From James Ojo
Tucked behind an oasis of stunted vegetation and a cluster of oak trees is a magnificent relaxation spot called Sokale Garden, a popular haunt for booze and sex.
This booming rendezvous is located in Dutse, an Abuja suburb, in Bwari Area Council.
There are four Dutse settlements along the corridor of the dual carriage way leading to Bwari, the home of Nigeria Law School (NLS) and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB). They are Dutse Alhaji, Dutse Sokale, Dutse Makaranta and Dutse Pokuma, but the most popular is Dutse Sokale.
No one vividly remembers how the name Sokale came about, but it is not a recognisable word in Gbwari Language. Rather, “Sokale” is in found in Yoruba vocabulary and it means to disembark or alight.
A bar operator, who did not want to be named, said: “I don’t really know who named the area Sokale, and this is the truth. Maybe, it is one of the early settlers on the opposite side of this garden which is mainly residential that did. But we all have come to accept that name”.
Sokale garden sits atop a five-hectare vegetative soil. It is situated after a conspicuous roundabout and surrounded by residential buildings.
For a first time visitor, locating the place is not a difficult task. One does not need the Google map guide app as any commercial motorcyclist (okada rider) or taxi driver, will take you there with ease.
There are two points to access the garden. For car owners, it is through an automobile workshop, which is about four poles away to the heart of the garden. Initially, spaces were allotted for parking of cars within the premises, but increase in patronage over the years has made the spaces inadequate, forcing motorists to park along the road.
There is another major access point, a wooden bridge linking the garden to the tarred road. It has become the hub of commercial cyclists who make huge money dropping off and picking up visitors from dusk till midnight.
Daily Sun interacted with some sales boys and girls, and bar owners to appreciate what draws customers to Dutse Sokale Garden and what makes it popular. A bar owner from Benue State identified as Aunty by her staff and customers said she had sold beer and pepper soup in the garden for 12 years and still counting:
“I relocated my bar from town about 12 years ago to this place. I met a few people selling drinks and pepper soup. But now, you can see that we are many, each person has his or her customers and we are trying to improve on our services because of competition.”
On what goes on beyond selling of drinks and pepper soup in the garden, particularly at night, Aunty feigned ignorance: “I only know about selling my beer o, I don’t know of any other business.”
But in a low tone, one of her girls, Joy, whispered in disagreement: “Aunty will never tell you the truth. Everybody in this Sokale Garden and even people living at the opposite know that sex is offered for sale at night by call girls and they have no shame.”
An apprentice in a nearby automobile workshop, Sule Abubakar, said Sokale was fast becoming a notorious hub for sex trade: “As from 11 am, you will see people strolling into the garden, particularly at weekends. Some will ask for food, while some will start drinking immediately.”
Sokale Garden has a drive in, but bars are separated from one another with flowerbeds, providing cover for other lewd activities apart from drinking. It was gathered that behind the flowerbeds with makeshift mattresses are where call girls welcome their customers at dusk for quick sex.
The entrance to the garden through the wooden bridge is where prostitutes converge every evening to scout for both customers, before heading to the flowerbeds for sex. Not everyone likes the flowerbeds because some men drag their girls to the low shrubbery nearby or under a tree for a “quickie” while standing.
“What I witnessed last night was shocking. These small-small girls doing ‘ashawo’ work no get shame. Can you imagine, I saw how three girls were struggling to attract the attention of a man, those girls must be on drugs,” one of the bar attendants said. Another bartender pointed to a nearby hut where men seeking quick sex use as an emergency brothel.
Ms Dunney, an operator said she always encouraged the girls to bring their male friends to her place. This has paid off in terms of sales of drinks, pepper soup and the goat head delicacy:
“Through my interactions with these girls, I discovered that some are undergraduates and are between 17 and 25 years soliciting for male customers.
“As from 6 pm, ladies with their male friends walk into this place. You can see the crowd and the tables filled up. It translates to high sales and very soon, most will disappear into the flowerbeds and behind the tree, you can guess the rest.”
Patronage of the call girls cuts across the social ladders and professions. It depends on your purse. “Sir, if you go to the main entrance by foot, (time was few minutes after 7 pm), you will see a crowd of different people ranging from the military to civil servants, artisans and even married men bargaining with the girls.
“In fact, the kind of cars parked on the road will tell you the categories of people patronising this garden,” the reporter was told. The use of the hut and special corners attract different charges, while the girls also charge differently depends on the venue chosen for sex.
A patron at the garden said: “One thing for sure is that it is cheaper to patronise this garden than going to brothels where you pay N1,000 per round. Here with just N500 you can do it and use your remaining N500 for drinks and pepper soup.
“I learnt that the hut or under the tree attracts N700 per round because of darkness. But the flowery corner attracts a fee of only N500 per round of sex because it is in the open.”
Three call girls who were approached differently declined to comment on their mission and modus operandi.
Sokale Garden has been in existence for over 16 years. Operators say they have worked hard to sustain the mutual relationship between the operators, the Bwari Area Council and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board.