Adjacent to the cozy Chida International Hotel, situated at Augustus Aikhomu Street, Utako District, Abuja, is one of the city’s glamorous relaxation spots called Gardens and bar- a place which attracts a nightly throng of girls of easy virtue, on the excuse of its cut-rate rent and stable scarce energy supply.
The name ‘Eden’ is one of a kind! As it is ironically to the Biblical meaning; Eden is supposed to house the most precious atmosphere. However, it ranks amongst most glowing recreations and gardensin the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where one could get anything you want for relaxation.
From enjoying life band, suya, shawama, fish, drinks (alcohol and soft) to games like table tennis, snooker and live television matches, area are a few available conventional facilities at the Garden, for leisure.
Also, upcoming artistes are given the window to showcase their talents on stage and spectators (fun lovers) splash on them when a performance is worthwhile.
Though fun seekers throng the place for relaxation, Eden is also heaven female forks known as ‘Ashawo’ or prostitutes. They are also fondly known as sharp girls while others call them ‘mamas.’ They come from different parts of the FCT and neighbouring and far away states, such as Kaduna, Nasarawa, Kogi, Lagos and Enugu, respectively.
The garden which is situated in a rosy serene atmosphere attracts patronage from different places, for different purposes.
At night time, young and beautiful, some skinny while others are fleshy, walking in skimpy clothing with eyes bright like the morning dew, but red for cash, waving at cars to come access their product. They littered the street. And it didn’t mean much if it was night. To them, the street lights, which shone on them clearly added glamour to the scene.
Though there are about four other hotels in the axis, in addition to Chida, the girls love to stay behind the garden with their sexy skimpy skirts. This, most of them do on a daily basis, while a few do so during weekends.
To a first time visitor, what is really striking about this garden is its normal outlook of place where men and women in their numbers trooped in for recreation and fun. Coming in contact with Eden, while walking along the area, you would be welcomed by scintillating music from a bar located nearby. It will then become glaring why these girls chose to lurk around there.
Late into the night, some of them would take their trade inside the garden crisscrossing in between tables, and wherever people gathered. It can render a visitor disoriented and lost, several times over.
Mode of operation
The conversation begins proper when one of the girls has approached your car- saying “Hello”, otherwise a “come” sign or a sudden stop along the road brings sometimes more than one of them to your car. This, a curious and keen observer would not waste time to decode almost immediately, even from a distant point, in the area.
Most evenings, as early as 8.00 pm until the wee hours of the morning, these girls throng the area, for serious business.
Just strolling around the area, at about 9: 30 PM, trying to experience first-hand activities there, in two separate dates, precisely last penultimate week, “Bros come na!” One of the ladies shouted, though at first, to her it looked asif I did not hear her or pretended not to. Then she shouted: catch am, na my own! She was average height, wearing a tight gown with stripes
And when I stopped and moved closer to nose round, the following conversation ensued: “Bros, you wan touch bum bum (buttocks) and or suck my breast? Or na short time, you want? ”
Though the attention easily faded away from me as about four cars pulled over near where I was negotiating with the lady, and immediately she switched attention over to the parked, alongside with other girls who were busy shaking their (backside) demonstrating to their clients that their product was still in one piece.
At a time, about eight cars came around and picked the girls. These cars were flashy and not the normal little ones.
Interestingly, some of the call girls disguised themselves like ‘Hajiya’, putting on hijab or wearing native clothes waiting for someone to call on them. Even in these attires, it seems their customers identify them easily because when they stroll around, you see them as if they are waiting for a taxi, but all is a diversionary method to confuse any security group from arresting them.
Findings revealed that from 11.00 pm and business goes in full swing, most of them become impatient to land a client for the night.
However, instead of loitering around, some girls only sit and lurk around the bars inside the garden inside, occasionally engaging in one social debate or another. Indeed, since they dress well, it will be difficult to take them for whores.
As one enters the garden, there were no fewer than 7 men with small kiosks inside the garden. Apart from chewing gum and perhaps recharge cards, the other most prominent items on display at the kiosks were all manner of cartons of condoms.
I bought a recharge card from one of them, so as to gain his trust and talk to him. The trick worked. When I demanded to know whether “babes” no longer come to the garden, he smiled and pointed to a corner where there was a live band. He told me in not-Hausa and pigeon English that I had passed many of them unknowingly.
On getting to the live band arena, ladies who were already seated, pretending to be guests, who came to drink, started making some unusual gestures towards my direction. Straightaway, it dawned on me that they were the “Mamas” who, for fear of arrest, no longer stand on the roadside.
The price tag
Unlike the ‘cheap ones,’ but not the usual expensive ones in places like Maitama, Gwarinpa and Wuse II, who live in big houses, drive luxury cars, they are the type all class of people go for ‘sharp sharp’ and whenever they want, one wouldjust stroll there and pay for their time. For most of the girls operating in the area, at least N500, 00 would do her a world of good, for short service. They are very young, older ladies but are not the big type.
This also determines the cost of `hiring’ them. The writer of this piece tried to ascertain the cost per night and the discovery was that the price is not fixed but there is a limit which has conditionalities. But if you think that service would be done without a price, you are dead wrong. First, the commercial sex worker looks at the customer and the type of car he rides before stating her price. Against this backdrop, the bargaining starts from N15, 000 and terminates at between N5, 000 and N8, 000. At least, that is what was revealed.
At first one of the girls (name unknown) I was chatting with, while pretending to be waiting for my lady, was hesitant to reveal how juicy the business environment was. But, luckily she later opened up when she learnt that I would give her money (N1, 000) without really touching her. In answer to the question posed to her, she replied, that it depends on how business is.
She says: “On a good night, I fit get as much as N10, 000 or N20, 000. But when market is bad or slow I can realized like N4,000 to N7,000 from short time, but on this time I prefer going out for all-night, to save myself the stress of standing endlessly.”
However, the place used for this business is varied. For short-time sessions, the girls had a curious arrangement with the security guards at the park and they often ‘rented’ their guard houses to her for a ‘quick service’. The ‘rent’ is usually paid by the client along with her fee. For a quickie, I found out goes “about N500 and N100, even up to N3, 000, depending on the negotiation.
The Abuja appeal
Abuja, is a capital city with its own unique attraction-with the promise of a good or better life. For some, these dreams come true easily, for others maybe not. Facts abounds that most people especially ladies, throng into this city of dreams with a lot of expectations. But soon some of them found out that there were no free meals here and soon the seamy side of urban life presented itself as a viable alternative after some time of fruitless search for the good of the land.
For Chichi ( not real name), who claimed to be an unemployed graduate of Business Administration from a university in the southeastern part of the country, Abuja is a merciless city and I have to survive with or without legitimate means.
“I came to Abuja with high hopes, precisely four years ago. In two years, I could not secure a Job, I no see; husband, I no see. So I joined the booming trade (prostitution). ” she lamented.
Her story is the same with many young girls who have found the Eden Garden as a heaven of sought and other streets of the FCT, for easy means of survival.
This is because many think, sometimes, erroneously, that the town is wet with money from politicians, contractors, suppliers of general goods, etc. This perceived abundance flow of money guarantees the ladies of the night a handsome income. Consequently, girls always try to look ravishingly attractive to suit the mood of the town.
To this end, prostitution in the city is booming. From the highbrow areas of Maitama, Wuse, Garki, Asokoro and Utako to the satellite suburbs of Karu, Kubwa, Lugbe and Idu-Karmo, to mention but a few, commercial sex trade continues to flourish in what is purportedly Africa’s fastest growing city, in spite of measures by the city officials to clamp down on its practitioners.
The Fight against prostitution
At a point, the FCT Administration had become uncomfortable with the situation of loitering sex workers and rolled out some legal instrument to put an end to prostitution, especially at public places in the city.
The FCT authority, through its Secretary for Social Development, Mrs. Blessing Onuh, in fact, banned the “business” in the city.
Even after the ban by the FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, who gave prostitutes an ultimatum to leave Nigeria’s capital or face the wrath of the law, as investigation has shown there are more patronage as it has taken a new guise in the area (Utako-Jabi axis) and Wuse zone 4 area.
They are everywhere in the FCT. They are no ghosts. It then makes one to think that the so called ban on prostitution has little or no effect as the market has continued to boom with patronage from all angles.
But the FCT minister, who recently decried the steady rise in the population of prostitutes in Abuja, once, noted that they constitute a nuisance as their services add no value to the beauty of the city ordering the FCT Special Task Force to arrest and prosecute them.
Also, men who patronise the sex workers were warned to desist from the act as anyone caught would be treated like the prostitutes. But all those warnings seem to had fallen on deaf ears, as they continue to buy the products with reckless abandoned.
A client who spoke on anonymity said that since the ban the girls’ activities in FCT, they have increased their charges to between N4, 000 and N6,000 per night for what is known as “all night”, that’s when a customer decides to take a girl home for the deal.
He said that they formerly charge between N35,000 and N5, 000; but now they increased their price to between N 6,000 to N10, 000.
However, another held a contrary view about the effect of ban on their charge for their service, as the situation has somehow reduce the patronage because not everyone can afford such amount and risk of being caught in the act.
But, one common thing is that they believe is that the agency responsible for bringing this so called business to a halt should channel properly, resources set aside to help offenders for a proper rehabilitation.
But determined to stamp out the criminal practice, the FCT Administration, through the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), has launched an operation to dislodge prostitutes from the city.
Investigation revealed that the operation is carried out based on the provision of Section 35 (1g) of the AEPB Act No. 10 of 1997, which prohibits sex trade in the capital city.
According to a recent report by a national daily, AEPB, in collaboration Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour (SAP-CLN) has led to the arrest of 104 commercial sex workers in various parts of the city during three raids.
SAP-CLN is an Abuja-based non-governmental organization involved in the rehabilitation of prostitutes and street children.
The report says the total of 104 suspected commercial sex workers who were arrested for prosecution during raids carried out by the board in collaboration with SAP-CLN, were prosecuted in magistrate court, where some were found guilty, and accordingly asked to either pay fines or serve prison terms.
However, convicts, who could afford the stipulated fine, were sent for rehabilitation at the SAP-CLN center located in Sabo Lugbe, off Umaru Yar’Adua Way.
The coordinator of SAP-CLN, Mrs. Grace Adogo, said the organization was touched by the plight of the commercial sex workers who were sent to prison.
She said a lot of the commercial sex workers saw what they did as business and not as a criminal activity. Adogo recounted the story of an inmate who, after spending one month at the rehabilitation centre, suddenly stripped herself and shouted on top of her voice that she could no longer cope.
According to her, the inmate said she used to sleep with several men in a day and send some of the proceeds home for the upkeep of her family.
“She shouted that she should be released immediately and we did, because we couldn’t keep her against her wish. She said she used to sleep with several men in a day and could not continue to cope without seeing a man.
“She told me that her mother called and said she had lost so much revenue during the one month she was in the center and that she should come out and continue the business. The girl went back home”, she was quoted in the report.
Despite what the media-men of the capital city’s administration churn out in the press about winning the war against prostitution, it remains a booming, ever evolving business.
However, the feeling still remains that the society honestly should feel sorry for those sexual workers. The thinking is that some of the ladies of easy virtues around the area are doing this kind of job because of life’s hardship.
To this end, some people opined that they think it has to reach a time for prostitution to be legalized, so as they will be known where they are and where they can be found if there is a case of a certain illegal matters concerning them.
The argument is that life is how one makes it in terms of consciousness especially when it comes to the matter of human rights. Most importantly, perhaps it was time that stakeholders talked to these girls, that they must have their leaders who will represent their problems, and let them have a special place and not just passing around as they are doing just now especially in recreational facilities like Eden Garden.