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Kandahar: The story behind Damaturu’s juvenile prostitutes

Damaturu’s ‘Kandahar’ is a sharp contrast because it houses several buildings, some round huts built with mud and capped with thatch roofs, some constructed with…

Damaturu’s ‘Kandahar’ is a sharp contrast because it houses several buildings, some round huts built with mud and capped with thatch roofs, some constructed with zinc and others with blocks or red bricks.

Ironically, however, most of the houses are inhabited by young girls and middle aged women who are out to make ends meet through prostitution.

In ‘Kandahar’, hustling and bobbling have no boundary. Dozens of female children whose ages range between 11 and 15 years have found a free world there even as the place has remained a den of criminals who hide during the day and move at night to wreak havoc on people.

“Under age business (prostitution) is very common here but, like some of us, most of the young  girls living here are from neighbouring states of Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa Borno, Jigawa and Taraba,” Gladys Thereo who claimed to be from Benue State, told Kanem Trust.

“I also give my body to men in order to earn a living for myself and my aged parents at home. It is an ugly thing but what do we do?” Gladys, a woman in her late 30s observed.

An encounter with three girls including Fatima (12) from Borno, Maryam (14) from Adamawa and Amira (12) from Bauchi State, revealed that juvenile prostitution has assumed a frightening dimension in Yobe’s ‘Kandahar’.

“I am a product of forced marriage. My father was not fair to me because he wanted me to get married to someone I don’t love,” Fatima who speaks Kanuri fluently, said.

“It is out of anger that I am here and I will not go back home because my father has vowed to go ahead with the marriage whenever he sees me,” she added.

For Maryam, she said it was her step mother who chased her out of the family house following series of maltretament. “I am a product of a broken home. My father quarreled with my mother and divorced her. Since then, I have never known peace. That is why I am here to vent my anger through relating with men who always take care of me,” Maryam, who speaks Fulfulde fluently, said.  

Amira on the other hand, declined to say why she left her parents to join the bandwagon of women of easy virtues. “The only thing I would say is that I am here to raise enough money to go back to school. I am from  Yobe State but was born and brought up in Azare, Bauchi State,” Amira said.

Amira, says she collects N500 for “short service” from new customers and the price is not negotiable for permanent boyfriends. “Our boyfriends give us good money from time to time. They also pay for the rent and other services in order to keep the relationship,” she said.

Findings revealed that under-age prostitution is rife in ‘Kandahar’ and hundreds of girls who are products of bad parentage, corruption, poverty, general neglect and peer group influence give  their bodies to willing clients in exchange of money.

The houses they are renting for their sinful activities belong to many people, including businessmen, federal and state civil servants as well as some old prostitutes whose beauty has declined over the years but could not go back to where they came from.

“I pay N300 every night for the round hut I am occupying. On a good day, I make as much as N2, 000 from customers,” Ngozi Mathew, who is in her late 20s, said.

Maryam said she pays N1, 000 everyday to her landlord for the self- contain single room she is occupying. “We normally pay the money at night and because I am young, it is very easy to get at least N6, 000 or more every day,” she said.

“I have never defaulted in paying my rent,” Sadiya Inusa who claimed she came to Damaturu from Jigawa State, said.

“I pay N700 every day for the room I am occupying and I also take care of my little boy Jamilu; I buy drugs and food all the time,” she said.

When asked about the father of her 14 months old child, Sadiya simply said he belonged to many men. “I can’t say who his father is because I have many friends and sugar daddies.”

Sadiya’s condition is similar to that of many girls in ‘Kandahar’, a frightening development that raises fears over increasing cases of various diseases including HIV/AIDS.

Though the Shari’a legal system was introduced in Yobe State since the year 2000, what transpires in ‘Kandahar’ makes a mockery of the process because in all ramifications, the place looks like a free world of crime devoid of any semblance of authority.

Situated along Potiskum road, just about 200 metres away from the ministry of religious affairs, Damaturu’s ‘Kandahar’ exemplifies the greatest irony of life as the place clearly shows a thin line between morality, religion, poverty and indiscipline.

The large expanse of land is characterised by dozens of brothels, beer parlours, night clubs and casinos even as it has remained a free market with hundreds of people including women and children patronizing it all the time in order to catch fun.

But the most worrying part of the situation is that ‘Kandahar’ is surrounded by Tsangaya (Islamiyya schools), churches and houses of the less privileged in the society.

On the eastern side entrance of the place is the house of an Arabic scholar who lives with dozens of children drawn from many places for the purpose of acquiring the knowledge of the Holy Qur’an.

“Anyone going to ‘Kandahar’ from Damaturu town must pass through this place and there is nothing we can do,” Ustaz Goni Mustapha, a cleric in the school said.

The story of the southern entrance of the place is also the same because the St. Peter’s Catholic Church shares the same fence with one of the brothels.

“We are forced not to worship at night because of the level of crime being committed here. We only come during the day when the traffic is less because once it is 7pm, there is nothing we can do,” Tabitha Emmanuel, a worshipper in the church said.

In between the three extremes lies a hoard of unprivileged people who live in unclean environment devoid of basic privileges of life including water, electricity and sewage system.

It was gathered that ‘Kandahar’ came to the limelight shortly after “Kampala,” the then notorious spot for hooliganism, prostitution and alcohol consumption was destroyed by the  state government  shortly after the introduction of the Shari’a legal system in 2000.

Since then, many other places including Zango, Abasha, Hayas Cinema, all in Damaturu as well as ‘Under 16’ and Wakawa, two other hots spots in Gashua, have remained a beehive of untold events that are at clear variance with the Shari’a legal system.

Ustaz Muhammad Garba Degubi, a deputy Chief Registrar with the Yobe State Shari’a Court of Appeal, described the development as “moral decadence of the highest degree.”  

He explained that though there is Shari’a legal system in the state, the machinery to make it work effectively is not in place.

“The fact is that the Shari’a courts only have power to entertain civil cases and not criminal cases and this does not give room for punitive measures that will address decadence,” Degubi said.

He also explained that for any meaningful progress to take place, the ministry of religious affairs must also reorganise the Shari’a Implementation Committees in all the 17 local government areas of the state.

Officials of the ministry of religious affairs refused to comment on the issue, insisting that they must get clearance from the commissioner, Alhaji Habu Dauda Gulani or the permanent secretary, Alhaji Modu Jumbam, who according to them, were unavoidably absent.

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