Armed with smartphones and an internet connection, a growing number of girls and young women across Northern Nigeria are slipping into the dark, clandestine world of cyber-prostitution, where they are often pimped out for sex with clients.
An undercover investigation by Daily Focus reveals that most of the young women, some of them teenagers are being advertised to potential clients by male or female pimps who operate anonymous social network accounts especially on Twitter, Snapchat, Telegram and Facebook.
It is understood that when clients express interest in any of the girls, they are made to pay “hookup fees” through bank accounts supplied by the pimps, after which the pimps will provide the girl’s contact.
Other pimps advertise Whatsapp groups, where potential clients are encouraged to pay fees ranging from N5,000 to N10,000 for access to the groups from which they can book appointments with the girls.
It was learnt that the girls and young women being pimped out belong to different ethnic groups and religions in the region.
A source with an in-depth knowledge into the illicit cyber-sex trade said young women from several northern states, including Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, Kogi, Sokoto, Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Zamfara, Katsina, Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Kebbi are plunging into the illicit trade from the comfort of their homes or schools.
The source added that in Kano, the girls organize trysts with their clients in neighborhoods notorious for red light districts such as Sabon Gari in Fagge and some parts of Badawa in Nasawara local government area, evading detection by operatives of the Hisbah Command.
“Because they conduct their activities through mobile phones, they secretly arrange their encounters with clients without getting into trouble with the Hisbah board.
“Most importantly, they avoid meeting in hotels around the the GRA because the Hisbah routinely conduct raids in such places. Sabon Gari still remains their favorite,” the source revealed.
It is believed that some of the girls are students in tertiary institutions, especially those studying in schools outside their home states.
Some of the women, who spoke to a Daily Focus reporter on strict condition of confidentiality blamed poverty for their decision to join the cyber-prostitution networks, while others said they were simply driven by temptations.
Ummita, 23, who claimed to be a Fulani native of Kaduna state, told one of our reporters that she was first introduced into the cyber-prostitution ring by a friend after she lost her father.
“When I lost my father in 2015, life was so hard for my mother and three siblings. The responsibility of taking care of us was too much for my mother and I also have the desire to get a university education.
“This is why I did not hesitate when my friend introduced me to this thing. But I know it is bad for me and my family does not know that I am doing this,” she said.
She said she charges up to N30,000 for a sex session with a client, adding that she could get about three to five clients in a month.
“But the (pimps) who connect us with clients also receive a cut from whatever amount we make,” she explained.
She added that just like other girls, she often travels to other states such as Kano, Gombe and Plateau to meet clients, with whom she spends days.
But Ummita did not have an answer when asked if she doesn’t fear the risk of getting involved with dangerous criminals as clients.
Another girl, 20-year-old Larai, said she doesn’t meet with clients physically but only plies her trade on social media, where she shares her nude photos and videos for a fee.
“I am not a prostitute because I don’t sleep around with men. But I share my nude photos or videos with clients who can afford. Sometimes I do have nude video calls with either men or women,” she said.
Larai, who claimed to be from Adamawa, added that she charges up to 20,000 for a clip and between N5,000 to N10,000 for still images.
When asked if she doesn’t fear being blackmailed by clients in possession of her nude video clips or images, she said “hmmm, I hope this thought will not cross their minds”.
It is observed that the pimps usually post pornographic content on their pages to attract attention of potential clients.
An admin of one of the pimping handles on Twitter rained obscenities and promptly blocked a Daily Focus reporter when asked how they source the women and girls.
In another ploy, the pimps open accounts, with an innocent purpose such as marriage match-making but users immediately understand the purpose of such accounts immediately they subscribe.
Recently, a reputable match-making account threatened to expose the identities of some persons who posed as genuine seekers of marriage but end up soliciting nude videos or photos from men and women they were linked up with.
We will fish them out–Hisbah
Reacting to this report, the Kano state Hisbah Board says it is unfortunate that social media platforms have become a tool for destroying moral standards of female children in the society.
In an interview with Daily Focus, Director-General of the Board, Sheikh Haroun Ibn Sina, emphasized the role of parents and property owners in tackling the menace of cyber-prostitution.
“As a parent, you should know how your daughter got the money to buy the smartphone through which depraved boys lure her into prostitution and other immoral acts.
“A parent should also watch the type of clothing their daughters wear and the kind of friends she associates with. You shouldn’t keep silent while your daughter is being destroyed,” he said.
Sheikh Ibn Sina also cautioned young girls on the dangers of associating with strange men with questionable characters who may end up infecting them with deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS.
“These young girls should be careful. Here at Hisbah, we have caught a lot of underage girls carrying HIV/AIDS without even knowing. Some of them cried when they knew they had contracted the disease.
“The sad part is that some of them have their wedding dates fixed while others are students yet to graduate from schools,” he said.
However, the Hisbah chief warned that the board would not relent in seeking and arresting anyone found practicing or promoting prostitution in the state.
“On our part, issues like this only strengthen our resolve to stamp out immorality wherever it is happening.
“We are monitoring every nook and cranny to identify spots where prostitution is taking place. We understand that some residential properties have been turned into brothels because of our vigilance on hotels,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Names of some sources for this report have been changed to guarantee their request for confidentiality.