NIGERIA: Underground sex in the conservative north

Photo: Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Idris the pimp

KANO, 15 August 2008 (PlusNews) – Idris is a pimp and makes no bones about it. Because of the way the sex industry works in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano, he and the women he pimps have a co-dependant relationship – they exploit each other.

Kano’s history dates back 1,400 years as an iron-working centre that adopted Islam in the 14th century and grew on the back of the trans-Saharan caravan trade.

Outside the old city walls is a quarter known as the sabon gari, where “foreigners” traditionally lived, segregated from the Hausa-speaking indigenous population. With sharia law applicable in Kano, it is in the bars and hotels of the sabon gari – where Islamic jurisprudence does not reach – that Idris does his business.

He works with a group of Hausa-speaking women from all over the north who live in a dingy, nameless hole-in-the-wall hotel, whose anonymity seems deliberate. Quarrelsome, poor, with some clearly on something narcotic, these are women at the edge of society.
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As they prepared for the evening, applying henna to their hands and feet, cleaning their rooms, getting stoned, Idris explained that his role was to guide the “big fish” to the establishment, and sometimes act as muscle. He gets tipped by the women, maybe gets fed if they feel sorry for him, or he has a girlfriend among them, but the money they make is theirs alone.

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