The two weeks ultimatum recently given to commercial sex workers in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to quit their activities or vacate the city is being faced with unease, as a good number of the call girls have not indicated readiness to vacate the city. Weekly Trust can reveal that even though a good number of the commercial sex workers in Abuja are seemingly unaware of the ultimatum, the few who are aware have said they will not leave and revealed some reasons why it is unfair for government via the FCT authority to sack them.
Jennifer, 17, refused to reveal the state she hails from but she was dressed in Ankara material, sewn as it is in Northern Nigeria. “I dress like this because many non-Northerners like to have the company of girls from the North. They know I’m not from there but I guess the outfit does it for them.” Jennifer said she was forced to run to Abuja when her mother died and her stepdad raped her repeatedly. “With this work, I’ve sent my two younger ones to school. And now the government wants me to quit? No way.” With that, she chuckled and walked further down the Gimbiya Street in Area 11, lined with other girls like her.
Some of the call girls told Weekly Trust that they are unemployed and that they have financial responsibilities to take care of, while some argued that they are Nigerians and entitled to their constitutional rights, the right to live in any part of the country, as well as the freedom of movement and association.
Abuja is viewed by prospective migrants as a goldmine. As a result, sex workers have also moved en masse to the city to source substantial incomes. Even though there is no available official statistics of the numerical population of commercial sex workers in the city, today there are, visibly, a sizeable number of call girls in almost all satellite towns and suburbs within and around the FCT.
The modus operandi of the Abuja call girls differs in styles and standards. There are the locals, those who operate within the surrounding suburbs (Kubwa, Dutse, Karimo, Mararaba, Nyanya etc).
There are also the ‘classy’ types, operating from the vicinity of highbrow hotels in the city. These are the high class prostitutes. This category, it is suspected, may likely not be affected by the FCTA’s quit order because of their methods and operational base, usually five-star hotels across the city, where they pose as entrepreneurs’ and multinational corporations’ staff who are out for a meeting or dinner. They hang around hotels and buy drinks or food in such places, even tipping junior workers with a view to attracting prospective clients.
Others in the middle range operate in brothels and also the street-waiting girls. Some of them in this category move from the satellite towns in Abuja into the city at nights to hang around major streets waiting for patrons. A bevy of these ladies are found mostly in Wuse Zone 4, Garki, Area 11(Gimbiya Street), Ademola Adetokumbo Street in Wuse 2 and a host of other areas.
It was gathered that another category are students of tertiary institutions from neighboring states and within the FCT as well. The female undergraduates hire rooms in major hotels where they bring in men. Sources at these hotels say the female students contribute money to pay for the hotel rooms and, in most cases, keep the room for weeks. The idea is that, operating from the hotel room will give access to male lodgers who could be prospective clients.
Then there is the main brothel set. They are mostly in their late teens and mid 20s.
This category is spread all over the city, from the city center to the satellite towns and other suburbs; they dwell in their base (brothels) and render services there. The much-reported quit order was handed to this set at a hotel in Wuse.
While the call girls in the satellite towns of Kubwa, Mararaba and Nyanya are unaware of the ultimatum, some of them told Weekly Trust that they are not ready to quit the trade, at least for now. “We’ll not leave Abuja,” said one of them as they all seemed to agree.
Mercy (Not real name), initially refused to speak with our reporter but later did under the condition that no pictures whatsoever be snapped. She said it is going to be difficult for them to quit and leave town within 48 hours. “It is not realistic,” Mercy said between puffs of cigarette smoke from heavily painted lips. “What type of law is that? We are not criminals, for God’s sake. The government should leave us alone and focus on hoodlums and criminals, not innocent people like us.”
Mercy later referred our reporter to one of her colleagues who refused to reveal her identity but sounded eloquent. “Are we not Nigerians? Don’t we have the right to live in Abuja? We know our right to free movement and association. Nobody chooses to do this. If there is another means, if the government gives us jobs, we’ll quit of course. I am a diploma holder but I don’t have a job and the government expects me to do what, beg?”
“Most of us come from a very disadvantaged background with aged parents and siblings to cater for. I actually came to Abuja to search for a job after school but I discovered that getting a job with a diploma is very difficult. However, the lady I was staying started frowning at my stay with her and I had no choice than to look for something to help myself with. Nobody would intentionally choose to be in this thing.”
Another colleague of hers cut in: “They are disturbing us because we do ours in the open. What about other ladies who claim to be workers in Abuja? They also do it for money. They sleep with men both in their houses and hotels or the men’ places, as well.”
Meanwhile, the commercial sex workers at the hotel where the FCT minister handed the warning via his Social Development Secretary, Mrs. Blessing Onuh, are having a serious re-think about their profession. A visit to the brothel revealed that a good number of them are gearing up to vacate the premises, though no one can tell how soon. It was not certain if they are quitting the profession or simply changing their base. However, it was learnt that some of them who are seemingly ready to repent have collected vocational training forms from the FCTA Secretariat for Social Development within the week. One of them reluctantly and briefly confirmed to Weekly Trust.
Investigations however revealed that the ultimatum has made the call girls to hike their service charges between 25 and 50 percent, especially those operating inside the city center, where the FCTA task force will have eagle eyes on them.
Meanwhile, for those in the satellite towns who claimed to be unaware of the ultimatum, it is business as usual, as they still maintain their service and go about their normal activities. According to a client, he just read the issue of the sack in the newspapers. He quipped: “Even though their activities are immoral, they still provide services that are much needed.” He added: “Government is just trying to exhibit a holier-than-thou attitude. I feel it is better they prostitute than join robbery gangs. There are people who cannot do without their services or they would engage in other negative activities like rape and harassment of women.”
Despite the ultimatum, Weekly Trust survey of the operations of the call girls suggests that for a good number of them and their operational base, it is a matter of redesigning their modus operandi than outrightly quitting of one of the world’s oldest professions.
Confirming the positive reaction of some of the call girls to the vocational training programme, Mrs. Blessing Onuh said over 150 of them have collected the forms in readiness to participate in the programme. In line with the response by some of the call girls, the FCT minister directed an extension of the ultimatum by another 48 hours, which elapsed yesterday, Friday.
According to Mrs. Onuh in a statement: “The reason for the extension of the quit order was to give more time for the information on the decision to spread properly, especially among the sex workers and their clients.” However, enquiries to ascertain enforcement could not be confirmed by the police. Moshood Jimoh, the FCT Command’s Public Relations Officer told our reporter that he was going to get clarification from the Operations Unit on the enforcement and arrest matter, but up to press time, no information is available. As the sun sets on the eve of the expir of their deadline, a couple of scantily-clad call girls told Weekly Trust that they are getting ready for the start of the weekend. “Business is cool on Friday evenings. To hell with the ultimatum, because man must wack.”