“I enjoyed this corona period, it has helped increase my price, before I charged N6,000 for Till Day Break (TDB), but now through this app, I now charge N15,000 for TDB and N10,000 for short rest which is for an hour,” said Bella.
Bella is a sex worker who was referred to by her friend Cessa when this reporter wanted to talk to sex workers while researching how digital technology has helped shapen their business during the pandemic.
So the reporter engaged Bella in a conversation via WhatsApp.
She said, “I stay in Gwarinpa and I’m currently not available now for short rest, but for TDB, and we (will) have sex at least thrice and my charge is N20,000.”
The reporter also engaged some other sex workers in the course of this research.
The coronavirus effect
The coronavirus pandemic, with its first reported case in February, affected the country’s economy, as well as in other parts of the world, leading to the cancellation of events, flights, and virtually all activities that require gatherings.
Nigeria’s economy was faced with a huge collapse as it solely depends on oil exports with oil markets then on a downward trend as COVID-19 crippled demand. Fuel prices fell and recorded 18-year lows, trading at less than $22 per barrel and was expected to go lower.
The presidential order for a lockdown over a two-week period, effective from March 30 had more adverse effects on the economy of the country.
Most hotels that closed recorded huge losses, while staff were laid off during the period. Most business owners, especially small businesses that survive on daily sales, could no longer transact business due to the lockdown, which led to the closure of shops and businesses that do not provide essential services.
Nigeria’s small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment, according to a report by PWC. The impact of the coronavirus epidemic on small businesses led to low turnover and laying off of staff.
Whilst many of the SMEs are struggling to balance their books during the pandemic, sex workers in Nigeria have innovated around the situation with an increase in their service provision, through a digital platform known as the OLOSHO app.
The Olosho app is designed to help sex workers avoid police arrest and reduce the effect of coronavirus on their business. Nancy, a 23 years old resident of Kubwa, said, “if you want us to do short time, it (is) for N6,000 and we (will) have sex twice.”
Nancy continued “If you want us to do TDB, it’s N10,000 and we have sex twice. The first round will be when I cum and the second round will be early in the morning before I leave, and it has to be a doggy style. I don’t do missionary, I’m scared of contracting the coronavirus.”
Doggy style is when one partner is positioned behind the other and penetrates from behind using either a toy, penis, or finger.
Another sex worker is Genieve, whose name on the app is known as Eve. This reporter invited ‘Eve’ to an open area in Lugbe for the hookup.
Eve is a 300 level student of sociology at the University of Abuja.
“While I was in my second semester of 100 level, I was introduced to this business by a neighbour in my area in Kubwa.”
“I don’t like standing by the roadside, rather I do a referral and most times the conversation is pegged when it comes to price.
“They (customers) will price us N6,000 for the night and N3,000 for a short time, which I do at times when I don’t have lectures in school.”
She continued, “Most of the time, when I am observing my menstrual cycle and I need money, I will demand N2,000 to give them a hand job or blow job.”
“When federal government asked all schools and hotels to shut down because of the virus in March, I was introduced to the app in May and my friend told me the price has increased, because it is now a home service.”
“I registered on the app and I paid to become a premium member; being a premium member gives you access to only verified users,” she explained
Eve continued, “In June, I got a minimum of three customers for a short time and at least one for till daybreak, daily.”
“For me, I don’t want the government to ask hotels and brothels to open yet, because they will spoil our market,” she said.
More sex, more money
Jane, another sex worker that resides in the Ikoyi area of Lagos, said that two rounds of sex for short time is N5,000 and she will spend three hours. She revealed this in a phone conversation.
“If you want to do short time, it’s N5,000, aside my transport fare, and we can only have sex twice. But if you want more sex, like four rounds and above, you have to pay N10,000.”
“But if you want till daybreak, I will use tramadol and you will pay N15,000, aside transport, and that is unlimited sex till morning.”
She continued, “if you want us to have raw sex, you will pay triple of the price either for short rest or till daybreak.”
Tinu, who resides in Wuse Zone 4, Abuja, has a similar price list.
“Till daybreak is N20,000 with just two rounds of sex, but if you want more than two rounds, it’s N40,000,” she said.
How the Olosho app works
The app is available on Google’s Play Store, and after downloading, the prospective user has to register with an email.
After registration, the user has an option to upload pictures and mobile phone number, then the user would then be required to choose the state of residence.
After that, the user can start chatting on the platform.
The user can also upgrade to become a premium user; N500 for a month, N1,500 for three months, N2,500 for six months, and N5,000 for lifetime access.
According to Similarweb, a website that analyses the performance of applications using an algorithm, the Olosho app is rated number four in Nigeria, as at Thursday, October 1, 2020.
Aside from chatting with the “client” on the app, the user can drop details on his/her status for hookups and the available lady would contact the person.
The sex workers look for these clients on and off the app, using connections and referrals. They can familiarise themselves with the potential client’s routine, aiming to eventually manufacture an encounter.
Prostitution in Nigeria
Prostitution in Nigeria still remains illegal in all states in the northern region of the country that practices the Islamic penal code.
In southern Nigeria, the activities of pimps or madams, underage prostitution, and the operation or ownership of brothels are penalised under sections 223, 224, and 225 of the Nigerian Criminal Code.
Though the Nigerian law does not legalise commercial sex work, its position is vague on the legality of such work if performed by an independent individual who operates on his or her own accord.
UNAIDS had in 2017 reported that Nigeria has a total of 103,506 sex workers.