Despite promulgation of laws and efforts to clampdown on prostitutes in the FCT they have simply refused to go away. Is the authority fighting a lost battle? KEHINDE OSASONA asks in this report.
In 2013 the FCTA launched war against prostitution following the promulgation of a law making it unlawful for anyone to engage in or patronise commercial sex workers.
Armed with Section 35, Sub Section 1 of the Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) Act of 1997, the FCTA authorities adopted catchy slogans like “Zero Tolerance To Prostitution” to aid the campaign.
As part of its operation, the task force stormed the streets, mostly at night to raid, identify prostitutes at work, and apprehend them in a bid to rehabilitate them as prescribed by its evacuation and rehabilitation programme.
While the AEPB was in charge of ridding the city of prostitutes, the Social Development Secretariat saw to their rehabilitation.
Not only that, there were also training and rehabilitation camps which were set up in Lugbe and Bwari areas of the FCT.
While the operation lasted, scores of suspected prostitutes were arrested, whisked into the Rehabilitation Centre in Sabon Lugbe, trained and at the end of the exercise, over 1,000 prostitutes graduated at the centre.
The FCTA also empowered them with financial assistance of N260,000, which was made available to them in three trenches, while monitoring and evaluation mechanisms were also put in place.
However, some years after, the trade still thrives with the commercial sex workers defying all known laws.
Before unveiling the initiative, Blueprint Weekend learnt from a victim, who identified herself as Pamela, that members of the taskforce had allegedly engaged in arbitrary arrests, harassment and rape.
The development according to Pamela made many of the commercial sex workers relocate to the suburbs to continue their outlawed trade away from the prying eyes of the law enforcement.
The Minister of the FCT, Bala Muhammed, however, reversed the initial mandate given to the board to rid Abuja streets of prostitutes following a verdict of an Abuja High Court that only the Police had the constitutional mandate to address the issue of prostitution.
While explaining the difficulties in eradicating the scourge, an Abuja resident Raphael Adejo attributed the incursion of prostitutes to economic hardship and arising from wide spread unemployment in the country.
When probed further, Adejo said, “Do you think they are gone? Go to all these suburbs and villages and you will see where they are plying their trades.
“They have changed style and mode of operation from hanging by the road side at red light districts, though some still do that till now, in places like Utako along the NAFSAT area, Lagos Street in Garki and even Wuse II.
“I can tell you that more than anything, social media has provided more profitable and safe haven for them to operate. The truth is; they are unstoppable and their activities will continue till God knows when.”
Technology to the rescue
Findings by Blueprint Weekend revealed that the advent of technology has made things easier for ladies of the night as they are called.
In recent times, the advent of social media has given rooms for use various platforms for match-making, pimping, booking appointments, showcasing their body without having to go to the street and incur the wrath of the law in the process.
Confirming the development, another Abuja resident Dan Akosine, who spoke with our Correspondent, wondered why the FCT administration has continued to trouble itself over activities of prostitutes rather than face their real job.
He said, “For me, I do not know why this administration won’t stop all this follow, follow, they are doing. I mean when will this their prostitute’s project go finish?
Akosine, who was accosted at Mosquito Garden in Darki-Biu area while having a drink, told this medium that he patronises prostitutes once in a while.
He explained that lately, he connects to his clients via Facebook, Instagram, Badoo and many other hook-up platforms.
“My brother, social media has made things easier. It’s just a matter of calling them (call girls) from my phone; negotiate with them and they will come in droves. Provided you have agreed on price before such a connection and they will come from wherever they are to meet you.
“Let me tell you again, the trend has changed and everyone is now involved. The so-called politicians and big guys in town also patronise them for different reasons and for different prices. The truth is they are all there on social media, or should I show you? Akosine, who was already showing our correspondent some of the Apps queried.
Continuing he said, “If you want blow job, sit-up, caress only and what have you, you will indicate so that she will know how to prepare for you.” Our correspondent’s tour of Abuja nightlife zones showed just how lucrative commercial sex could be; how young girls and boys make fortunes through pimps and sex trafficking in Abuja.
This is as some of the practitioners, better still victims, were also found to be rather young.
From the highbrow areas of Gwarimpa, Maitama, Asokoro, and Wuse II, to the suburbs of Gwagwalada, Kubwa, and Jabi and Utako, girls on walk ways make passes at men as darkness covers.
Our correspondent also sighted multitudes that lined up along kerbs which stretch from Utako-Arab Junction towards the Daily Trust Newspapers Headquarters, in skimpy attires hustling for clients.
One of the girls approached by our correspondent made his an offer to pay N10,000 if she was to spend the night with him, till day break like she described it.
However, the sex worker who turned down an offer of N4,000 form our correspondent eventually agreed to accept N7,000 or no deal.
At that point, an attempt by our correspondent to push the idea of ‘short time’ was rebuffed as the young girl angrily walked away, murmuring and lamenting.
What the constitution says
No particular part of the Constitution prohibits prostitution in Nigeria, however, Sections 223 of the Criminal Code states that: “Any person who procures a girl or woman who is under the age of eighteen years to have unlawful carnal connection with any other person or persons, either in Nigeria or elsewhere; or procures a woman or girl to become a common prostitute, either in Nigeria, or elsewhere;
“Or procures a woman or girl to leave Nigeria with intent that she may become an inmate of a brothel elsewhere;
“Or procures a woman or girl to leave her usual place of abode in Nigeria, with intent that she may, for the purposes of prostitution, become an inmate of a brothel, either in Nigeria or elsewhere; is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
“A person cannot be convicted of any of the offences defined in this section upon the uncorroborated testimony of one witness.”
The offender may be arrested without a warrant.
Similarly, Chapter 532 of the FCT Penal Code Act, Federal Capital of Abuja, 1990 criminalizes prostitution and solicitation of prostitutes.
The law states that: “An ‘Idle person’ shall include a common prostitute behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in a public place or persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution.
“The term vagabond shall include any male person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earning of a prostitute or in any public place solicits or importunes for immoral purposes; and
“Whoever is convicted as a vagabond shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to four hundred and fifty naira or both.”
Blueprint Weekend reports that effort to speak with FCTA on the issues, through the Spokesperson to the Minister of the FCT, was futile as at the time of going to Press.