By NBF News

Back in the 1980s and 90s, a street called Ayilara in Ojuelegba, the heart of Surulere, was popular and notorious for obvious reasons. It was an area dominated by prostitutes of various categories. It also served as a hideout for criminals.

This long stretch of street is divided into two. One half of Ayilara cuts from the Lawanson road and veers right, and comes out to Clegg Street and leads to the Barracks end of the Western Avenue. The other side is the red light district.

Right from Ayilara bus stop, one would be harassed by the sight of ladies of different shapes and sizes beckoning for attention and patronage. The entire street including the adjoining ones were usually lit with red bulbs with blaring sound of music especially lewd tunes. This side of the long street curves to the left to continue at the right, bursts out to Western Avenue bridge towards Ojuelegba, and ends directly opposite Abalti Barracks on Western Avenue.

A little walk to the other side is another empire of prostitution, probably where the business is now flourishing.

Top of the Ayilara madness was the harbouring of criminals that made the place to be regularly raided by the police, and with time, the place began to thin out as law enforcement agents made it practically uncomfortable for criminals to operate.

In the late 90s, Ayilara was totally transformed into what it is today. The hotels and motels have given way to residential and other business ventures.

Recently, when Saturday Sun visited the area in the night, it was like a ghost town. Due to the English premiership madness, people were in different restaurants and viewing centres watching the Premiership match. Even at that, it was curious enough to find at the entrance of the street, few call girls who were lurking in strategic directions and whispering to male passersby for patronage.

Saturday Sun discovered that, at the back of a two-storey building at the right hand side of the entrance to the street, there is a makeshift boy's quarter where these prostitutes operate on short-time basis. There is a particular fair and fat woman, probably a mentor in the trade, who the girls report to. They tip her N200 for a catch after which they hustle for another customer.

The street now has modern buildings, churches, restaurants and bars, pharmacy shops, business centres among others. Mr. Olusola Nejo who can be said to be the oldest goldsmith in the area confirmed that the area was notorious for nefarious activities before it was cleaned up by the combined efforts of the military and the police.

'I have been working here since 1980 and I can confidently tell you that Ayilara used to be a nice place to be, but because of the actions of some hoodlums in the area and the prostitutes, this place was branded evil. Although Fela's shrine was around Moshalashi area, this was where things happened. You see boys selling cocaine and Indian hemp in broad daylight without any care in the world. And they were even supported and protected by prostitutes. So with constant raid by both the police and the army, the area became too hot for them and as a result, they ran away. But today, it is one of the safest places in the whole of Surulere', Nejo said.

Also corroborating Nejo's story, a pensioner, Mr. Anthony Adejobi who is a landlord and has lived in the street since 1971, said that the street is just like any other one. Most of the hotels have been converted to churches and other worthwhile ventures. The prostitutes stay at the other side, but this place is safe. Contrary to what people believe about this place, it is now safe. In terms of safety, it is only God that can guard you. So don't let anybody deceive you. The era of bad boys and prostitutes is over. What we have here is a normal environment for habitation.'