Men of Sango-Ota Area Command, Ogun State, have raided Kolab Hotel along Ayetoro Road, Itele area of the state and rescued 22 ladies including underage girls used for prostitution at the facility.
The manager of the hotel, its supervisor and eight other male workers were also arrested during the operation on Friday evening shortly after our correspondent contacted the spokesperson for the state police command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, for comments on the undercover investigation carried out at the facility.
Acting on a lead that minors were being forced into prostitution at the hotel, our correspondent had posed as a client to gain access to the room of one of the girls, 16-year-old Abigail (not real name), on Tuesday.
Abigail, who claimed to have dropped out at Senior Secondary School 1 due to financial constraint, had narrated how one Aunty Bright brought her from Calabar, Cross River State, sometime in November 2020 to work with one Madam Nelly as a salesgirl so she could raise money to return to school.
To her dismay, Nelly changed her real name to Abigail and turned her into a sex slave, collecting proceeds of prostitution – N500 per client for short time (brief sex) and N1,000 for all-night romp – from her on a daily basis.
The minor’s appeal that she was tired and wanted to return to her hometown in Calabar fell on deaf ears, adding that Nelly didn’t allow her access to a mobile phone.
Relying on PUNCH’s investigation, a police team led by Area Commander Sango-Ota, ACP Muyideen Obe, stormed the hotel on Friday and rescued 22 persons.
Abimbola, the police spokesperson in the state, in a statement on Saturday, also said 11 male suspects were apprehended at the facility.
He said, “The police team, upon credible intelligence received that minors were being recruited from other states and used as commercial sex workers at Kolab Hotel in Itele-Ota, stormed the said hotel around 8pm on Friday. Twenty-two teenagers were rescued.
“On interrogation, the girls narrated how they were lured from their respective villages in Akwa Ibom State to come to Ogun State, with the promise to employ them as salesgirls in restaurants and supermarkets, only for them to get to Lagos and be transferred to a brothel in Ogun State as commercial sex workers.
“They narrated further that they were deprived of using phones or any communication devices, therefore, making it impossible for them to reach out to their parents or relations. The Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, has ordered that the family support unit of the Area Command take over the investigation of the case, identify the recruiting cartel and bring them to justice as soon as possible.”
However, our correspondent, who visited the Area Command on Saturday, noticed that Abigail was not among the rescued victims.
During another visit to the hotel around 3pm alongside a police team, a wrapper Abigail donned on Tuesday when our correspondent spoke to her was hung on her apartment door which had been locked up. Her belongings were recovered from the room after the padlock was broken.
Rescued girls share strange ordeal
Vivian, 15, a Senior Secondary School 3 pupil, said that she needed money to pay for a contribution meant to bribe invigilators during external examinations that would be held in August.
She said her cousin, named Happiness, brought her to Lagos from Akwa Ibom with a promise to help her secure a salesgirl job to raise money.
She explained, “I arrived at Lagos last Sunday without my mum’s consent. Happiness took me to the hotel in Ogun and she handed me over to one madam. In the evening, the woman asked me if I knew the nature of the job I would be doing and I said selling clothes. She then told me it is prostitution. I felt sad and told her I couldn’t do it. I was crying.”
Vivian said on Tuesday, the madam, whose name she couldn’t mention, asked her to wear short dresses and hang around for clients, stating that men approached her but she ignored them.
She added, “I started praying to God to save me. I was crying that I wanted to go back but nobody listened to me. On Thursday, my friends warned me that Madam would beat me if I didn’t make any money. So I allowed a man to ‘sleep’ (have sex) with me. He gave me N1,000 and Madam collected it.
“Yesterday (Friday), she didn’t give me breakfast. It was in the evening she gave me rice and after eating, she told me to go and hustle. After some minutes, everybody started running around, shouting ‘police, police.’ I didn’t run away and that was how the police rescued me.”
Another girl, Florence, 14, disclosed that she got to the hotel last week through her mother’s friend, one Anita, who promised to get her salesgirl job and enroll her in a school.
“Instead, she took me to the hotel and I saw girls who wore short dresses,” Florence, who claimed to be in SS1 in her hometown in Akwa Ibom, said. “She then told me I would be doing prostitution but I declined. She said she would take me to another place if I refused. I came with a phone but she collected it from me.”
The girl added, “Yesterday (Friday), one man ‘slept’ (had sex) with me and gave me N1,000 and I gave it to her. She bought food for me out of the money and left. I did not see her until police came to rescue us. I want to go back to my parents.”
With a swollen face she blamed on an assault by a client who did not want to pay her, 16-year-old Grace, recounted horrid conditions she endured in one month she spent at the hotel.
She recalled, “It was my cousin, Blessing, who took me to the hotel last month. My father is alive but my mum is dead. She told me I would be selling food and promised that I would be paid N5,000 every month. When we got here, she ran away.
“I can’t count the number of men that have ‘slept’ with me since then. Each customer paid me N500 or N1,000. I pay N2,000 rent every Sunday and use the remaining money to eat. It was a customer who beat me because he didn’t want to pay after having sex with me.”
Hotel supervisor, manager explain roles
The hotel supervisor, Samuyiwa Olatunde, 55, said he had been coordinating operations at the facility for two years, but claimed that those engaged in prostitution were not forced.
He said, “The owner of the hotel died about eight years ago. A director is managing the hotel on behalf of the widow and I am the assistant director and supervisor. Whenever the director is not around, I look after the hotel.
“We were not the ones who brought them. They came through some of their friends or relations. Nelly used to work with us but I am not aware there is a relationship between her and the girl (Abigail). I don’t know anything about how they operate.”
The manager, 33-year-old Isaac Ogbaji, stated that the management always informed ‘new comers’ of the nature of the job at the hotel.
“We know some of them are minors, so we always ask for their age,” he said, adding that some of them would lie over it. “Even when we wanted to reject them, they would beg us. They pay N2,500 every week. I last saw Abigail on Thursday.”