Africa: Economic recession takes toll on commercial sex sector in Nigeria
It was past 11pm and business was in full swing in major streets in Owerri, such as, Wethedral, Okigwe, Assumpta Roundabout (Control) Roads, Executive Garden Hotels, All Seasons and 40-40 nightclubs when The Guardian visited.
There was a parade of half-cladded girls and women of various ages and sizes brazenly exposing themselves, while openly and desperately beckoning on motorists and passers-by to pick them for the night.
Owerri, the Imo State capital, and its environs, Owerri North, Owerri West and Owerri Municipal, have over 100 state-of-the-art hotels. Notable hotels in the state capital include, the Imo Concorde Hotels (a five-star pearl); Rockview Hotels, also of similar standard, imposing Immaculate Hotels, along Port Harcourt Road, among others.
A lot of these girls are well polished and could have been either graduates or students of the various higher institutions that dot the state. The Guardian gathered that patronage for these commercial sex workers (CSW) has reduced, as a result of the downturn in the economy.
According to investigations, some working girls have slashed their charges to an all-time low of N1,000 per insertion and N2, 500 – N3, 000 per night for home service due to diminishing patronage as against the hitherto N2, 500 for short time and N6,000 per night.
The Guardian’s investigations showed that the volume of available women has created a climate in which competition for business is rife and price has crashed. Following the basic law of economics – the higher the supply, the lower the demand, and with lower demand, price will crash.
Women jostling for a finite quantity of clients are forced to charge less and less. And, of course, clients have vastly reduced spending on paid sex due to the financial crisis. Some prostitutes are also starting to offer riskier sex acts that clients will pay more for, such as, unprotected sex – which carries premium price, and could contribute to the rise in HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Nigeria’s HIV, AIDS adult prevalence rate is 3.1 per cent based on 2012 estimate, while People Living With HIV/AIDS are 3,426,600 and deaths resulting from the pandemic are 239,700. The 2015 estimate is 3, 500, 000 (2 600 000 – 4 500 000) with deaths due to AIDS as 180 000 (120 000 – 250 000).
A young lady of 18 in Formula 4, a hotel with cluster of call girls in Ejigbo, Lagos State, who gave her name as Cynthia, said, “when I first started, I used to make as much as N20,000 a day. Even when market was dull, I still went home with at least N10,000. Now, I barely make N5, 000. The worst part now is that men haggle over price, as if they are in the market. Not many are ready to pay N5,000 for an all-night,” Cynthia said.
For short-time sessions, Cynthia said, “the price has come down too. A ‘quickie’, which used to go for about N2,000, is now N1,500.”But at African Palace, another hotel in Ejigbo, the price has not changed. The girls still charge between N500 and N1,000. You will pay the same amount at McGarden, also in Ejigbo. Sophia said with N500 as price, her customer range used to be between 20 and 30 in a day when business was good, but now the figure has dropped to 10.
Another commercial sex worker at McGarden said in Pidgin English; “Buhari economy don make us bring down the price, port one and get one free.” The lady, who gave her name as Joy, admitted that the poor economy has made a lot of them debtors in their hostels. “I hardly make up to N7,000 a day now. From the little money I make, I feed, I equally pay for accommodation, which is N4,000, as well as take care of myself,” she confessed. “We have no choice than to reduce our charges, as we are just managing to survive, because people no longer patronise us like before and the only hope we have are our regular customers and during weekends and public holidays.”
Blessing, a student in Owerri, said, “I’m ready to sleep with a man for N3,000 instead of the usual, N5,000 or more, because of extremely low patronage.”
She disclosed: “I train myself and even assist my brothers, sisters, relations and parents with money I make. These days, there is not much money. You could stay all the night standing and waiting without anybody coming for you. When you see a client, you will discover that the person is not ready to pay anything above N3,000.”
Another hooker, Amara, said: “Times are hard now. You hardly see people coming to carry you. When you see, the price is too low. What will you do? You go… at all, at all naim bad broda. “
LIKE moths to light, the small towns of Umunede, Ika North East local Council, to Ubulu Okiti, Aniocha South Local Council are like a magnet to these women, who mostly ply their wares at night, because of the long distance truck drivers, who park their vehicles there.
A lady of the night, who gave her name as Jane, confessed that before now, she used to make an average of N5,000 a night at Umunede, before hard times set in, but now that business is down, she barely manages to take home N2,000 after a hard night job.
Jane, a student in one of the tertiary institutions in Anambra State, said that she was initiated into the trade by a friend and had been in it in the last two years.
She admitted that things have not been easy lately. From the proceeds of her night trade, she has to pay her school fees, take care of her siblings and feed.
As a result of run away inflation, she said clients no longer come around for good times unlike in those good old days. Now, she and her colleagues just manage to get by, but totally staying out of business is not on the table.
Frowning, she said: “Imagine the fact that I have to travel all the way from Anambra State and back for only N2, 000 a night. Once you remove the transport fares to and fro, I am left with nothing. Again, I have to eat, but then I have to pay my school fees and take care of my siblings. So, I cannot afford to quit.”
Another lady, Ngozi, who also plies her trade in Umunede, but is from Anambra State, explained that her earnings from the one nightstand has fallen drastically, no thanks to the economic recession. She is seriously thinking of relocating. The green grasses at Umunede have since grown grey.
Ngozi explained that from making an average of N5, 000 a night before now, she currently goes home with less than N1, 500. Her big time customer, Efetobore, a truck driver, who used to shower her with goodies, has since lost his job and doesn’t come around anymore. Determined efforts at getting another candy man have proved futile.
According to her, after paying N500 to Umunede from the market town of Onitsha and another N400 back, she is left with a paltry N600 from which she has to pay for a motorbike that takes her home.
She fumed: “The trouble is not worth it. For over 10 years that I have been in this business, it has never been like this. I used to make so much money but now it is not easy. I am seriously thinking of relocating. I can’t go on like this. Ever since Efe left, it has not been easy. From making an average of N5, 000 a night, I barely make N1, 500. After removing transport fare, I am left with nothing.”
Delectable Faith, a commercial sex worker in Asaba, who is only 18, said that a senior friend introduced her into the business about a year ago and that there has not been any dull moment ever since she converted from a salesgirl in a supermarket to a street girl.
For the young beauty, things can only get better. The very first thing she did when she got into the business was to give her mobile phone numbers to pimps who solicit clients, most of who are guests at the hotel just across the road. Of course, the pimps who accompany them to the hotel room for easy passage get their cut.
Beaming with smile, she said: “I must confess that business has been good. I treat my clients well. I give them good loving and that makes them come back. As they say, one good turn deserves another. I don’t joke with my clients as their patronage keeps me in business. On bed, I try to satisfy them so that they can give me good money and still come back.”
IN Abuja, from the highbrow areas of Maitama and Wuse II, to the satellite suburbs of Karu, Kubwa, Lugbe and Kuchin Goro, the commercial sex trade has been redefined and made more sophisticated. There are prostitutes to service every taste and class. All a client has to do is locate his level according to his financial capacity.
The top-of-the-line hookers are university graduates and undergraduates who throng the numerous lounges and nightclubs in the city. Notorious spots include, Port Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Garki; Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent and Sheraton Junction in Wuse II; and virtually all the discotheques. Even in poor neighbourhoods like, Nyanyan, Mararaba and Gwagwa, little girls have joined the illicit trade.
Jabi Masalaci is a zone notorious for cheap, but beautiful young ladies and old women, who though don’t look like prostitutes, live in the area while men come in their numbers to patronise them.
These places have different hideouts where people go for quick ‘fun’ for prices ranging from N3,000 to N5,000 per night. They charge between N1,000 to N3,000 for a short session, and between N3,000 and N4,000 till dawn.
SOME female low-income earners in Plateau State, who hitherto, augmented their income with prostitution, no longer find things easy, as patronage has drastically reduced.
Also, those using their apartments as ‘unofficial’ brothels are complaining. As a result of the biting economy, adultery is now thriving, because men are no longer able to provide the essential needs of their families. “Wives now go out to prostitute with the tacit support of their husbands,” said Adamu, who patronises these sex workers.
“These women are the most dangerous, because anybody can sleep with them, as long as they are paid. They don’t care about protecting themselves. In the past, ‘Good Evening Plateau’girls, as they were called, used to hang around streets such as, Polo, J.D. Gomwalk Road, Hill Station Hotel, Ahmadu Bello Way, Bauchi Road, Yakubu Gowon Way, for customers from 7pm to 1am.
But now, things have changed. You can only get them in hotels, nightclubs, and beer parlours in Old Bukuru Park, Gada Biu, Kongo Russia, Tudun Wada, Kugiya and other hideouts. These girls charge between N500, N1000 and N2000 per round, depending on the appearance of the ladies and the men.
THERE is hardly any part of Enugu State that you visit, especially, in the night, without the presence of commercial sex workers. Areas such as, Bisalla Road, Rangers Avenue, Presidential Road, Otigba Roundabout on Ogui Road, Edinburgh and Zik Avenue are hot spots for these girls.
There are two categories of commercial sex workers in Enugu: students of higher institutions and others who are not residing in the state, but come in from time to time.
While the visiting commercial sex workers hire and bring their clients into the low profile hotels that dot the nooks and crannies of the city, those living in the city leave the burden of comfort on their client.
The Guardian checks revealed that before now, the girls charged N10,000 per night, but now, their asking price has come down to N6,000. In fact, situations have also forced them into taking N5,000, while short time service goes for N2,000 and N3,000 depending on the bargain.
One of the girls, who gave her name as Love (her real name is Chinyere) and claims to be a student of one of the tertiary institutions in Port Harcourt told The Guardian, “I need to pay my school fees, I need to eat, I need to take care of my other needs.”
Love, who hails from Abor Mbaise, Imo State, said: “There are three of us sharing a bunk (hotel room). They charge us N4,500 for the room each day. So, my contribution daily is N1,500 for accommodation. Each night, I make sure that accommodation money is removed first before any other thing. Whatever I charge anybody must reflect my accommodation, feeding and clothing. I don’t have a fixed charge; it depends on what the client is ready to offer. But one thing I don’t fail to do is, satisfy any man that comes my way. I like being nice to all of them so that they can come again.”
Love stated that the business is lucrative in Enugu, because, “there is less crime here. There are good facilities that can offer comfort to anybody. Again, I personally discovered that Enugu men like women a lot, and this is probably, because of the number of drinking places in the city. They drink till late in the night and the next thing is to look for girls anywhere. They pay, but not much.”
Love disclosed that they are not prostitutes or harlots. Her words: “What we simply do is to provide service. So you can say we are service providers and nothing more. What we do is not different from what others are doing. People look for us to service their needs not we looking for them, that is the only difference.”
Another commercial sex worker, who prefers to be called Nelly, told The Guardian after taking two bottles of Origin beer that she preferred short time, otherwise called quickies or sharp-sharp, stressing, “it is cheap, easy and affordable. Short time is usually the best as it affords you enough time to engage another client or customer.”
Nelly said, “I started this business three years ago to support myself. I’m no longer in school, I graduated two years ago, and since then, I have not found work to do. I cannot continue to be a liability to my parents. I need to support them financially and to tell you the truth; they have always believed that I’m working, that’s why you cannot get my real identity. It is only those who know how difficult it is to feed these days that can tell you what we pass through.”
She said patronage has continued to reduce by the day, explaining that such was responsible for the number of girls that were willing to share room apartments in the hotel.
“Some are three in a room; some are four depending on your agreement with the hotel owners. They don’t usually allow such a number before now, but the same way it is hitting us is the same way it is hitting them.
So, instead of not having customers at all, you agree but with stringent warning that certain activities should be reduced. We have kept managing and believing that it will one day get better. That is the much I can tell you,” she said.
“I was making between N15 and N20,000 per night before now, especially, at weekends when people flood Enugu, but it is not like that anymore. I hardly make N10,000 in a night, because there are just few persons asking for our services. They don’t pay much, they keep telling you there is no money and for me to make this amount, I must do it in short time. That is service three or four persons before the day breaks that is how bad the trade has become. However, while those of us in the business are complaining, more people keep joining us by the day and when you look at the situation, you are compelled to continue,” Nelly retorted.
IN Benin City, notable spots that have sprung up recently include, one-time bubbling Time Out, Aso Time, Anavini, Indigo, Tunnel, Hexagon, Iyaro Park, Carwash, Hipnotics Club, Hexagon Night Club, Nova Night Club, Jonvee, CY Bar, Museum, where the state government has a beautiful water fountain that has now given rise to small drink and food joints in the place and several other areas. In almost all these spots, you’re sure to find commercial sex workers.
However, the notorious spot for CSW is Aso Time, which is located on Ihama Road, where girls of different sizes, shapes, colour parade themselves. Though, they will not directly say they are available, you’re sure to find them deliberately stroll past your table or wherever you are seated several times until you show interest.
The Guardian gathered that the prices for the call girls who patronise the public places ranges from N3,000 to N20, 000, depending on the client’s bargaining power. Very important in determining the price is the type of vehicles the clients use, but smart guys have also decided to go to such places in chattered cabs rather than their private vehicles.Clients who go to such places from 8pm to 11pm are likely to pay more while those who go from 12 midnight to 3am pay less.