Hello handsome. My name is Ella – Emmanuela. I’ll give you a memorable night. If you can’t afford an all night, we can have a ‘short time’ somewhere around. It’ll cost you much less. Just pay the security man there (pointing to a bank opposite) and it’s as good as done,” a call girl on Allen Avenue tells one of our correspondents.
A bank? Yes. By 4pm on any business day, the doors of banks in Lagos State, like in every other part of the country, are shut to customers. But by 10pm, many of these banks play host to another set of customers.
Saturday PUNCH investigation reveals that the numerous commercial sex workers who throng the Allen Avenue-Opebi and GRA Ikeja business districts in Lagos, make use of bank premises to service their customers.
The Allen Avenue and Opebi axis is known as a hub for commercial sex workers in Lagos mainland.
It is not strange to see scantily-dressed young women of all shapes and sizes parading both sides of the road at the Opebi Roundabout around 10pm every night.
As a man passes by in a car, some of them, with heavy make-up and brightly coloured glossy lips, will wave through the window, calling out to such prospective customer, with endearing words like “Hey gorgeous!” or “Hi handsome!”
Every night, this area is always a beehive of activities for these night workers and their patrons.
During a visit to a popular club in Opebi, where many of these commercial sex workers station themselves, Saturday PUNCH had a chat with a young man who confirmed that he had used the premises of a bank for ‘short time’ purpose.
Uche (not real name), 29, is a frequent patron of the Opebi club.
He tells Saturday PUNCH that no matter how tired he is after closing for the day in the insurance company where he works, he likes to visit the clubs in the area.
He says, “I was going home after visiting some clubs in Opebi one Friday night and I was bored. While driving through Allen, I saw a girl that caught my fancy and I stopped to talk to her. I knew I could not take her home. So, I asked where we could do a ‘short time’ and she pointed to a bank.
“I did not understand what she meant. There was an ATM at the front of the bank, so I thought she meant that I had to withdraw money and pay her first.
“But before I could say anything, she said I should go and talk to the security man at the bank and give him N500. She told me the guard would watch over my car as well. After we were done, I gave the girl N1,500. That was a funny time because we even broke the security man’s bench and had to leave in a hurry before he noticed.”
It was indeed a funny story. Saturday PUNCH decided to find out if the premises of some other banks in the area were being used this way. It turned out to be true.
Around 11 pm on a Friday, Saturday PUNCH correspondents posed as patrons of these sex workers.
At Allen Avenue, one of our correspondents signalled to a young woman who stood on the side of the road.
Saturday PUNCH observed that she she was putting on a silky top that was so short that it revealed her belly button. The shorts she wore was outrageously short as well.
She was Ella – Emmanuela. There was no doubt that that was not her real name. The young woman was very fair in complexion.
The discussion switched immediately to how much she wanted for her service.
Ella said, “I just came out and if I have to go home with any customer, I won’t collect less than N15,000 because that means I will be losing other customers. But we can use any of these places around for a ‘short time’.
“Yes, we use them as well. That will be just N2,500,” she said.
Pretending that she was too expensive, Ella was dismissed.
But one of our correspondents approached the guard who sat on a plastic chair in the front of a new generation bank in the area and asked if he could use the premises for a short time.
“No problem bros,” he said, without any hesitation.
Asked how much it will cost, the guard says N500.
“What will happen if another person comes and wants to do the same here?”
“The person will have to wait now. Unless you don’t mind them doing theirs while you are still there,” the young man said.
Saturday PUNCH visited another bank in the area with similar request.
It turned out that if the price was right, the security guard there too would be willing to ‘let out’ the bank premises for the short service.
“Why didn’t you use your car if you cannot pay N1,000? The security guard, who wore no uniform, said.
When told that the car would not be comfortable enough, he seemed to agree.
He said he will accept N500 but he won’t provide a bench.
At one of the banks on Allen Avenue, however, a guard told Saturday PUNCH that one of the employees of the bank is a regular patron of a club around the area and he could not risk being discovered.
The young man, who identified himself simply as Joseph, said the part of the bank that he could have allowed one of our correspondents to use was not properly concealed from prying eyes passing by on the road.
Saturday PUNCH also had another encounter with a commercial sex worker who said her name was Sade.
At first, Sade said the ‘short time’ would be done somewhere at Ikeja Under-bridge but when she realised that our correspondent did not like the idea, she suggested the premises of a bank.
“We could go to the bank over there. I would give you value for your money,” she says, trying as much as she can to lure our correspondent.
But another commercial sex worker who was nearby had eavesdropped on the conversation.
She walked up to our correspondent and introduced herself as Jennifer after Sade had left.
Jennifer magnanimously advises that going to secluded areas with commercial sex workers was trouble.
She told Saturday PUNCH that some girls connived with street boys to rob their clients before, during or after sex.
Some commercial sex workers are also said to be adept at picking their clients’ pockets.
Jennifer said, “It is a good thing you did not go with her. When you go to somewhere scanty, some of these girls have area boys as friends who protect them.
“What they do is lure men to a secluded place and these men rob them. Sometimes, while having sex, they also pick pockets. I don’t do that.”
Jenifer confirmed that the sex workers had sex with men in the premises of banks around Allen and Opebi.
She said she had taken her clients to bank premises before.
“But most times, it depends on the security guard. They make money from it. Some of the guards make much more than their salary in a week,” she said.
At about 10pm on Monday, our correspondents also visited Isaac John, a popular area for night clubbing in Ikeja GRA.
There, they met some commercial sex workers waiting for customers.
Thinking she had spotted a potential client, a young dark-skinned lady probably in her early 20s walked up to the car.
She introduced herself to one of our correspondents as Ronke. For the night, Ronke said she would accept N10,000. After much debate and when she realised it will be ‘short-time’, she said she would settle for N3,000.
The venue was to a newly acquired property by a bank opposite a fast food joint.
Ronke said, “If we were to go home, it would have been N10,000 but since it is short-time, I will take you somewhere but you will pay me N3,000.
“I can also perform orals, but if you don’t want that, I can collect N2,000 and the gateman will collect N500. I can ask him to collect N300. He would watch the gate for us.
“The place was just bought by a bank. We use the place well so I am sure the man will cooperate.”
Ronke is not so pleased when her ‘potential customer’ promised to call her later that night.
On the same street, Emem, a fair and busty commercial sex worker corroborated Ronke’s claims that the security man will take home at least N3,000 a night.
She stated that they pay him between N300 and N500.
“If you are close to them you go in free at times or at a cheaper rate,” she said.
Emem is not sure if the security men of the banks patronise the sex workers as she said none of them had sought her service before.
However, the activities of the commercial sex workers at the Allen Avenue-Opebi business district seem to be under a heavy police protection.
This is why the commercial sex workers operate without fear in the area.
Saturday PUNCH noticed, on three different nights, that at least three police patrol vans would stationed in the vicinity of the roundabout where the sex workers paraded regularly.
On Monday night alone, there were five police vans in the area.
A young woman, who once visited a club in the area, told our correspondent about how the policemen threatened her with arrest because they thought she was a prostitute who had come there to operate without approval.
The young woman, who pleaded anonymity, told Saturday PUNCH, “I was going to a club in the area with a friend on a Thursday night and just a few metres from where some prostitutes stood on the sides of the road, some policemen stopped us.
“They asked who I was and what kind of job I was doing. I told them I was a student but they said I was a prostitute and will arrest me. I was confused because there were so many prostitutes around there whom they did not arrest. But because I was not known there, they wanted to arrest me.
“We had to go and call one of the managers of the club to convince them I was not there as a prostitute but was there with my friend to relax.
“The club man (manager) who came to my rescue said all the girls around there are protected. But a new girl who comes there to operate will be arrested. Such girls will either bail themselves out with money or with sex.”
Saturday PUNCH notices that the policemen were obviously well-known to the sex workers because of the way they related with them.
Whenever a vehicle passed by, they shone their flashlights into it to see who its occupants were.
But the Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Damasus Ozoani, said policemen in places believed to be the hub of prostitution in Lagos were only doing their legal duty.
“Of course, prostitution is still illegal in the state. But how do you prove those ladies you see standing on the sides of the road at that time of the night are prostitutes?
“Gone are those days when you could arrest people merely for wandering in the night. Policemen conduct searches in areas like that when they have genuine reason to believe that some people who have criminal intent may come there to operate.
“Those same ladies you see have the same legal rights to be protected by the police as you and I have. Unless the ladies are caught in sexual acts in a public place, one cannot conclude that they are prostitutes.”
Ozoani said patrol was usually intensified in places like the Allen Avenue-Opebi business district at that time of the night because of the tendency of criminals to operate there.