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Call girls making our homes unsafe – Utako Chief

Every evening, from around 7pm, Cynthia, a 17 year-old girl, strolls along the Augustus Aikhomu Way, which leads to a Gbagyi settlement in Utako, Abuja.

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She hangs around popular drinking places and gardens, not because she seriously wants to drink anything, but because she is after something else.

Cynthia is not alone in her search. She has a cluster of friends with whom she shares a room at the nearby Utako Village, and from there, they move out every evening to solicit for male customers at gardens or along the streets.  

The community, a sprawling urban slum, has escaped several demolition exercises, and some of the residents are not amused with the presence of the girls, some of whom are known to be students of higher institutions of learning from within and outside Abuja, while some are full time call girls.

Some use their rooms as meeting points while others go to clubs, hotels, gardens and other places in the city.

Cynthia says that’s not her real name, but an adopted one for “hustling”. Another name she uses is Joy. She says she dropped out of secondary school when her father died and things got tough for her, her mother and her 14 year-old brother and 12 year-old sister. She once visited a female friend in Abuja and realised she could use her body to get at least, some of her needs. Her friend told her she was “working” in the city and had invited her for a brief visit which later turned permanent, she says.

The relatively quiet Utako community  comes alive from about 7pm daily, with many cars parked along the Augustus Aikhomu Way and adjoining streets, forcing motorists to use only one lane as ‘customers’ pry on the girls at the spots, ever busy with beer drinkers and  live entertainment. Residents however say the girls attract criminals, especially at nights, and this is giving them a lot of discomfort.

The community head, Alhaji Abdullahi Isah, says he had written several petitions to the FCT Commissioner of Police and complained during security meetings when the “nuisance” seemed unabated.

Alhaji Isah’s representative, his secretary, Danjuma Dani Adabi, says the community would not spare any  opportunity to tell the world about the activities of the girls.

“We are not happy with activities of the girls and that is why our chief cries out to the commissioner of police,” he says.

He says the girls reside within the community and are always on the streets, which he says is “unfair”.

“We can’t be living with such girls when we have children.  Decent residents cannot continue to live in a community where girls dress half naked on the streets, selling their body. Is it everybody that is interested in them?” he says.

But Chika Nwankwo, a nearby shop owner, does not agree with the community head.

He sees nothing wrong with the girls’ stay in the community, as long as they themselves are not criminals but are only struggling to find a way to exist. He describes the girls as his good customers, adding that the chief was wrong to raise “unnecessary” concerns about their presence.

The chief’s representative however argues: “We are living in a society where our children are growing and when they come across scantily dressed girls all the time, it means we are in danger.”

The danger, Adabi says, is not just about the fate of the children but also about the safety of older residents.

A girl, who identifies herself as Rose, says the community leaders are only trying to ‘spoil her business.’ She says she is entitled to do whatever she likes with her body as long as she does not compromise others’ safety.

Rose was however silent when reminded about ugly instances around the girls, such as the recent death of one of them in the same community.

It was gathered that a guard with a security firm in Utako allegedly stabbed the girl to death with a knife in her room following an argument over payment for her services.

The police traced and arrested the suspect through a SIM card he left behind after fleeing the scene, and issues like that fuel the chief’s fears on the girls’ activities.

The secretary, who is also the Dan Masani of Utako, says community leaders do not want such acts to continue but are hapless since the girls are “well connected” and any attempt to eject them brings more trouble for residents. 

“They are well connected because of the type of men that patronise them-some are highly placed men, when you try to talk to them, they would tell you they are well connected, that is why we are crying for help,” he says.

Adabi expresses hope that help will come from the authorities before things get worse.

“Their culture could affect ours, we are Gbagyi people and are well respected,” he says.

He adds that the girls had abused the simplicity of the natives through  illicit behaviours.

“A woman should not go on the streets almost naked and we allow our children to see it like that so we are crying to the authorities and the police to talk to their officers in our vicinity to check this,” he says.

He says their activities had also led to a surge in criminal activities because robbers, who also patronise them, are difficult to identify.

He says in most cases, the robbers ‘survey’ the area while patronizing them, and “Before you know it, they would start breaking rooms and entering houses while we thought they came for the women not knowing they had ulterior motives.”

“You know the girls are for the general public, once you can pay them, you can have them. They don’t care if you are good or bad,” he says.

The chief’s secretary says even if the girls would remain there, they should try to live well and dress decently so that anybody that approaches them would also treat them with respect.

 He says most of the girls disguise as students of tertiary institutions while trying to secure accommodation. “Before you know it, they would invite their friends and start something else,” he says.

 “We don’t want our community to be run by harlots and the authorities and security agencies should help us,” he says.

He says the chief has set up a committee to screen prospective tenants in the community, and as a precaution, owners of drinking joints and guest houses have strategized  plans to move off the girls.

Among the areas notorious for their activities is the fence to an estate near the community. The girls do not hide their identities, and are well known to residents.

A resident known as Arnold says the presence of the girls had also led to an increase in accommodation cost.

“They would take a room but would quickly convert it to a self-contained apartment and take in more than four other girls,” he says.

Arnold says activities of the girls need to be checked.  Umimad John, another resident, shares the same view: “The younger ones could learn bad things from them.”

The manager of Hide Out, a popular guest house in the community, Tony Julius, says the girls are not allowed to lodge there, except if brought in by a male customer.

He says the measure became necessary to avoid issues associated with the girls. Despite the seemingly concerted effort which also involves vigilante groups, the population of the girls continue to increase daily. It is going beyond the capacity of the community leaders, Adabi says.

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