Gift Barry-Oba reports on the growing trade of prostitution among teenagers and young ladies in Abeokuta, Ogun State, often referred to as ‘Olosho.’
Driving through the major streets of Abeokuta, Ogun State, at night, one would catch a glimpse of skimpy-dressed and half-naked young girls, plying their trades in front of some bars, clubs, and joints. They gather in large numbers seeking patronage from men who want to satisfy their sexual urges.
Iwe Iroyin, the secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, at Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, is one of the major hotspots where these young commercial sex workers called ‘Olosho’ turn to every night to seek patronage. They also loiter around the Skating ground at Panseke, Royal Mandarin in Ibara Housing, and other major nightclubs.
The Ogun State Council of the NUJ in January issued a strong warning to commercial sex workers, loitering and wandering around its secretariat, to steer clear. The Union in a statement signed by its secretary, Bunmi Adigun, appealed to those involved in the operation of commercial sex work to avoid the secretariat and its premises, this pleas fell on deaf ears as these workers doubled in number.
In May, the Council Chairman, Wale Olanrewaju expressed concern that despite a formal report and complaints to security agencies, the commercial sex workers have refused to stay away from its secretariat.
“The menace of ladies of the nights has got to the crescendo! With all our concerted efforts, these young ladies – popularly called Olosho – refused to cease coming to our secretariat to ply their illicit trades even in spite of the sting operations and other concerted efforts with security agencies to put to an end their unholy invasion of our premises.
“These, no doubt, have been a kind of dent on the image of the Ogun NUJ.
“We call on security agencies to help us rid the secretariat of these sex workers and drug peddlers who have turned our secretariat to their have,” he said.
ENTER THE WORLD OF PROSTITUTES
Worldwide there is an estimation of 40-42 million prostitutes. 80 percent of the world population of prostitutes are female and range in age between 13-25.
90 percent of all prostitutes are dependent on a pimp. While these statistics about prostitution are just touching the surface, they indicate the extent of the sex-for-sale industry worldwide.There are an estimated 1-2 million prostitutes in the United States. A look at male prostitution statistics shows that of the 40-42 million prostitutes in the world, 8-8.42 million are thought to be men.
In a report published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 50% of the 100,000 children trafficked for sex are boys.
As the country’s economic hardship bites harder, youth seek alternative sources of livelihood.
Some have decided to engage themselves in acquiring vocational skills to make money, others have turned to prostitution to make ends meet.
Prostitution is known as the world’s oldest profession where both male and female engage in sexual activities in exchange for money and benefits such as material things, connections or favors.
A female prostitute is often called a call girl, harlot, sex worker, whore, slut or known as hookup nowadays etc. While a male prostitute is commonly called a gigolo, rent boy, toy boy, a pansy boy and so on.
Unlike countries like New Zealand, Austria, Germany, Norway, Turkey , Argentina, Belgium among others who have tried regulating it and providing sex workers with health and social benefits, Nigeria has chosen to outrightly ban the practice.
However, this ‘sector’ continues to grow faster as it spreads its shoulders across all states.
Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital, has become a breeding ground for the commercial sex workers who have turned every part of the capital city to their workshops especially at night.
According to a survey carried out by OgunWatch, 80 percent of the prostitutes who patronize nightclubs, hotels, and tourist centers in Ogun State are students of tertiary institutions.
Investigation also revealed that a number of them reside in Lagos and other South west states, but they have found Abeokuta to be a fertile ground for their trade. They usually storm Abeokuta from Wednesday and throughout the weekend for the trade and return to the base on Monday, it was gathered.
“Many of them come from Lagos and other parts of the South West. They come in from Wednesday and lodge in hotels throughout the weekend, and some of them have colleagues based in Abeokuta who accommodate them for the ‘business period,” an insider said.
It was observed that as prices of fuel and other essential commodities skyrocketed, these sex workers have also increased their prices from N15, 000 to N25,000.
While some charge N5,000 to N10,000 for ‘quickie’ ( a brief act or instance of having sex that sometimes does not require a room and can be done anywhere).
To tackle the menace, the government under the watch of Governor Ibikunle Amosun set up a committee to look into the increasing rate of prostitution among underage youths in the State.
The committee members were drawn from the Ministries of Youth and Sports and Women Affairs, to sensitize, arrest, and rehabilitate youths found engaging in this ”bed-to-wealth” business. Yet, the challenge has continued to grow as the committee ended with that administration.
‘WHY WE ENGAGED IN COMMERCIAL SEX’
Some of the commercial sex workers who spoke to OgunWatch, said they were into prostitution because “it pays well, requires little to no capital to start, and is a form of networking business.”
Some of these sex workers around the Royal Mandarin Chinese Restaurant & Club, Abeokuta said they are “pleased and satisfied with their jobs,” while others attribute their choice to poverty.
A commercial sex worker simply identified as Baddy said many young girls were forced into prostitution, while others involved due to their economic conditions.
A number of them who are students said they engaged in the commercial sex to sponsor their education.
“Some of us who are enrolled in school but lack financial support from parents or any other source consider prostitution as a way to survive and continue with our education,” Baddy said.
Some of the sex workers explained that they were raped, child labour, sex slavery, and trafficked.
One Funmi told Ogunwatch “I don’t see sex as a big deal anymore, when I was young, at about thirteen years, my uncle raped me and he continued till I left his house because I am an orphan.
“So, I just don’t see it (sex) as anything. If I can have it with someone and get paid, then why not, instead of giving it out for free.”
Others blamed young girls’ involvement in prostitution on laziness, and desire for quick riches, peer pressure and lack of parental care.
In October, about twelve young sex workers were arrested in a sting operation at Iwe Irohin in Abeokuta. They were arraigned before Abeokuta magistrates’ court with prostitution and indecent behaviour.
They were arraigned on a two-count charge of prostitution, disorderly and indecent behaviour in a public place, and nuisance.
The defendants include Abosede Adebowale, Olamide Balogun, Folashade Ogunleye, Opeyemi Akanni, Funmilayo Ishola, Ayomide Balogun, Tomisin Olakohun, Bukola Awonusi, Okiki Ogundimu, Jumoke Michael, Olamide Adebayo, and Olamide Gbokiki.
The prosecutor, Inspector Olaide Rawlings, said the defendants committed the offence on a Sunday at Iwe-Iroyin along Oke-Ilewo road and the Skate Ground in Panseke area of Abeokuta.
According to Rawlings, the defendants were parading themselves in an unruly manner, creating disturbance in public areas by engaging in prostitution and other forms of sex work, pointing out that the charges violate Ogun, 2006’s Criminal Code Laws, sections 225A(4) and 249(1)(a).
Magistrate, A. K. Araba, granted the defendants N200,000 bail each with one surety in like sum, who must be a registered Bondsman with the Ogun State Judiciary.
About a week later, this trade resumed.
MEN SHOULD STOP PATRONIZING THEM – JOURNALIST
OgunWatch speaking, a senior journalist based in Abeokuta, Rasaq Ayinla, said all stakeholders have to play their roles to curb the menace.
He particularly called on men, most especially married men to stop patronising commercial sex workers as a way of discouraging rising prostitution in the society.
“Men, why are we patronizing prostitutes when we know that we have our wives and you can actually do better than that if we don’t patronize them.
“We all have a role to play in all we have to discourage this because a large number of things are attached to it. We have more disadvantages, which is about 70, 75 percent than advantages…
“The government, parent society have roles to play by telling them the bad side of it and dissuading them from it.
“The government should also try to make some policies to empower youth, this might discourage them from going into prostitution,” Ayinla said.
WE ARE DOING OUR BEST TO TAME PROSTITUTION – OGUN GOVT
Speaking with Ogunwatch, the State commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hon Adijat Adeleye, said the government is doing its best to discourage prostitution among young women in the state.
“ We are doing our best to make sure there is nothing like prostitution in Ogun State, even those that are into commercial prostitution, we are trying as much as possible to give them an alternative source of livelihood, the government is doing all we can to curb the menace.
“This is in two folds. We have some that might be underage, yes, they can still be termed as children, but those who are adults most of the time it’s challenging to prosecute them. A 21-year-old person or a 30-year-old person will tell you that it’s just a party vibe, that she’s on her way to a party but then we are not relenting in our effort to make sure that we have a better Ogun state that is free of all this menace in our society.
“Sometimes When they are caught we would take them to court to prosecute them
“We have a handful of them who have been prosecuted,” the commissioner said.