge so much.”
ChiChi is among big girls, who rent apartments within the city, hang-out in high-profile lounges, parks and gardens over drinks and wait for clients. Sometimes they borrow and rent flashy cars just to up the game for them to be seen as big girls among other hustlers. These big girls would not service any client who cannot afford to pay N50,000 for a night.
Unfortunately for most of them, it’s a case of the rich also crying as the current hardship seems to have hit them hard since the majority of them live above their income in Lekki, Ajah, Ikoyi and parts of Victoria Island.
They usually have annual rent of N500,000 and above to pay as well as a lavish lifestyle to maintain. Some of them are graduates of tertiary institutions lured into the business by friends, unemployment or desperation for an easy life.
Some hotels located on Victoria Island are booming. They always have large number of girls of all ages, shapes and sizes parading their premises. They even get to the point of almost physically fighting for men. Some of them use juju to make their business to boom.
Abuja-based counsellor, Mrs. Christabel Regan Okoye, (Dr), who is an Ambassador of the Joint Committee on Drugs and Narcotics, in the National Assembly, who has counselled and rescued so many commercial sex workers for over 10 years, said the trade has actually been on the rise as more are people are joining. To them, it is a means of increasing their income.
On the risks involved in commercial sex work, she explained: “There are different types of sex work and they are associated with various aspects of risk and health implications. Stripling and non-contact sex work are low risk in terms of adverse health problems unlike high-risk sex work. Lack of adequate health care, homelessness, lack of qualification, stigmatization, in addition to sale of sex for financial recompense and poverty and other societal factors like violence produce negative impact on commercial sex work. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are other inevitable risks. The government should develop programmes to meet the needs of commercial sex workers in the country, including mental health needs, housing, physical, financial and educational needs. Most of them are influenced by the illicit drugs they take. They need rehabilitation and a good source of livelihood to survive.”