News Update

Growing Menace of Child Prostitution in Anambra

Child prostitution is a problem in Anambra State. Many communities have brothels where underage girls serve sex for money, but the state government and security agencies are working to stem the tide, reports Ikeugonna Eleke.

Club Road is a popular street in Awka, as well as a red light district of the state capital. It is more popularly known as Abakiliki Street, and one thing that comes to mind upon its mention is illicit sex, drugs and other forms of lascivious lifestyles.

The place is not devoid of teenagers who pace the street, winking at men as they solicit patronage. But former Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, after the installation of streetlights on that stretch of road, cut the menace by half. Governor Soludo further dealt a blow on the business of sex hawkers by destroying shanties where adult and underage prostitutes offered quick sex to their patrons. Though sex hawkers have not disappeared in the area, they rather depend on men who can take them home; even though many have relocated to brothels within the surrounding communities, and, in most cases, teenage girls can be seen among them.

Happiness Guest House, located in Amawbia, a community within the state capital territory, is one of those places where underage girls offer sex. The facility said to be owned by a former chairman of the Awka Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Barr E.C.G. Okechukwu, is just one among many others within communities in the state.

Fides investigation revealed that while most of the teenage girls are brought into the business by more established and older prostitutes, some other innocent young girls are lured into the business through promises of job offers.

Mr CY (not real name), a resident of Awka, who confessed to previously being a habitual patron of prostitutes, while speaking on why underage prostitution is thriving, said: ‘The new trend of having brothels that have underage girls is because many men now prefer them, while classifying the older prostitutes as being over used, hence the belief that the younger girls are better. Some men prefer young girls.

They believe that such young girls provide greater sexual satisfaction and since they are not yet as wild as the established prostitutes, they charge less and constitute less problems to men, unlike the older prostitutes who may want to embarrass one or put one in trouble.

‘The older prostitutes also know that their patrons prefer them young, so some of those old prostitutes bring in young ones to serve them and make returns to them for a stated period of time, before they begin to work for themselves.

But sometimes, the owners of the facilities source the girls from interior villages, lure them to towns with the offer of jobs and end up forcing them into prostitution. The younger the girls in their joints, the more likely that patrons will visit them, and that is how they will also be selling drinks.

‘On the other hand, there is what I have heard people say; I don’t know if it has spiritual connotation, but some men believe that by sleeping with younger girls, they are renewing their blood and it makes them fresh. But one thing you must know is that the kind of men who patronize such places are touts, criminals and some old drunks. Go to Amansea (Awka North LGA), you will see a lot of them. Their patrons are mostly Fulani and Hausa boys who tend cattle at the cattle market and conductors of lorries and their drivers.’

The recent raid by operatives of the Anambra State Police Command, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Welfare on Happiness Guest House, revealed a lot too. During the raid, nine girls between the ages of 15 and 23 were rescued from the facility.

Three of the girls who were rescued from the brothel, who were only one week old on the job, narrated their ordeal, including how they were brought into the state. The girls who were of Ebonyi State origin, were taken from their various homes in Ezza and brought to Awka by two ladies named Chika and Ifeoma, with a promise to secure jobs for them, only to be forced into prostitution.

One of the girls (name withheld) said: ‘The women must have used charms on us. We yielded to all their requests by travelling with them all the way from Ebonyi State to Awka. Upon arrival at the brothel, our phones and other personal effects were seized, while we were forced to put on bikinis and handed over to a woman named Ezenwanyi who told us that we would only regain our freedom if we paid the sum of N150, 000 or we would serve her for one year by making daily returns.

‘We were mandated to remit the sum of N10, 000 to N15, 000 per night and on Sundays, they asked us to remit N40, 000. Sometimes, we slept with three or four men a night, and they only paid N1, 000 and above, and we used to have problems with Ezenwanyi because the amount we collected was not enough to pay the money she wanted.’

Speaking on how she was rescued, the girl said: ‘I collected a phone from a boy who came to the place and used it to call my parents and told them where I was and that before they could save us from here, they must come with police because they were many touts there that hindered us from leaving. I also told the boy that if my parents called back, he should help us direct them to the place.’

The owner of the brothel, Barrister Okechukwu, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Awka Branch, in Anambra State, was last week arraigned before an Awka Magistrate Court for running a brothel, using underage girls. He is being prosecuted on charges bordering on sexual related offences. He was arrested after a raid on Happiness Guest House where the girls were rescued. He was also accused of molesting the minors and also offering them to customers who patronize his brothel.

Happiness Guest House is not the only joint that uses underage girls to sell sex to patrons in Anambra. According to enquiries by Fides, several others abound in many interior villages, including Umunze, Orumba South Local Government Area, parts of Nnewi, Onitsha, Oba and other towns.

Another of such brothels in Oba, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, has also been busted. The brothel was busted by Oba youths after a resolve to rid their community of evil. The youths who organized themselves and stormed the brothel, paraded about eight girls within the ages of 13 and 20, who were kept in a squalid environment and made to offer sex to patrons.

Three of the girls said they were 18 years. While the girls were rescued from the brothel and set free, the owner of the brothel, a nursing mother of not more than 40 years of age, was also apprehended and mandated to stop using teenagers for sex business, or risk being banished. In a video which circulated on social media, the woman was seen clutching her one year old daughter closely, while the underage girls narrated how they were lured from villages around Anambra State by agents of the proprietor of the brothel.

The Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Welfare, Mrs Ify Obinabo, on hearing of the development, mobilized security men to the brothel to arrest the owner and take the girls for rehabilitation but her media aide, Mrs Chidinma Ikeanyionwu, revealed that upon arrival, they met a totally empty compound, while the proprietor had escaped.

Some respondents who spoke to Fides attributed the rampancy of teenage prostitution in society to the level of hardship in the country. ‘Many families cannot feed their children, so they lack the right to caution their female children. These young girls begin to see men who give them money just to fiddle with them.

Some later grow to enjoy what they do because they see it as free money, while also enjoying themselves and before long, it becomes easy to convince them to move into brothels and become full time prostitutes,’ a respondent, Mr Ejike Eze, said.

Meanwhile, the Anambra State Police Command has urged parents to make sure they take adequate care of their girl children. The Public Relations Officer of the Command, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, called on members of the public to reveal such other places to it to ensure prompt arrests, saying that experience had shown that criminal elements usually took refuge in such brothels too.

While treating a similar case involving a teenage girl who recently delivered a baby, abandoned it and disappeared, Mrs Obinabo also enjoined parents to give their girl child special attention. Obinabo who received the newborn from a medical doctor where it was abandoned, sought out the mother of the teenager and united them, while calling on parents not to totally abandon their children when they noticed they were pregnant, but to treat them with care.