- Say we’re starving
By EMEKA EJERE
Rita Ambrose (not real name), a Lagos sex worker, is not finding life easy at the moment. Her ordeal started with the declaration of a 14- day lockdown in Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja in a bid to check the spread of the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It got even worse when the lockdown was extended by another 14 days.
Rita, 32, among 62 other girls, operates at an unnamed motel located in Ikeja area of Lagos where she makes a living by sleeping with men in exchange for money. Unfortunately, that business is no longer thriving at least, for now, no thanks to the growing fear about the COVID-19 and social distancing as one of the precautionary measures.
Rita told Wazobia FM, in an interview monitored by our Correspondent, that the owner of the hospitality outfit had temporarily shut down the business following the lockdown and asked all the ‘escorts’ to go and come back when normalcy returns. Many of the girls left, leaving 23 of them, including Rita behind.
Rita would have loved to leave as well but for fear of uncertainties about her new destination. But that would not have deterred her had she known the magnitude of the hardship that was going to accompany the movement restrictions.
She revealed that on a normal business day, she makes between N5, 000 and N10, 000 depending on how ‘good’ the day is. But the story has changed these days. Both the fun providers (the prostitutes) and potential clients are scared.
Rita said customers are no longer coming because everybody is afraid of contracting and dying of Coronavirus. She said although she is badly broken, she is not ready to render her service should a client decide to be defiant.
What Rita and her colleagues now do is to drink, smoke just to while away the time while waiting for the relaxation of the lockdown to resume their business. The fact that even some boys who fry akara (bean cake) opposite the motel are no longer on hand makes life even more difficult for them as they now have to walk a distance in search of what to eat.
They have also temporarily lost their prayer life to the lockdown. A pastor who used to come and conduct morning devotion with them every Tuesday where all of them pray, sing and read the bible no longer does. However, he is expected to resume when normalcy returns.
Rita prayed that God should help everybody to survive the tough time and pleaded to more privileged members of the society to give a helping hand to the suffering masses. She believes nobody would take to her kind of business under normal circumstances.
“We are just indoors since the government ordered the lockdown. So they’ve locked our place (the motel). So we’re just here doing nothing, we have nothing to do. Even to eat now is a big problem.
“We’re about 63 girls here but many have gone due to the lockdown, remaining 28 of us here. The owner of the place has locked it up and asked us to go and come back after the lockdown.
“Under normal condition, one can make up to N10, 000 in a day. Some days you can make like N5, 000. But if it is a very good day, you can make over N10, 000. It all depends on how good the day is. But the way things are now, nothing is happening. No client is coming.
“We’re just here doing nothing. In the morning everybody just wakes up and sits down. Those who like to drink, they drink…those who like to smoke, smoke. Those who want to go and look for food to eat, they do so.
“Customers are no longer coming. Everybody is afraid of the disease. And we in this business are even more scared of the virus. Should any customer come now despite what is going on, we’ll just chase the person away. Of course, they’re not even coming. But if the government relaxes the restriction, we’ll go back to our business.
“Since morning, (it was around 1 pm), I’ve not eaten anything. The boys who fry akara (bean cake) in front of this place have been chased away by soldiers. And it is that akara and pap that I like to take in the morning.
“We normally do morning devotion here every Tuesday – between 8 a.m and 10 a.m, when we pray, sing and read the bible. There’s a pastor who normally comes to conduct it. But since they prohibited the gathering of people, he stopped coming. He will resume when everything gets normal.
“I pray that God should help everybody. Anybody who has help to offer the masses like us should please do. Nobody would take to this kind of business under normal circumstances.”
Unlike Rita and her friends, who claim not to be available for fear of contracting Coronavirus, Felicia, 25, represents another group of sex vendors whose only problem with the lockdown is the resultant sharp decline in the demand for their services.
But like them, she cannot function freely within Allen Avenue – her operational axis, as that would amount to a violation of the lockdown order and possible arrest by security operatives. Felicia, who is badly broke, is desperately in need of patronage which is not forthcoming these days.
She has tried to slash her fee from N5, 000 to N3, 000 or even less. She has also adopted the method of sending her old customer’s erotic photos and text messages to invite them. But the more she tries, the more it dawns on her that it is indeed a tough time for her industry.
“Coronavirus is not my problem, after all, something must kill a man”, she told BusinessHallmark in a telephone conversation. The real problem is this lockdown that is making people not to move freely. I’ve even decided to reduce my price to N3, 000 or even less from N3, 000.
“I’m also sending sexy pictures and text messages to some clients to seduce them, yet they’re not calling unlike before when my line used to be a hotline.
Felicia believes it is better to contract the COVID-19 than starve to death since there are chances of her recovering from the disease.
“It is better to contract Coronavirus than die of hunger. After all, some people are recovering from the disease. I know God will not allow me to contract it, but who says I cannot recover if I contract it, she queried?