Jos — Jos, once known as a hub for leisure and nightlife in central Nigeria, is being devastated by deadly ethno-religious violence. The security crisis has compelled authorities to issue curfews and other firm measures hampering free movement in the metropolis. Citizens no doubt crave safety, but people also miss just being able to grab a few beers after the office. Meanwhile, others - like barmen and prostitutes - are losing their most lucrative working hours.
To check further violence from claiming innocent lives, on 8 July, the state government declared a dusk-till-dawn curfew.
Elvis Chukwu finds the latest regulation worrisome. "On an average, without the curfew, we sell between 35 to 40 crates of beer every night," says the 28-year-old who doubles as proprietor and waiter for The Container, a popular bar in the Yan Trailer area. "With the present security situation, we sell only about ten crates since we have to close by 7 p.m."
Chukwu depends on the profits he makes from the small bar to pay for his undergraduate tuition and cover other needs. "I think the governor should restrict the curfew to Barkin Ladi and Riyom, where the attacks happened," he says. "Jos is now peaceful, so I don't see any reason why a curfew should be imposed."
Endeavouring to stem the incessant violence in Plateau State, the Nigerian government has in fact put in place several measures. That includes declaration of a state of emergency in the state's capital city, Jos, as well as three other local government areas. Despite these efforts, the church bombings and village night raids seem to only get worse. Recent attacks in Barkin Ladi and Riyom by unknown gunmen killed over a hundred people, including two lawmakers.
Curfew or chaos
"I close from the office by 4 p.m., but before I come home, eat and go out to hang with friends, it is already getting late," says Paul Barde, one of The Container's customers. "I can only have very few drinks with friends so I can retire home before 7 p.m., if not the security agents will embarrass me.
"When asked what he thinks of the curfew, Barde says: "I'm not against it, but if the government is not careful, the measure will devastate economic activities in the affected local government areas."
Some Jos residents believe that without the curfew, the recent attacks would have sparked violent reprisals. David Tinkur, one of the men having drinks with Barde, supports the curfew, regardless of any related inconveniences. "I think the government did the right thing by imposing the curfew," he says. "Without taking this step, there would have been chaos."
Nightshifts no more?
On a recent night, a commercial sex worker, who did not wish to have her name published but will go by Clara here, can be found at a deserted beer parlour in the Jos suburb of Fudawa. Starting a conversation was effortless for an obvious reason: this reporter could easily have been a customer.
"I usually go out around 9 p.m. because that is the time that most fun seekers come out," explains Clara. "With the recent development, I don't have a plan, I go out anytime. This is bad for my kind of [job] because many men only approach women in the night."
Before the newly security measure, she made an average of 10, 000 Nigerian naira, roughly 50 euros a night. However, since their implementation, Clara has made no money.
"I don't understand why curfew must be imposed on Jos," she says angrily when the issue comes up. "For several days, I can't go to places I want to go to and I can't meet people," she laments. Though with a sad smile, she adds: "That means I can't make money, you know."
When this reporter indicates it's time to take leave by tapping a wristwatch with an index finger, Clara can't hide her disappointment. Without a word, she snatches her handbag and hurried exits the bar.