By Adepoju Paul Olusegun
I remember my first night in Owerri as an undergraduate student of the state-owned university. It was very late in the evening when I alighted at the Wetheral junction. After settling down, I decided to explore my immediate environment but the mini-crowd that gathered at the old Garden Park attracted my attention more than any other place along the stretched axis. At the not-well-lit arena, I saw the smallest yet most diverse market I’ve ever been to. Everything was on sale – food, movies, clothes, electronic accessories… just name it, all within a space of less than twenty meters. But the section that enjoyed more patronization happened to be the tattered makeshift tents that were surrounded by skimpily dressed ladies and guys (including men) who patronized the small sex market to satisfy their libidos. Without government’s interference except episodic police raids, the old Garden Park Prostitution Center was a worthy business enterprise that created jobs for single ladies, and sexual satisfaction for those who couldn’t practice abstain.
But that was then, since the Ohakim administration decided to build the state’s stock exchange at the same location that guys and gals were digging it. During the series of inquiries that led to the demolition of the makeshift sex rooms, no customer was consulted and none of the prostitutes could openly speak against the government’s new project that forced them to relocate or quit business. The reason for their silence is the stigmatization that is often associated with commercial sex workers who come out openly although some of their accusers come to them secretly. And which mother would be happy and very proud to see her daughter on state TV speaking on behalf of the Imo prostitutes’ society? None I guess, although some of the parents have their share of the inguinal-generated tax-free income.
This is the fascinating conundrum that prostitution is associated with across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. According to a popular comedian, every man has at least a friend who patronizes prostitutes frequently but they are not proud of their addiction and will never speak for the ladies who satisfy their sexual urges at a bargained price.
Across Nigeria, there are popular sexual abodes and sex sanctuaries that unite the male ranks and files. The clientele of these cool spots range from the rich single guy who often asks for room services and happily married men that prefer hotel services, to secondary school boys who just want to lose their virginities. The surprisingly large numbers of these outlets further proves the indispensable contributions that the pleasure centers are making to national well being, and could make to the economy.
Since the nation is talking about diversifying its source of income from oil to agriculture, tourism and other sectors, prostitutes can also be compelled to contribute their own quota by paying as they earn, and customers can be made to pay sex taxes, just like VATs. And sexually generated funds could be used to fund government projects like road construction, health and other state developmental projects.
Apart from the funds that would accrue to governments’ coffers by the legalization of prostitution, it would be easier for public sex health actions to be implemented by agencies like NACA, and medical scientists like me will have the right legal channel when in need of prostitutes for medical researches. Also, donor agencies would have the right people to talk to when they want to give free drugs and condoms to commercial sex workers.
Legalizing prostitution can also help in the fight against rape since rapists will only have to raise some cash to give to professional prostitutes that are federally licensed to satisfy the sexual urges of Nigerians. This is one of the serious steps to take if those at the helm of affairs in the country really want to tackle this ravaging menace that is fast spreading across the nation and eating deep into our moral chores like a metastatic cancer.
Furthermore, just like the way that herbalists flaunt their NAFDAC registration numbers, license to be a prostitute would help a lot in tackling the age-long stigmatization and campaigns against prostitutes. It will present us as a civilized community that sees the prostitutes as an integral part of its highly varied but closely knitted demography. It is strong enough to gain the confidence of the prostitutes who might now decide to come on air later in the future to ask for minimum wages and incorporation into the NLC since they are also workers – sex workers.
Believe it or not, prostitution will be redefined if the proposed bill is passed, so will every strand of morality Nigeria still musters. It is quite unfortunate that various women groups in Nigeria are still silent over the matter. Even the first lady whose office and pet project are on national TV promoting peace and literally fighting suicide bombers is yet to give an official position on the prostitution legislative proposition. It either shows that these feminine societies are unperturbed or are not getting their priorities right.
Nigerian women leaders are not the only ones with priority issues, even the proponents of the controversial law have to be reexamined. The timing of the bill is a subject of serious interest. At a time that the nation ranks high on the global security threat list and many are dying as a result of Boko Haram’s brainwashed suicide bombers, one wouldn’t have expected libido and inguinal explorations to attract the attention of the federal legislature like it currently does.
I’ve seen lots of debates on the floor of the National Assembly and it is worthy to note that honorable members of the house are more alert than ever. Even the I-concur-caucus wants to talk about the bill. Does it connote that members of the house have more to gain from the passage of the bill?
Hers has been one of the strong voices in the house. But like the first lady, Hon. Abike Dabiri is yet to make known are side of the unfolding waste of tax payers’ money and printer’s ink on prostitution.
If organogram is applied, solving the security puzzle should be the topmost issue on the floors of the legislative chambers. This should be followed by the ageless power crisis. The rising inflation rate should also be an issue of legislative concern in addition to ubiquitous unemployment, rising incidence of rape and how to tackle the highly condemned plan of the Goodluck Jonathan-led federal government to remove fuel subsidies. Without mincing words, the numerous matters of national urgency and their decision to even consider the prostitution bill make the National Assembly look like a big house that is filled with comic people, so funny that they are unable to fully grasp what Nigerian and Nigerians’ problems are.
Personally, I’m interested in knowing how the federal legislator ideated the bill. Was it after a professional prostitute gave an out-of-this-world service to a regular VIP customer? Or maybe he was courted and lobbied by the network of Nigerian prostitutes. If this is the case, then other professionals should seek legalization.
Since the national assembly now has time for such silly bills like this one, they can as well extend the legalization net to stealing. Since most of the thieves are unemployed, it should be wise in the eyes of the prostitution advocate to make some concessions for thieves.
It is quite unfortunate that a vital arm of the government is not taking the issue of governance serious by devoting much of their time to frivolities and non-pressing issues like legalization of prostitution, it further highlights the quality of leadership the nation is currently having. While unemployment and bad economy are ravaging on, and efforts ought to be how to better the lots of Nigerians, yet their representatives are busy talking prostitution.
Prostitution itself won’t be better practiced if it now has the seal of the federal government, and maybe a commission devoted to guiding the ancient profession. Visiting prostitutes, even in the Bible, is a secret thing that very few people do know about. We all have secrets hence the need for privacy. But we’ve been invading the privacy of some people since the bill got the attention of the National Assembly, and the earlier we wrap up this madness, the better for us all.
There are bombs going off up north, there are stronger security threats everywhere, quality of education here has been on steeply downward slope and with more youths graduating from schools unemployment rate is in scary proportions necessitating the need for the government to think fast and come up with ideas to transform this shameful unemployment status.
But so far, government at all levels are not coming up with brilliant ideas to tackle these and many other ridiculously Nigerian issues. They are doing what are good at – feeding fat while the citizens starve dry. This budding love for prostitutes clearly shows that democracy here is not yet the government of the people for the people and by the people since such government would get its priorities right and make the citizens more comfortable before tackling issues like illegal prostitutes. Without legalization, prostitutes and their customers across Nigeria are fairing better.
I remember my last visit to Kuramo beach at night. The prostitutes their have their own system of government and security officers are everywhere to ensure that customers are safe and satisfied with the quality of services rendered, and that the prostitutes are not duped by smart customers. The story is the same anywhere two or three people are gathered in Nigeria paying for sex. They have their own terms and everyone is happy. Why does this government want to interfere with this well oiled and aligned system?