Making ends meet has become very difficult, they lament
By Romanus Okoye
As part of their New Year resolutions, commercial sex workers, operating at some popular brothels along Old Ojo Road, Amuwo, Lagos, are threatening to proceed on strike as soon as possible and move out of the brothels.
They are unhappy with the owner of the brothels whom they say has refused to provide amenities that would attract more customers to the brothel in the New Year.
They are also unhappy with the unfavourable working conditions under which they operate.
The scarlet ladies, it was gathered, had been complaining that patronage was dwindling as the economy bit harder. They said the owner of the brothels should put in place amenities that would give them an edge over other competing prostitutes in the area.
Investigation by the reporter revealed that the threat by the commercial sex workers to embark on a strike was not unconnected with the huge financial demands placed on them by the operators of the brothels, all of which look identical and are owned by a single person along the Old Ojo Road. They said with the huge financial demands from the operators, making ends meet for the prostitutes was becoming very difficult, if not totally impossible.
One of the prostitutes, who introduced herself as Ifeoma said on daily basis, each of the sex workers paid as much as N4000 to retain her room in the brothel. Defaulters were usually sanctioned, she said.
“If you don’t pay it on time, they will lock up your room. And when you have a customer, you will be stranded, unless if one of the girls gives you her key,” she said.
By her calculations, the rent on each room is about N120,000 each month, excluding illegal fees paid to the police as well as other utility expenses. She said each of the girls paid over N1.4 million annually, an amount that could get each girl a three-bedroom flat in a respected part of the Lagos metropolis.
When the reporter visited one of the brothels, there was hardly any vacant room, especially when the amenities were functional. One of the girls told the reporter. “To get a room here is not easy at all. Once a girl is able to secure a room, she does everything possible to ensure she doesn’t falter in the payment of her rent, so as not to lose the room. Though paying the rent is not easy, no one wants to lose her room.”
Mabel, a 32-year-old sex worker dressed in some skimpy attire, said the active working life of a prostitute was quite short.
She told the reporter: “There are some girls that describe prostitution as being glamorous, but I don’t agree with them. What they do with me here cannot be called relationships. No one brings me any flowers here. They are using my body like a toilet. What is glamorous about a prostitute, who sleeps with many strangers in a day? And in a year, she has sexual intercourse or oral sex with more than 1,800 men? For me, it is no fun. It is strictly about the money.
“We can no longer tolerate any inadequacy like irregular electricity supply that sends our customers away. At a time, customers no longer come for ‘short-time’ or ‘till daybreak’ as they did before, making it difficult for us to meet our financial needs. How can they come when everywhere is dark and drinks are not cold? They will not buy diesel, always waiting for the public power supply that is not reliable.”
Maureen, another girl in her late twenties, said that for a long time now, she and her colleagues had been barely managing to make ends meet.
“We only work to pay rent to the owners of the brothels due to the low patronage. We even beg for money to feed at times after paying the rent,” she said.
But some of the girls have been staying in the brothel since it was opened. The reporter learnt that such ladies hardly hustle for customers. They have regular clients, who have been getting regular doses of sex from them for a long time.
The reporter was told that some of the girls, who cannot afford to secure separate rooms, come together in pairs and pay for their rooms and they take turns to bring in their customers. Sometime, when one of them secures customer ‘till daybreak,’ depending on the type of man, “all the three may share the bed, even do the thing together,” Ifeoma informed.
Samuel, a regular patron at one of the brothels, told the reporter: “The prices are not cast in iron. It depends on the bargaining power of the man. Many of the girls charge like N2000 for a round of sex, though they sometimes collect less, depending on how regular the customer is. For ‘till daybreak,’ they charge between N5, 000 and 7, 000. However, to book a girl for till daybreak,’ you will wait till about 10pm or even 12am to go into her room. And depending on the girl’s greed, she may insist on being through with her regular business of the day. Though, if you develop familiarity with her, she may consider taking you in earlier.”
The reporter learnt that besides a few whose rooms are not well equipped, many of the girls furnish their rooms to taste, with modern electronics gadgets. Such girls know no other homes. And for the beautiful ones, business is always good. A girl could make an average of about N20,000 on a good day, it was gathered.
A prostitute acknowledged that besides decorating their rooms well and wearing skimpy clothes, some of the girls also go diabolical to make men loyal to them.
She said: “We visit native doctors when we don’t get enough patronage and business is dwindling. The contents of the used condoms can be specially packaged in cellophane bags and taken to native doctors to prepare different forms of charms,” she said.
One of the prostitutes revealed that a prostitute must be tough and street-wise to make a success of her career.
“A man once told me he would pay me N5, 000 for ‘till daybreak’ while my sister hooked up with his friend. He slept with me all through the night. In the morning, he offered me N500, saying that was all the money on him. That was how the trouble started. And when they wanted to fight with me, my colleagues came out from their rooms and beat them up. We also forced them to drink the water we had used in washing our private parts,” she said.
The girls’ threat to embark on a strike wouldn’t be the first time such an idea would be mooted. In August last year, about 2,000 commercial sex workers in Awka, the Anambra State capital, concluded arrangements to embark on a strike, following the demolition of their settlement beside the cattle market at Amansea, in Awka North Local Government area of the state. The State Urban Development Board had stormed the place with over 50 armed police personnel, alleging that the brothels were being used as hideouts by kidnappers and other criminals.
So, the commercial sex workers quickly mobilised and set the remaining structures at the cattle market ablaze shortly after the demolition, accusing the ASUDEP officials of labelling them as criminals and conspirators.
The leader of the sex workers, who gave her name as Rachael, described the action of the government officials as wicked and inhuman for destroying their business centre without notice.
She noted: “We are decent people. We do our business and go our way. We don’t harbour criminals. After all, most of the people that visit us are government officials. Do they want me to expose them?”
She threatened that the sex workers, numbering over 2,000, would embark on a four-day strike to register their grievances against the government’s action.
“We want to tell them that they are the people patronising us,” Rachael had said.