.Soludo

Somewhere in Lagos is a den of iniquity. Like all things Nigerian, rot set in after an early promise. The founding mission has been thrown to the dogs. A conspicuous eyesore now lives amid homes and schools, and family life. 

From the outside, the air conditioners that litter the wall tell the story. The picture of a metallic rash. A diabolic conversion. And environmental pollution of the aesthetic variety.

The building used to be a three-storey office block. Then, the ground floor was an airy English bar that oozed soft jazz music. A church moonlighted there on Sundays. But the church has since fled.

The bar has yielded the space to galloping debauchery. Once prostitution became a flourishing industry in residential estates in Lagos, modern-day brothels sprouted everywhere. Their only competition for scarce spaces is the Pentecostal churches. The symbiotic boom in righteousness and sinfulness has to be studied.

Back to the building. An ingenious roadside architect must have been hired to redesign and re-partition it. A house that once had perhaps 6 offices on each floor now has over 200 rooms.

The new match-box offices are now for prostitutes.  Since each cubicle must have air conditioning or the teeming patrons might choke in their romps, air conditioners now sit like chickenpox infestation on the face of the building. 

The plumbing system runs around the wall like messy varicose veins. It’s no use imagining how many toilets and bathrooms they need and how many they have. But these don’t matter. The landlord could be a filthy rich child of God preaching morals and business ethics somewhere.

The story is that the sisters rent the cubicles daily. Three or so prostitutes could pay 3-5000 every day for a rat hole. The concept of office space sharing might have been here before we realized it. The girls will hang in there and hang around the budding till they find sex-hungry men.

They will now take turns to satisfy their clients in the rooms. They used to do those things in cars in dark corners around the estate those days. But the police started hunting and extorting them. So they devised other affordable means. Disruption and adaptation. 

Lagos state government has a building control agency. It’s not inconceivable that the brothel has physical planning approval. Magic happens. The Lagos state government has an agency that controls businesses. Yet it’s not unthinkable that someone licensed the activities happening in that building to happen amid children. Our systems are porous, but once exposed, such a brothel should be shut.

Of late, the girls seem particularly emboldened. Somebody said it’s the EndSars spirit. They used to carry shame breath the smiles on their faces. Now they carry naked indignation. The nation has wronged them. The nation forced them into prostitution. The nation is responsible. That’s the new graffiti visible on the scornful smirks on their faces.

Every evening a market gathers around that building. A market for human flesh. Young girls mill around proudly like they would in a convent. Young and old men go in and out of the building as though they were going in and out of a shopping mall. Suya men, fish grillers and other service providers have taken positions to facilitate the industry. Okada men sit stand by. The girls are always on the move for outside work.

The story is that a strip bar has become part of the services. Much like a library introducing a cafe to improve the reading experience of students. The strip bar may have an operating license. These days licenses are sold and regulations are predatory exercises that yield fattened regulators. And in any case, permits for maternity homes have been used to run baby factories. 

Architects and Town planners make room for filth and sewage. This compartmentalization of things helps to keep the town clean. Regulators line their pockets while family spaces are turned to red-light districts. Toilets don’t sit openly in the kitchen and living rooms. They are tucked away, doors shut. That’s why towns have red-light districts.

Away from schools and children’s playgrounds. To soak up urges and effluents from the incontinent without dirtying children and messing the town. But here regulators line their pockets while entire family living spaces turn to red-light districts overnight. 

This edifice of a whorehouse exists in a neighbourhood once nicknamed Cocaine Avenue. The ‘cocaine’ used to be a metaphor for big money. 30 years ago, a brothel could never have existed there. But now everything has decayed, including the metaphorical meaning of the cocaine in the name.

That avenue is now truly a cocaine avenue where narcotic drugs are sold on the street alongside sex, suya, and fried fish.

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