Ipodo community located at the heart of Ikeja is like any other community during the day as it is known for legal commercial activities. However, the activities at night are far different from what is obtainable during the day. At night, men and women of the underworld hold sway.
Right at the centre of Ipodo market is a shrine dedicated to the worship of Esu (the Yoruba word for Satan) which coincidentally symbolizes the immoral things that go on there when the sun sets. On the wall of the shrine is written Oju elegba (eye of the masquerade).
Residents of Lagos, who only visit Ipodo during the day, are unsuspecting of the illegal activities that go on at night.
“The thing that is most noticeable whenever I come here in the afternoon is that some ladies come out of their rooms almost naked”, Bumi a student of National Open University, told us.
During the day, it looks like a place where people go to shop for any domestic items, like cooking utensils, food items, clothes and so on. However, those who live there know that there is a sharp contrast between the activities that go on in broad daylight and that of the moonlight.
Its true identity as a haven for thieves, drug peddlers and commercial sex workers comes alive at night time when most of the shops are closed for the day.
The cover of the dark is the only thing needed for men and women of the underworld to ply their trade boldly. Women are seen trading their bodies in exchange for money while the men sell hard drugs to their patrons.
We discovered that most of the brothels aren’t named except for Atlantic and a new bar and lounge which also attracts prostitutes called Set Coded bar and lounge. Coded bar and lounge is adjacent an uncompleted building which serves as a brothel. It has also been discovered, that many landlords in Ipodo have converted their houses to brothels because they feel it is a lucrative business.
Fatai, a man in his 50’s who has been a resident of Ipodo for 20 years, spoke to us about the situation there.
“Some of the houses you see here are brothels. You may not notice if you don’t live here. Girls as young as 16 years are into prostitution. Some are even encouraged by their mothers. They are hairdressers during the day but turn into prostitutes at night. Wait till it is dark and you will see for yourself,” he said.
He further stated that, “It is unfortunate how this place is degenerating with each passing day. I am not happy raising my children here due to the things they see around them. I would have moved away from here but I am having financial problems.”
According to the findings, some of the prostitutes are in the habit of collaborating with the street boys to rob unsuspecting visitors.
Johnson, a trader in the area whose shop is located on Olowu Street, one of the many streets linking Ipodo, narrated his ordeal in the hands of the street boys.
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“Some of the girls here are girlfriends of hardened criminals. If they notice that you are new in the area and you look tense, they will signal their boys to ambush you once you walk out of the room of any of these prostitutes. I have seen it happen times without number.
“The guys behave like mumu (dumb) when they are being waylaid by these people because from the way I see them, they are guys who are from decent backgrounds and make an honest living. Some of them I suspect are married men so they are ready to part with any amount on them instead of causing a scene.
“A friend of mine had a terrible experience not long ago. He went to visit one of the girls and she put Igbo (cannabis) in his pocket without him knowing. Next thing, he was accosted by some rough looking men saying that he came to buy drugs. He denied and immediately they searched his pocket and found drugs on him. They said they would take him to the police station if he didn’t give them some money. I think he parted with about 5,000 that day. I am sure he has learnt his lesson the hard way,” he said while giggling.
Asked why they don’t report to the police, he said, “Police are well aware of what is happening here. Sometimes they even plan with the police. When someone buys drugs here, the seller alerts the police so that they can extort more money from the buyer. My brother, anything goes as far as this place is concerned.”
We also gathered that the customers of the drug dealers range from clean cut Nigerians to rascals. According to a former dealer who gave his name as Coco, mis the cheapest of all the hard drugs they sell at the market. Besides marijuana, they sell heroin, crack, and cocaine.
It was also learnt that cocaine is one drug that is well coordinated by the cartel. According to Coco, “Only the big boys come here to buy cocaine as it very expensive. A pinch is about N500, so you can imagine how much a wrap or a kilo is sold. Cocaine isn’t a drug you see people peddling anyhow on the streets. If you don’t have the right connections, you will not see it to buy.”
It was further gathered that addicts are ready to do anything possible to get a dose of their medicine. A young man who identified himself simply as Rotimi, who knows the in and out of Ipodo revealed to us that he knows people who have used their cars as collateral to collect drugs when they are broke.
“It may sound like a joke when I tell you that some people come here and leave their cars behind just to get drugs. They are so addicted that they don’t see their car as anything. A man once sold his house because he owed the drug dealers money and they were threatening to kill him. After he sold his house, he had enough money to settle his debt and pay for more drugs.”
He further stated that “Once the big boys are around I easily notice because they don’t go into any brothel, they go straight to the dealer. They dress rugged in order to disguise but they can’t fool people like me. The way they look, behave and speak their pidgin English give them away as aje butter (well to do). Most times they don’t come themselves because they have people who act as go-between them and the dealers.”
A woman whose shop is on Oriyomi Street spoke to us on the condition of anonymity because she is deeply afraid of the bad boys in the area.
“I have been selling here for many years and I am making more profit here than where I was selling before due to the population. Although I can’t say I am comfortable here. The tip I give new residents or shop owners here is that just mind your own business. I would have left here but I make so much money here.
Here is like a transit. People pass here every day to get to their destination. Everything you hear about this place is true. It is a hide-out for criminals – hired killers, armed robbers, petty thieves, gamblers, prostitutes, just name it. They are all here. I just mind my own business. I don’t live here; I only make my money here,” she said.
A police officer who did not want his name mentioned because he wasn’t authorized to speak on this matter told us that “In every organization there are bad eggs, so I won’t deny if there are reports of some policemen working with some of the hoodlums to extort money from people. That is not to say that the policemen aren’t trying their best in ensuring that some of these drugs dealers and criminals are brought to book.
“Before I was transferred from MAN Centre police station at Ikeja, I used to raid their hideouts with my team. The problem is that they have backing from influential people so when you arrest them they easily get free. They aren’t even scared of the police. They say they are the sons of the soil. We can only try our best but the truth is that they have backing from high places,” he said.