The concluding story:
A quick tour of the brothel revealed that it contained 54 rooms, each allocated to an aunty. While a first-time visitor would only notice the front gate and the rear gates, a closer observation would reveal other entry and exit points. The arrangement of the rooms makes it difficult for a non-regular visitor to master the terrain. The source at the hotel said the arrangement was meant to conceal the activities of the prostitutes. According to the source, 14 of the rooms are allocated to teenage prostitutes while the rest are occupied by their older and more experienced aunties.
At Room 19, a busty lady, probably in her 30s, sat on a stool by the door. Asked why she was idle at that time of the day, she said she was waiting for prospective clients, adding that business had been dull because of the Ramadan period. She jumped up at the reporter’s suggestion of a deal. After a quick negotiation, she agreed to take N750, down by N250 from the N1,0000 she demanded initially.
A visit to Room 32 revealed that the occupant was one of the aunties named Faith, from Edo State. She agreed to give a younger girl to the reporter for a fee to be agreed. But she argued that she was capable of anything the younger girls could offer. Upon the reporter’s insistence, she dashed to Room 30, where some of her girls were sleeping at the time. The lot fell on 19-year-old Sarah, who quickly went to another room to prepare the bed. The innocent-looking girl felt disappointed when she returned moments later and was told that the reporter had changed his mind, but with a promise to come back later in the evening. She ran back into the room, ostensibly to steal a few minutes of sleep before another client would come knocking. Such has been the lot of the young girls in the brothel.
They take care of the sexual needs of their clients at night and give the proceeds to the aunties. Yet the little time they have to rest or in the day time is repeatedly punctuated by clients who stroll in, in the day. A funny incident had occurred at the brothel the previous night. Encouraged by the hotel source, the reporter had stormed the hotel at exactly 8:30 pm, hoping to take pictures of the girls’ activities. One needed no one to tell him that one had stepped into an ‘unholy’ ground.
From one room to the other, both the young and the old prostitutes showcased their ‘wares’ with skimpy dresses. One of them named Jessica said she had been expecting a customer for more than two hours without luck. The reporter’s arrival therefore gave her the hope of making some money, which she said had been scarce since the commencement of Ramaddan.
Jessica, who claims to be a mother of one, lamented the lull that had occasioned the fasting period. She also said she had been unlucky with her love life. According to her, she had her child, who is now 11 years old, after she was put in the family way by her boyfriend. The man later denied the pregnancy, leaving her and her poor family to cater for the boy. She said: “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.” But in spite of all that she has been through, Jessica insists she has no regrets about her past. “What is there for me to regret now?” she asked rhetorically.
It is now more than a decade that Jessica took the unholy path of selling her body for money, but both joy and wealth, the twin reasons she opted for prostitution, have eluded her. Rather she has had an unsettled life, with no decent home or man to call her own. While denied having any regret, it was obvious that Jessica was not the happiest of women. Her expectations from the trade were far from being met. Unfortunately, she has no other profession to turn to. She said: “Let me confess, I thought I would have made it more than this. At a point, I even tried to travel to Italy, but the aunty who wanted to help me stole all the money that I saved. She asked me to bring N500, 000, promising to take me to Italy. I was able to raise about N400, 000, which I gave to her. But after that day, I never saw her again.
If I didn’t lose that money, I might have stopped this business by now.” For Jessica and the other young girls in the brothel, the future looks bleak. What with their meager daily earnings, most of which they spend on feeding, medicals and fairly used clothes. Whatever is left in the end cannot guarantee the flashy lifestyle that prompted them to go into the trade. It is no longer a secret that more than one thousand Nigerian girls are trafficked to different countries by prostitution rings in Europe every month.
The unholy trade has assumed a height never seen before in the last decade, with Italy as choice destination. However, recent investigation has shown that the crime is gradually declining in Western Europe following strict laws on illegal migration and the efforts of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). But while the fight against the international prostitution rings may be gaining momentum, with relative success, locally-based prostitution rings are devising a model fashioned after the Europe-based rings to lure young and innocent girls into the world’s oldest profession.