Self-imposed Slavery in Red Light Zones of Kano

By Abdulmumin Murtala, Kano

Delu (not real name) had attempted engaging in trafficking to Europe but could only make it to Tripoli and back to Nigeria. She is a light complexioned slim and average height lady with not just a pretty face but a beautiful statue. No one would expect such a young lady would engage in the red light trade but fate has dumped her where she might be living an insecure life.

I met Delu at a road side shop at night. She was there to buy cigarette. The shop owner had not enough change too give me and I asked him to add a bottle of coke for her on my bill to make up my change. She thanked me for the gesture and seeing that I had enough time to get home I decided to engage her in a talk.

This shop was located on the same street along which were five brothels and several other hotels. The place is always noisy and crowded with young ladies walking up and down the street others were seated in front of some shops and others in beer parlors. Some of these young girls were pregnant and some were carrying babies in their hands. One of them came and dropped her baby in front of Delu telling her that she was coming in a while.

Definitely the place is a place for all types of persons, not excluding criminals who come to spend time with the young ladies.

In one of the brothels along that street in Sabon Gari Quarters of Kano metropolis, like every other young lady, Delu has a permanent room which is big enough to carry her bed and other belongings with a cubicle of a bathroom carved inside. Her friend Sala (not real name) is not as lucky to have a room that is tiled as Delu’s.

Delu told me that there were others who were staying there and are being catered for by their boyfriends. Their boyfriends only come over at night to while away time with them. If they dare engage in any other relationship with other men, such boyfriends beat the hell out of them. They pay for all their bills and reserve them for themselves alone.

Dressed in tight clothes that displayed her shape with a cigarette in her fingers puffing out smoke from her painted lips, though Hausa/Fulani, she spoke pidgin English which she had collected from the streets since she left her parents because she had never been in the four walls of a school before.

She was not comfortable to say what really pushed her away from her parents as she revealed her ordeal. But it was clear that she was forced into marriage by her father with a man she vowed never to marry.

Delu explained that her friend Sala was better off than her because she was just there for the passion. Her parents have sent her to study at the Federal College of Education in Kano but she was there without their knowledge engaging in the age old trade and goes back home whenever there was a break or a holiday.

Another young lady approached us carrying a polythene bag loaded with all sorts of drugs and they exchanged pleasantries with Delu as she passed by. Delu said the lady’s name is Hajiya Mami (not real name) and she is a dealer of all kinds of drugs one would want to buy. She is rich and she has some boys that help her retail her commodities in the red light zone. Curiously I asked whether the police were aware and she said they know her and some of them are her customers. But one interesting thing is that she doesn’t take anything.

Delu said she had stopped taking drugs but she still smokes because she is addicted. I asked if she realized that smoking is destroying her beauty and fast reducing her value in the trade she is engaged in as the color of her teeth have black stripes already signifying that she is a chain smoker. She agreed saying she wants to stop.

I asked how she was staying in the brothel and she explained that she pays N1,500:00 every day and whenever she could not pay and it accumulates more than necessary the room is locked and she is forced to look for where to sleep. Her belongings are subsequently taken away until she is able to pay.

I enquired what she does when she is not able to get the money to pay and she says even if she could not get enough money they always excused her because she never fails to refund and she commands respect with the owner of the brothel because is not every day that they make enough to eat and buy some domestic needs and pay for the room as well.

She explained that the police patrol in the area usually come around to arrest their customers randomly and they are forced to pay N,1000:00 on arrest or N1,500:00 when one is taken to the station or N5,000:00 if he allows himself to spend the night at the station. “They even arrest us sometimes, though I don’t know why and we have to make the payments” she explained.

I reminded her that this is a Shari’ah state and she agreed but insisted that it is in policy but practically there isn’t any Sharia. She said there were cases of HIZBA (the Shari’ah enforcement agents) men who get them arrested from time to time. Whenever they take them to their offices they preach to them and make efforts to rehabilitate them and that is all they get released and they come back home. More so, she explained that some of them also engage in the bad deeds with us.

I asked whether she was thinking of her future and she said yes and one day she hopes to go back to her mother because her mother had always prayed for her. She hoped to start some business and move away from the red lights for a new life.

I then encouraged her saying she should realize that she is fast depreciating in trade value and might not attract enough customers to sustain her in just a few years to come. I might be half a century old next year but a lady my age looks much older than me especially with my kind of stature. But is not the same with you as a lady, especially as you are engaged in this trade. I advised her to take her thought serious and make sure she follows it. She should also not forget the danger of contacting any form of disease and also the insecurity involved most especially with those criminals who abduct people and cut parts of their bodies for rituals.

I further explained that she should realize that she is now a slave working to put money together for the person hosting her in his brothel. She uses herself to raise N540,000:00 for him and she ends the year with nothing despite the dangers and insecurity.

I was amazed that she was remorse and was thanking me for caring for her that much. She never thought she would meet someone that would advise her as every person that approaches her only comes for his desires. I left her standing in front of the shop saying “I hope you will not be here when next I come to the shop”.

That was Delu but there is an influx of fresh girls going into the red light zone especially with the current recessions and difficult times.

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