analysisBy Charles Adingupu
For ages the popular Mile 12 market has been known as the food basket of Lagos. It's so classified because it accommodates trailer loads of assorted food items from virtually all parts of Nigeria. By extension therefore, it has become a home for people of diverse culture. Fortunately, today, the market is becoming another haven for women of easy virtues.
Despite the different kinds of people who besiege the Mile 12 Market on daily basis to display their wares for reasonable profit margin, the setting has cut another image for itself. The expanse of land where the market is currently located has become a notorious abode for brothel business.
Virtually, every nook and cranny could boast of a hook shop which houses ladies of pleasure with mean nomenclature from the various ethnic divides. From the popular Kosofe bus-stop to Mile 12 under bridge parades the most busy cat-houses in the neighbourhood. Every street in the area is being haunted by call girls in the night.
At the foot of the pedestrian bridge is one of such call houses. The calibre of prostitutes operating in this whore house is mostly market women who engage in promiscuous sexual intercourse for money after the day's sales. Though at noonday, there are no vestiges showing that the hotel is a notorious joint for women of the town. The compound which is presently under renovation also accommodates wooden locked-up stalls at both sides where food stuff, condiments, generating sets and components are sold.
But from 8 pm in the evening, the atmosphere in the vicinity changes into a red light zone as hustlers in their flamboyant attires mill around the hotel premises canvassing for prospective clients. The entrance of the brothel is always populated by night-walkers of different shapes and sizes who appeared ready for the day's business.
Esther is just one of them who patronise the hotel to complement the meagre income she rakes in from her petty trading business. However, the following conversation ensured between Esther and this reporter. "Hello! How do you operate here?"
"Do you want a short time or full time?" she asked.
"Please tell me the cost of both and let me make a decision."
"Well, short time will cost you N500.00. Besides, you have to pay for a chalet of your choice. The ones down stairs cost one hundred naira for an hour. It has a foam spread on bare floor but no electricity. The others upstairs have beds, ceiling fans and a piece of wooden furniture. The rent cost N200 for an hour," she said.
some prostitutes waiting for clients
"But if I'm opting for all night, what's the bill like?" I inquired. "It will cost you N4,000" Esther declared with a tone of finality. "All right", I said, without allowing her to raise suspicion of my mission.We moved straight away to the bar at the first floor where I ordered for bottles of beer. Esther quickly guzzled hers without waiting for the usual courtesies which accompany such first time meeting.
Again, we resumed our conversation. "Yes! Is your name truly Esther?," I ask in disbelief. "Of course yes; do you think I'm lying to you?" she said.
"Not really, but how come you're in this dirty business yet speak good English?"
"Well, it's just one of those things in life."
"I've a feeling you're somebody's wife."
"Haba! How can that be? Though, I was once married but not anymore."
"What happened then?" I became curious, wanting to know what prompted this woman into this God forsaken business. But the lady is too smart to be caught unaware.
"That will be a story for another day," she said.
For a while, we drank our beer in silence until I threw another question at her.
"How many kids have you?
"Two. They attend standard schools in Warri, Delta State."
"So you're from Delta?"
"Which of the schools did you attend?"
"Your questions are becoming too many," she said. "Well, I've my school certificate before I proceeded to Bida Polytechnic. But midway, I had problem, so I dropped out of school."
"But can't you look for some other thing to do rather than engaging in this dangerous trade."
"I'm a trader," she disclosed, "but debt wrecked my business. As it is now, I will need reasonable amount of money to begin all over again. Please enough of these questions. Hope you're not here to waste my time?"she said.
However, on that note, I gave Esther N200.00 for wasting her time. She said I can reach her at the same spot if I desire to see her again.
Exactly 10.45 pm in the evening, the brothel premises became a beehive of activities as fun seeking men thronged the vicinity to quench their sexual desire. At the topmost floor of the building, the women prostitutes are mainly from the north.
Mile 12 market
The ear-rings worn on their noses, face marks coupled with the passable pidgin English corrupted with the Hausa accent easily gave them away. Their clients are mai suya, truck drivers and cow dealers who can easily communicate with them in the language they understand.
It's only a proportionate fraction of under sixteen girls that could be found home. They swing their fragile waist left, right and centre to attract prospect clients.
But another lady of easy virtue who called herself Iya Bose, who claimed to be a yam seller said she only resorted to the illicit trade in order to make ends meet as a widow.
"I can't abandon my four children because my husband is dead. By the special grace of God, I'll see them through the university," she said.
This is certainly not a home for Kings but an abode for pom pom girls. It's another three storey building with a cinema house underneath adjacent to the Mile 12 bus-stop. It parades teenage girls whose age bracket lies between 15 to 21. These girls revealed their identities easily with their costumes and make-up. They dress half nude in order to reveal the better parts of their physical structures.
Investigation showed that most of the hustlers operating here are mainly secondary school drop-outs. Joy is just one of them. She claimed to be an indigene of Benue State. By all standards, Joy could easily be passed for a charming girl as she possess all the trappings of beauty.
The girls here are residential prostitutes who have no other trade rather than engaging men to frolicking bout. All the rooms on the first floor occupied by these harlots are rugged from wall to wall with ceiling or wall fans, a 14 inch colour television set and a sizeable CD player sitting atop a centre table.
"For short time," Joy disclosed that the minimum charge is N500 while full time cost not less than N2,500 though, it depends on the personality. So, price varies, depending on who you're dealing with. We pay N500 for this room every night."
This is a shanty that lies at the edge of Jesus Oyigbo Street in Mile 12 market. The entrance to the hotel is a narrow path like the road to a hall. But at the end of this alley reveals an open space which houses some wooden make-shift houses facing one another with a corridor.
There are other outlets leading to one vague hall or the other. In some of these halls, hoodlums have converted them as resting place.
The offensive smell of marijuana, otherwise known as Indian-hemp tells more of the calibre of people patronising these whores.
A Mallam who sells cigarettes and other sundry items at the entrance of the hotel disclosed that "women of different sizes and shape are here. Some are tall, short, fat and slim. There are Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo women, so go for your choice."
A teenage girl who gave her name simply as Fatima said the least she could accept before sleeping with a man is seven hundred naira. Fatima who prides herself as an old timer in the trade, described prostitution as a booming business.
She confessed that a friend cajoled her into the trade. Fatima has also introduced three other teenagers into the illicit trade.
Also, a Mallam who work as a security guard to the locked-up stalls in the area, told Saturday Vanguard that most of women in these brothels are mainly traders from different cities and villages. But in the night, they change into prostitution.
"I see them (women prostitutes) during the day, but at night, they change into prostitution. They indulge in the illicit trade until they disposed of their wares before joining their respective family members from wherever they come from," he said.
But the dirty environment under which this class of women operate needs much to be desired as the stench smell of urine oozing from from there is enough to put off any sane man.