Nairametrics| Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. In the case of the popular Abakaliki market, though, recession has become the mother of invention. The Abakaliki market, with over 3,500 shops, was intended to serve as a major trading point in the Eastern region of Nigeria, where merchants dealing in all types of goods- ranging from foodstuffs to building materials- could conveniently ply their trade, make profits and improve the nation’s economy. The strategic location, along the Abakaliki-Ogoja Trans-Sahara route, the Abakaliki-Afikpo highway and other adjoining streets was supposed to add to the appeal of the market to traders.
Fast forward to 2017, and the economic recession the country is battling with, has made it difficult for traders to ply their trade profitably in the market. Five years ago, shops were sold between N1.5million and N2million, depending on their sizes, but presently, shops in the market go for N4.5 million each or N15,000 per month. With dwindling sales, it was not wonder that the market was fast becoming a ghost town.
What do shop owners who have paid millions, do with their shops that no trader wants to rent? The dilemma was conveniently solved with the rise of a new set of traders, traders who sell their bodies for money, prostitutes. According to Daily Trust, these ‘traders’ have gradually overtaken the market, occupying the larger portions of the market.
With claims suggesting that an average prostitute makes about N12, 000 daily (N4.2 million per annum), it is no wonder that they are taking over the market. For shop owners, their investment is making returns. For the prostitutes, they make a livelihood for themselves. A win-win situation with everybody happy. Except for the remaining actual traders who have to fight for the few shops remaining and the State Government who are wondering what to do about the situation. Since prostitution in itself is not illegal, to arrest all the prostitutes up and lock them will certainly be frowned upon.
Add to these factors the presence of other related businesses who are thriving off the traffic of people flooding the market to patronize these prostitutes and the case for their eviction becomes more delicate. Drinking joints, a 24-hour chemist and other related businesses who are enjoying good business will definitely resist any attempt to evict the prostitutes. To make things more complicated, the prostitution business is said to be overseen by ‘The Boss’, who ensures that fighting and other vices are kept to a minimum.
Proponents of the disbanding of the prostitutes will point to hoodlums hiding under the cover of the prostitutes to carry out their mischievous acts as well as the gradual increase of illegal practices such as selling off of babies as reasons enough for chasing them out of the market.
Whichever side of the argument you find yourself, there is one simple fact that nobody can ignore. This new breed of traders are ensuring that the original purpose of building the market is fulfilled trading which is defined as the exchange of goods and services for money.