Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sex on the beach

When Uche Okoro moved into his Lekki apartment, he was particularly pleased that it was close to the beach. The euphoria did not last long.
“I used to be happy whenever I received visitors, because we would just stroll to the beach and entertain them, but now I struggle for reasons to deter my visitors from going there whenever they come,” he said.

Mr. Okoro’s concern stems from the large number of commercial sex workers, and touts, that have become a regular feature of the Lekki Beach. These ladies, some of who are teenagers, flock out in their hundreds especially on weekend nights.

NEXT investigations have revealed that an increasing number of commercial sex workers throng to Lagos beaches in search for trade. Some of them who spoke to NEXT revealed that the crowd of fun seekers that frequent the beaches, and the party atmosphere that envelopes the beaches on weekend nights have guaranteed brisk business.

“Apart from the fact that people frequent here to catch their fun, it is cheaper here than when you go and lodge in a hotel (brothel),” said one of the girls at Lekki Beach, who gave her name as Eunice and spoke in Pidgin English.

Doing it on the beach
According to Lagos beach crawlers, Kuramo beach, located on Victoria Island, enjoys the unenviable reputation of being the most notorious among the lot. Apart from being the dirtiest, with faeces decorating some portions of the fine sand, it plays host to the largest number of commercial sex workers, derelicts, and criminals.

At the Lekki Beach, scruffy looking young men collect a toll fee of N200 which they claim is needed for maintenance of the beach, while the boys at Kuramo collect N100. “Don’t you know that people will sweep the place?” retorted one of them, when NEXT inquired.

However, some beach regulars reveal that some of these young men act as gigolos for the commercial sex workers, and in some cases, provide protection to them. “One of them is either a boy friend or a brother to one of the prostitutes here (Lekki Beach) because I always see both of them,” said Augustine Ifeanyi, a frequent visitor to the Lekki Beach.

Some of these commercial sex workers are immigrants who have lived on the beach since they moved to the state. A teenager, who gave her name as Richael, said she has lived at the Lekki Beach since 2007 with her siblings. They only know that their father is Lebanese, but do not know his name or location.

At both Kuramo and Lekki beaches, the commercial sex workers make arrangements with some of the bartenders on the beach so that their crude makeshift wooden shacks can be used as quarters for sex with their customers. A space, in some cases as small as one square metre, is carved out at the back of the bar for what one bartender, who requested anonymity, called, “The C-room.”

“They have a mat there, and if some customers like, we can even do it on the beach were people are not too much,” said Eunice. “At times some people will come that just want to sit with a woman and be watching the (waves of) the ocean, but most of them want sex finally.”

Blight on the face of Lagos tourism
Respondents have criticized the development, and urge the relevant government agencies to address this blight on the tourism potential of these beaches.

“I was so embarrassed when I took some friends who were visiting to the Lekki Beach, and they came in contact with some of those girls,” said Kingsley Achonu, a Lekki resident. “If not for the cool breeze that we enjoy from the beach, I would have started thinking of moving elsewhere.”

Efforts to get the Lagos Commissioner for Tourism, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, were unsuccessful as repeated calls made to his mobile phone went unanswered.

And so, while residents like Mr. Okoro, continue to hope that something is done to address the development, the commercial sex workers are having a field day at the beaches.

This article was published in NEXTonSunday of April 4, 2010.

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