I was in JSS3 at the time, and I was too young to understand anything. So, when I became pregnant, I told my boyfriend about it, but he denied it and ran away. That was how I stopped going to school. After about two years, I came to Lagos to hustle. One aunty then introduced me to this business MARTHA is a 15-year-old girl endowed with beauty. But she faces a very bleak future as she is held captive in a brothel in Gbagada, a suburb of Lagos, where she has to sleep with men old enough to be her father and surrender her entire earnings to a woman designated as her aunty. In return, the aunty gives Martha a sum she deems sufficient to cater for her basic needs.
The more than two decades old brothel is located close to Sawmill Bus-stop in Gbagada. In it resides a cartel of mature prostitutes called aunties, to whom younger girls like Martha are responsible. The older prostitutes act as guardians to the younger ones aged between 14 and 19 years. Most of the girls are said to have been lured to Lagos from Edo and Delta states by their aunties.
With a promise of the good life, the girls follow the aunties to Lagos only to be lured into prostitution. The cartel’s mode of operation is similar to those that have been reported about innocent Nigerian girls lured into prostitution in Europe. The girls, who are mostly from poor parental backgrounds and broken homes, serve their aunties for as long as two years before they are deemed matured enough to stand on their own.
A source in the hotel told our correspondent that for a newly recruited girl to become a member of the prostitution ring, her aunty has to pay the sum of N50,0000 to the proprietor of the brothel as registration fee. After that, the aunty makes the young girl to sleep with older men. All the proceeds from her sexual activities go to the aunty who decides how much is returned to the young girl as “pocket money”. Our correspondent visited the hotel on a sunny day last week and met one of the girls named Martha, an indigene of Delta State. She was decked in a gown that barely covered her backside.
Like a famished tigress, she rushed towards the reporter, offering him sex. After a brief discussion, she led the reporter to the brothel’s bar and was quickly joined by three of her colleagues. Martha was the first to order for a bottle of a popular herbal drink called Alomo Bitters. With promise of a long-term friendship from the reporter, she opened up on her past and her dreams, narrating how she became a sex worker in the hotel. Surprisingly, she doubles as an apprentice hairdresser, hoping to settle down into hairdressing business someday. But for now, she is under contract to serve her aunty for 11 more months, during which she must hand over her entire earnings.
Martha said: “My aunty is very nice. She gives me money, depending on how much I make in a day. I am from Delta State, and I am learning to become a hairdresser. I will leave next year after my service. After that, I will open a shop and become a businesswoman.” It took her no time to finish her drink and order for another bottle. At this stage, the discussion became livelier, as the four girls freely talked about their lives as prostitutes in the brothel. “I am very brave,” said Martha, beating her chest as she spoke.
“I can take on as many men as are available at a time.” But going by her confessions, she is an endangered species. Besides the meager nature of her income, she is daily exposed to the danger of being defrauded or physically assaulted by the men that patronise her. Only a few days earlier, she lost her cell phone, which she said she bought for N32, 000, to a client from whom she had only reaped N2,000. She said: “The man stole my phone after paying me N2,000. I called the number and he picked it, but claimed that the phone belonged to him.” Asked if she was not afraid of contracting HIV/AIDS, she said she had received enough lessons on how to protect herself against sexually transmitted diseases and other dangers that come with her trade.
She said apart from insisting that her clients must wear condom, she had been taught not to get carried away when entertaining them. “The first thing they taught us was that men are cunning, and that we should be very careful with them. We also go for medical check-ups regularly. But one thing is that we don’t sleep with men without condoms,” she said. Martha is not alone in this modern day slavery.
She has a partner in soft-spoken Janet, an indigene of Edo State. At 17, the second child in a family of seven says she took to prostitution because she wanted to make a success of her life. In her barely audible voice, she said she was forced to go into prostitution because her elder sister was not discharging her responsibilities towards their parents. She is expected to gain her freedom in November, when she would have served her aunty for more than one year.
She told a pathetic story of the events that led her into prostitution, saying that unlike Martha, she plans to go back to school. “I want to go back to school. I came here because there was nothing else for me to do. But once I finish serving my aunty, I will leave this place completely and make sure that I go back to school,” she said. Interestingly, Janet is in the business with her cousin, 15-year-old Pat.
Evidently more daring and outspoken than her two other colleagues, Pat declared that she wanted the reporter to have a relationship with the three of them. “I like you. If you no mind, all of us fit be your friend,” she said, her colleagues nodding in affirmation while she continued to do justice to the bottles of Climax energy drink in front of her.
To be continued