As the DJ carefully dishes out mostly Nigerian hit songs, female dancers enchant guests with suggestive steps. There are few, if any, empty seats around. Those uncomfortable with the choking air, peppered by burning cigarettes, carouse outside.
It is Chris Garden, a popular commercial sex spot in Abuja, where women of sizes, ages and shapes compete for attention. Provocative in their outfits and weird makeup, the ladies of the night show the stuff they are made of, and would do the unthinkable to woo a man.
“Bros feel bobby wey still stand, bobby wey never fall,” one quipped in pidgin English on a recent evening, summoning a prospective customer to have a feel of her bosom.
Chris Garden is a drinking shop, and also arguably one of the biggest – and perhaps oldest – sex centres in Abuja. Located in Jabi district, it is a prostitute’s haven; a place where men and women converge to exchange sex and money.
A tour of Abuja nightlife zones shows just how lucrative commercial sex can be in a nation’s capital, and how crooked pimps make a fortune trafficking mostly poor girls from far-flung states to sell sex in Abuja.
Announced efforts to check sex trade in Abuja have changed little, if any. In 2011, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, said it had launched a “total war” on prostitution and would cleanse the city of sex business. Working with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board and nongovernmental organisations such as Society Against Prostitution and Child Labor in Nigeria, law enforcement personnel identified, arrested sex workers and worked on rehabilitating them.
The government set up two camps in Lugbe and Bwari areas of the federal capital, and recorded early success. Girls at the centres acquired tailoring and hair dressing skills and more, and received grants to start small businesses. Soon, allegations of mismanagement of funds damaged the initiative and the girls promptly returned to the streets.
In the last few years, Abuja has seen a surge in the number of street walkers. From highbrow areas like Maitama and Wuse 2 to the suburbs of Lugbe, Kubwa, Jabi and Utako, women on street kerbs make passes at men as darkness covers. The more daring ones flag down vehicles.
The social media has also come in handy for sex workers and pimps in the city. A popular platform is Badoo. On it, hustlers post semi-nude pictures with captions like “If u want to see more, call or text me on the number displayed”.
Despite its tinge of trafficking, the Abuja sex industry knows no regulation. While most girls operate from the streets, others are ferried in from other states and are handed rooms to operate from. The girls pay weekly rental fees to their pimping landlords.
At Chris Garden, business comes in full swing from 10pm every day. The “company” started as Akata, with each of its rooms housing seven girls, workers there told this newspaper.
As money came, Akata expanded to Chris Garden, with three more brothels elsewhere in the town, each with bars, football viewing centre and allied facilities. More girls arrived town convinced they were travelling to seek better opportunities.
A staffer said with 65 rooms in all, and each girl repaying N15, 000 weekly, Chris Garden makes about N4 million monthly.
Sex is not exactly cheap there. Hookers at the so-called garden peg their asking price between N5, 000 and N10, 000 for an all-night, and charge N2, 000 for a quickie. It is the bargaining power that matters, after all. But what the girls don’t tolerate is time-wasting, for as the night winds down, prices crash.
One lady who agreed to speak said she opted for the trade to support family members back home. “Bros na condition, I get two pikin for village, I dey feed and train for school with this job,” she said in pidgin. She explained how they alternate between the four brothels as consistent customers ask for new faces.
Despite its popularity, Chris garden competes against other call houses in Abuja. Capitol Hills also serves night crawlers. There, waiters also work as hookers and a catalogue of call girls is made available for customers to choose their picks.
At yet another, Gidan Karuwe, the first rule is for callers to speak Hausa. Gidan Karuwe is regarded as an amateur call house because of its “cheap” girls. Most do not speak English, reason clients must be fluent in the language.
There, girls aged between 14 and 20, serenade on a stage to the delight of the lustful audience. The condition for picking a girl home is paying as low as N400 for her to leave the stage.