By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
Strip bars are sprouting everywhere. It’s a cancerous phenomenon.A friend saw the house next door go up for sale. Then the buyer, the new owner, began a curious renovation. When he was done, he hung a cryptic sign. The neighborhood resisted the invasion by a putative beer parlor. The beer parlor resisted the onslaught of anxious neighbours. The law enforcement agents showed naked lethargy. The patrons of the new investment overwhelmed the moral disgust of the finicky neighbours. The beer park-our stood.
A few months after, the beer parlor which had tried its hands at being a restaurant began to wane. Its patrons must have become too familiar with its offerings. Or perhaps, they simply had flocked to newer arrivals. Then something happened.
Young girls started to flock to the old beer parlor. Bouncers took over the security of the parlor and its environs. The buzz had returned with vengeance. The neighbourhood dismissed the rumours that had spread as a joke. The parlor became an ultimate nuisance. Its patrons stayed awake and noisy most of the night. They always loitered. Some of the girls spilled onto the street and turned the dark places red. The fears of the neighbourhood were confirmed.
The beer parlor had metamorphosed. It was now a strip bar, in the closet. A neighbor said it was his teenage children he was worried about. A wife said she feared for her husband. They said they warned the previous owner not to sell to any church. Churches always came with too much noise and too much nuisance , they said. They said the devil must have decided to punish them. They wished it was a church they had to contend with.
They besieged the local council authority. The local officials had dragged their feet. They knew the strip bar had corroded, undermined the understanding of the local officials. The strip bar made too much money, enough money to make council official forget their duties.
They have run to court. But they are worried. Justice is vulnerable in Nigeria. They know they have an uphill task. Because they know what happened in First avenue, Festac town Lagos.
Something more alarming had happened in First avenue , Festac. A new red light district sprouted overnight within that once iconic residential estate. It was heralded by a similar metamorphosis.
A prime development came up along the canal on first avenue. That was were the rich once lived. The development had office blocks above and a modern English bar beneath. The bar suffered loss of patronage after an initial sparkle. The original outdoor eating habits of Festac transformed when traders who had relocated to the Trade fair complex on Badagry expressway came with their appetite for local delicacies. The traders preferred nkwobi and ‘point-and-kill’ fish pepper soup. The English bar metamorphosed to meet business exigencies.
Before the eyes of serving judges and bishops who lived in the vicinity, the property that housed the English bar underwent a curious renovation. All offices were wiped out. When the renovation was done, the building had over 50 air conditioners hanging and dangling everywhere. Girls of easy virtue started loitering around it.
The neighbourhood prayed, fasted and wept. The new owners had converted the edifice into a huge brothel. It had almost a hundred cubicles which were rented daily by sex workers at small fees. The road where the building was located became a prostitution lane. A secondary school which had stood in the quiet neighbourhood found itself in the centre of a new red light district.
The Residents’ Association kicked. But their noise came to nothing. Neither town planning officials nor the police could stop the growth of the red light district in the middle of where sane families lived and children schooled.
That red light district flourishes in front of that school till this day.
Strip bars have come. And they are mushrooming. And they are insinuating themselves into lives of children.
In Lagos, they are now everywhere. They are sprouting within residential enclaves. The society is worried about conversion of structures and the tragedy of their physical collapse. The society should be worried about much more.
Someone ought to be worried about the lack of rules within these rogue strip bars. There are no rules. The girls often dance stark naked. The patrons are allowed to purchase anything, their basest fantasies, with money. And the youths already struggling with pornography are getting sucked in. The girls in these bars are daily drained of humanity.
The strip bars are now everywhere. Lagos is not alone. The hospitality industry in many towns are digging low and deep to remain afloat.
But indiscriminate building and running of strip bars will harm our society.
In other climes these facilities are situated in set out areas and are strictly regulated. The girls have access to the law and the patrons understand that there are boundaries that must not be crossed. But what we have is the running of strip bars in the shadows.
Once you have seen the way we regulate and run commercial motorcycles and Danfo buses here, then you have seen the way the strip bars are being regulated and run. There are no licenses and registrations. The police shake them down and let them be. There are no protective helmets, no eye tests, no alcohol tests, no vehicle inspections. No one checks the bars, no one checks the health of the girls, no one bothers with their impact on the neighbourhood.
The patrons come in, pay and consume. The only thing that rules is the desperation of the owners of the bar , the growing addiction to voyeurism in the society and the criminal complicity of local officials and security agencies.
The strip bars are mushrooming. Let someone do some housekeeping.