Calabar, Cross River State capital, is famous as the home of bevy and succulent women. Their welcoming disposition gives the city a warm and alluring ambience to many a visitor to the city.
The bulk of these women are girls from tertiary educational institutions in the city. Teenage secondary school girls along with their city colleagues who are also attractive make the population of women in the city burst at the seam. To keep body and soul together, many of them resort to “hustling”, a nomenclature for part-time prostitution prevalent in the city.
These ‘hustlers’ operate from their hostels and homes during nocturnal hours. They roam the streets, especially around places with active night life like Atekong Drive, Marian Road, Effanga Mkpa Street, Edabor Street,Third Avenue, Second Avenue and highbrow eateries where people, particularly visitors, congregate at night and can afford to pick them up for a fee to satisfy their sexual appetite.
There are, however, indications that the activities of these ‘hustlers’ are threatened by girls from Cameroon and Niger Republic who, recently, descended on Calabar and are systematically offering “better services” at cheaper fees to teeming clients. These dark skinned new entrants, aged between 20 and 25 years, seem poised to take over the trade and the local girls do not seem to be finding it funny.
These Cameroonian and Nigerien girls, apart from being classy like some of the Calabar tertiary education institution girls, are available (night and day), which gives them the edge as they give clients the opportunity to take a shot at them whenever they want it unlike the local ‘hustlers’ who are available mostly at night.
Unyime, a young man, who operates an ice cream spot in front of a famous fast food spot along Atekong Drive/Marian Road , told Sunday Vanguard that the girls are sex machines who can do anything anywhere because they have an “I don’t care attitude”. Sunday Vanguard investigation revealed that, unlike the local ‘hustlers’ who are predominantly students who come out mostly at night and position themselves along strategic parts of the city ostensibly for fear of being recognised by colleagues or neighbours, these Cameroon and Niger girls are braggadocios and walk about boldly around the city in the day and traverse popular night clubs, fast food and beer joints to solicit for patronage. They take residence in cheap hotels with fees ranging between N2,000 and 3,000 daily. So, clients, at any time of the day, don’t have to face the headache of looking for joints where to pay for ‘short rest’. They can simply join the girls right in their rented rooms where the cost is built into her charges.
“These girls are everywhere in the city and they are more or less sex machines as men sometimes wait for their turns; this is the first time I am seeing a man wait in his car or sit at the bar and wait for the person inside to come out before going in to do the same thing the other person just did in the same place”, Christian Edah, a bar attendant in one of the hotels told Sunday Vanguard.
He said some of the girls take between 10 and 15 men a day and still look fresh and clean. “Some of our girls who are students and come here to hustle, sometimes in the night, squabble with guests because the man’s libido is too high for them and normally abandon the (Camerounian and Nigerian) to stay the remaining part of the night at the open bar, but these man girls hardly complain and they are making some cool bucks”.
When our reporter interacted with one of them, who gave her name as Ethel from Mamfe in southern part of Cameroon and speaks adulterated French and pidgin English, said business brought her to Calabar and, as such, she has no time for frivolities like complaining when a customer wants more if he can pay additional money. “Each shot is N2,000 or N1,500 and, so long as he pays additional money, I have no issues with him”, she said in French accented pidgin English.
She said her day starts at 9:00 am where she takes her bath and then heads to one of the eateries for breakfast. Thereafter, if she gets a call from any of her customers, she invites him over and business begins. At 1 pm, she goes to a local canteen to eat a launch of eba or rice with pepper soup and then return to the hotel for a drink with colleagues and intermittently goes to her room to service clients. “I don’t go out to hunt for men, they know where to find me or I call them on phone”, she stated.
A staff of one of the hotels where these girls are lodged said the love for variety by Nigerian men is what is driving them to patronise the girls, otherwise there is nothing special about them. “Most Nigerian men like to show that they have done it with somebody from outside the country; otherwise our girls are okay and better than them”, he said.
Speaking on the issue, Mr Jude Ngaji, the Cross River State Security, as Adviser, said prostitution is morally wrong and encourages criminal activity and such, the state government will do everything to stop the practice. “Morally, prostitution is what you find all over the world. It must be decently done and make sure that don’t constitute security issue. My concern is that, let criminals not take advantage of these girls. I am not going to determine the number of visitors to these sex workers but my major concern is that once these sex workers become security issue we would stop them”, Ngaji said.