Sin city: Residents lament as brothels take over Lagos community
Two years ago, there were about 50 brothels, bars and hotels altogether on Old Ojo Road, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, a distance of 14 kilometres from Oshodi, Lagos.
Today, there are around 200, according to a longtime resident of the area, Mr. David Oladapo, who has over the years monitored the situation of things.
'New hotels are springing up every day. And also brothels,' he said, lamenting about the development. 'Everywhere you turn to, every corner you see, they are taking up space.'
Oladapo's displeasure is, however, not about new hotels being built in the area, or of bars, or even of brothels bursting forth on every side. His concern is about the 'harmful' effect the whorehouses pose to the children who live in the area.
'At night, I don't enjoy myself due to the loud music from some of these hotels,' the 45-year-old shop owner said. 'The hotels are also strip clubs. You'll see nude girls coming in and out.'
It's just a few months ago that the Old Ojo Road was tarred, and is now fast becoming a hub of prostitution, according to some other residents our correspondent spoke with on Tuesday, who are also worried about the situation.
Tucked among schools, churches, banks, shops and car parks, hotels and brothels are a regular sight to behold once one sets on either side of the main road.
A stone's throw from one of the hotels, a white building sits, which houses the National Secretariat of the Chartered Institute of Administration.
Due to this situation, residents, especially those who live in houses around the 'dens of iniquity,' are worried that their children might be affected by the regular sights of sex workers in the environment.
Oladapo, whose apartment lies between a brothel and a shopping plaza, said, 'My only concern is that I have kids around. How can they be seeing these people and not be morally and mentally corrupted? I have been living in this area for 15 years and I've never seen anything like this before.
'It's like they want to turn this area to a centre of prostitution. The situation is appalling. There is a particular man who is building new hotels almost on every part. He has many hotels in this area. I'm not bothered because he's building new hotels, but because of what his hotels have turned to. There are young girls who dance nude in the night in the hotels.
'Music is always blaring from the buildings at night and you'll begin to wonder what's happening. Brothels are also many in this area and this is because there are now so many prostitutes. The old ones are also recruiting the young ones. You'll be shocked to see young girls who should be studying in school in these places.'
Oladapo added that he was afraid the rate at which young girls were turning to prostitutes in the area.
'This area is no longer good for children to be brought up. In a place where there are more brothels and hotels than churches, mosques and schools, I don't think it's good,' he said.
What could be responsible for this development?
Because there are many parks in the area, from where many passengers travelling to other parts of the country go to, Saturday PUNCH learned that some drivers and male passengers visit the brothels and hotels before they commence their journey early in the morning.
'The parks operate far into the night,' said a mechanic, Musiliu Abbas, who folded his arms as he watched passersby walk pass his shop on this hot afternoon. 'Many people sleep in the parks before they embark on their journey in the morning. Some don't sleep. I know that some drivers and passengers visit these brothels to catch some fun before they travel.'
A pastor in one of the churches in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was worrying that many young girls in the area had become prostitutes.
He said, 'I have been residing here for 10 years and the development is worrisome. A particular woman came into my office recently and was seriously lamenting. I could see that her eyes were laden with tears. I asked her what the problem was and she couldn't say it. But she opened up eventually.
'Her daughter is now wayward. She doesn't see her at home in the nights again. Her husband died five years ago and she is the only one taking care of her four children, including the girl she was talking about.
'The girl is just 18 years old and now she's a prostitute. She had done everything possible to scold and talk to her daughter, but nothing has changed in her. Now the woman wants prayers to turn the heart of her only daughter. Sincerely speaking, I felt for her when she was telling me all this.'
The clergyman said some residents had protested against the renting of houses to prostitutes by some landlords, but nothing had been done.
'The landlord would tell them that if they were not satisfied with the situation, they should pack out. Of course, that would be their natural response. It's like now, the prostitutes have higher influence than residents,' he said.
A 38-year-old housewife, simply identified as Mrs. Ada, said she hoped to quickly complete building her house at Ikorodu so that she could quickly move out of the area.
She said, 'When there are many brothels in an area, there are bound to be lots of unholy activities. I am personally appalled at the situation. I have been complaining to my landlord, but when you are not the owner of a building, what can you do? The man gave out some rooms to prostitutes, which is not good.
'When you are thinking of economic gain, you should also be thinking about people. How can kids be seeing prostitutes in skimpy clothes carrying men into the building and they will not be sociologically affected?
'I have been praying to God now that He should help my husband and I to quickly finish building our house in Ikorodu. There, no one will force any morally bankrupt tenant on us. Money is not everything. I don't know why landlords are not thinking about children's safety.'
Saturday PUNCH spoke with one of the landlords in the area, whose building houses some of the prostitutes. He, however, asked not to be named.
'This is strictly business. Why should I care whether you have a child or not? Should I be asking people what sort of occupation they are in before I give them accommodation?' he asked.
He said it was discriminatory for any resident to be complaining that he gave out rooms to sex workers.
He added, 'I build for people to rent and I don't think I should care what or who you are. There are other buildings in this area that anyone who is not comfortable can move into. Who are they to say I'm giving out rooms to prostitutes? Na them give me money?
'I have female children also and they have not turned to prostitutes because I gave out rooms to prostitutes. Some people don't know how to groom children, so they are always looking for who to put the blame on.'
A hotel manager, who also didn't want his name mentioned, said it was none of the residents' business to be complaining when they had an option of leaving the area.
He said, 'The complaint is strange to me, though not totally. The girls who are prostitutes and those who dance nude are not here. And even if they are, nobody can force any girl to do anything against her will. Business is different from what people want sometimes. If you are having patronage from something and making money and people are complaining, will you drop your business because of that?
'I don't think we should be sentimental here. How can prostitutes residing in a place constitute nuisance to the people? Are they not also human beings? I think people should be careful when judging others. It's not good.'
While the likes of Oladapo and Ada are complaining, some residents said they saw nothing wrong in the proliferation of brothels and prostitutes in the community.
'I don't think anything is wrong with this development. There are prostitutes everywhere in the world. It's not a big deal. When a man works from morning till evening, he should enjoy in the night,' a young dark-complexioned okada rider, perhaps in his 30s, told our correspondent.
Asked whether he patronises the brothels, he smiled, then turned away.
Also, a commercial driver at one of the parks, simply identified as Fidelis, said, 'If some people don't want brothels and hotels to be built in this area, they should move out. Who is tying down their legs?
'We all have the freedom to choose anything we want to do. No one has the right to force somebody to get along with their own belief system. We all have equal rights. Whether there are many brothels or not, I don't think it should concern anyone. If you know how to take care of your child, you know it. If you don't, you don't.'
A sociologist, Mrs. Gloria Bamidele, said through LinkedIn that parents who are raising children in the area would need to put in an extra effort in order to properly raise them.
She said an environment influences people's behaviour, especially of children.
She said, 'I can understand the concern of parents in the area. It's worth complaining about. Children 'live' the places they once lived in. When children live in the midst of touts all their lives, they're likely to become touts or act as one. Anything they are exposed to constantly reshapes their way of thinking and their lifestyle.
'Not all bad people are bad naturally, but because they probably have lived in the midst of bad people, they are now too. Even as an adult, an environment and the people you live with can change how you think and talk.
'So for these parents, I know why they are lamenting. It's quite unfortunate that nothing much would be done about it because they are not the owners of the houses. It's when you own a house that you can dictate what happens there.'
Truly, the neighbourhood in which one grows up has been identified as a major determinant of one's success as an adult, according to a recent research paper by Eric Chyn, an economist at the University of Michigan, the United States of America.
He wrote, 'The new insight is that much of our best evidence about the effects of growing up in a bad neighbourhood comes from examining children whose parents work particularly hard to protect them from the dangers around them. The negative effects of a bad neighbourhood may be much larger for low-income families with less motivated parents.
'It has long been clear that children from troubled neighbourhoods have worse outcomes as adults. But it has been much harder to disentangle whether these neighbourhoods cause the later disadvantage, or whether the hardships that lead families to bad neighbourhoods are the problem.'
Mrs. Bamidele suggested that the government should have a policy which regulates the siting of a building according to its purpose.
She added, 'Just for an example, a market shouldn't be sited along the road. Traders will block the road, causing traffic every time. The same way, I think brothels should be sited far away from places where there are many children.
'The clothes they wear, their steps, all these may affect the psychology of a child. It's like a 10-year-old watching an X-rated movie. It will shape their minds badly. No matter where they are sited, their businesses cannot be affected. Men will go anywhere to find pleasure.'
On July 20, 2010, a former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, signed a law — the Hotel Licensing Law — which aimed at regulating the operations of hotels, brothels and event centres in the state.
According to the law, operators of brothels, event centres and hotels must register with the state government, failure of which would attract a two-year jail term or a fine of N500,000.
Prior to the development, in 2007, the police had accused prostitutes in brothels of harbouring criminals, with policemen, commercial drivers and youngsters as top patrons.
As of that time, the Programme Coordinator of Health Awareness and Gender Advocacy Initiative (a non-governmental organisation), Mr. Azeez Aladeyelu, said there were about 93 brothels in Lagos.
He, however, raised the alarm that the spate at which they were increasing could result in an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the state.
He said the government could only reduce prostitution by providing more jobs for the youths. - Punch.