The place is a ‘dance bar’, situated strategically as you drive into Calabar, Cross River State. Outside, cars are parked and a horde of men hang around the several roadside bars to cool off. Inside, neon lights flicker as homeboy, Nyanya’s “Kukere” blars from giant speakers placed at three points in the place. The sitting arrangement is scattered, patrons sit as it pleases them but make pathways in between for easy access to tables. There is a thick air of cigarette smoke, the stench of sweaty bodies and the aroma of cheap perfumes. On offer is a feast of nude madness displayed by the girls at the centre of the old trade booming here. .
The girls, younger than 20, (40 of them can be counted), walk around like buzzing flies, skimpily dressed and soliciting from among a steady stream of patrons, men aged mostly between 19 to 30, and a handful of others above 30. At the end of the air tight hall is a coridoor, pottered by a man in a red shirt with huge chest muscles . The dimly lit coridoor leads to rooms where sex is served, for a price.
As we enter and take our seat, our source tells us that this place “was just a drinking bar until the owner died and his three sons inherited the place and turned it around”. Calitown.com pushes further and is told that, “their father just had a few rooms for ‘short time’, but these boys have taken this whole thing to another level”. We sought to know what “another level” is and soon enough our jaws drop at what we hear.
“This place has three compartments”, our source begins, and “the three brothers own each. One part of this place owned by one of the brothers, deals drugs; cocaine, heroine, marijuana, just name it”. It is a revelation that is a head spinner, considering that from where we sit, we can see a police patrol truck stationed outside, just a touchable distance from where the drugs are purportedly sold. We draw our source’s attention to the fact that this bit of information is hard to believe and the retortion is simple, “…forget the police truck, they have been settled”. ‘Settlement’ here means money has exchanged hands and the cops are looking the other way. So it doesn’t look too obvious what our mission is, we pause the questions, grab a few bottles of beer and engage some of the girls who have been consistently ‘hawking’ their ‘wares’ around our table.
“How far babe?”, and true to type, one walks up to our table, sits down without being told and we excuse it. She is slim, has long darting eyelashes that flicker like they are automated. Her lipstick is overdone while her briefs are worn to expose the misreable young strands of hair making their journey from her inners, up. She wants a big stout and you just wonder if the bottle of stout is not bigger than her. “It will be difficult to get information from her”, our source whispers to us and it is the key to play within limits so we are not exposed. As the big stout arrives, the first shot is fired, “babe how much you go collect?”. She grabs her bottle, takes two quick gulps and tells us, “na one thousand naira for my room and ten thousand if we dey comot here”. Later, we learn from our source that the ten thousand naira fee has attached, several other internal charges. If we pay her the ten thousand, we are told, she will take out a percentage for her ‘guide’ in the trade; that one person, man or woman who has ensured that this girl before us, has journeyed from wherever to come to Calabar and indulge in a profession that is unarguably the oldest in the world. She will also pay the ‘union fee’ for “outside work” because since she is going out, the ‘union, may be unable to ascertain how much she makes, the reason they demand for an upfront payment.
Calitown.com investigations show that on the average, the close to 200 girls in this place are charged N1,500 per day by the owners and like our source said, “it doesn’t matter whether the girls have a client or not”. If you calculate 1,500 times 200 and again by 31 days, you will agree that this is a multi-million naira business. But just so you may know, Calabar’s Flour Mill junction is not all about flour, something else goes down.
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