At least 2,000 Nigerian commercial sex workers in the southern Anambra state threatened to go on strike Wednesday after local government officials demolished their brothels where they lived next to a cattle market in the state capital, Awka. The prostitutes accused the officials of destroying their business without notice, local Nigerian newspapers reported.
The Anambra State Urban Development Board allegedly stormed the brothels Monday afternoon near the border community of Amansea with more than 50 armed police officers on the suspicion that the structures were being used as hideouts for kidnappers and other criminals. Shortly after authorities demolished their homes, the angry prostitutes set the cattle market ablaze.
“We are decent people. We do our business and go our way. We don’t harbor criminals. After all, most of the people that visit us are government officials. They want me to expose them?” the leader of the sex workers, who gave her name as Rachel, said during an interview with local Punch newspaper. “They destroyed our center and left behind other huts, kiosks and canteens that belong to the Hausa cattle traders. Is that justice? Don’t those one[s] harbor kidnappers and criminals?”
The sex workers said they would also go on a four-day strike starting Wednesday to protest the local government’s actions. “We want to tell them they are the people patronizing us,” Rachel told Punch.
Demolishing the brothels was part of an overall effort to drive out crime from the southern state, said the general manager of the Anambra State Urban Development Board. The brothels were illegal buildings in Amansea that had allegedly become safe havens for kidnappers and armed robbers, said Nathan Enemuo, who led the operation at the cattle market. The operation will extend to other urban areas within the Nigerian state, where sex workers run their businesses in illegal structures, Enemuo said.
"A lot of prostitutes live around Amansea cattle market, spoiling our children and constituting nuisance in the area and you know that anywhere there is brothel, criminals and kidnappers hover around there,” Enemuo told Vanguard Newspapers Tuesday. “In my capacity as the [Anambra State Urban Development Board] general manager, I will ensure that this does not exist anymore in the state, and our activities are in line with our amiable governor's policy on zero tolerance to crime and kidnapping in the state."