Commercial sex workers, known in local parlance as runs girls, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, have devised a new method of operation to satisfy the high propensity of libido in men of easy virtue even as the fear of the ongoing serial killings of young ladies in hotels in some parts of the state, continue to dominate every discourse.
No fewer than eleven girls have so far been reportedly killed mainly by a crude method of strangulation by men who lured them to the hotels for sex. The Rivers State police command said it had so far arrested two suspects who have given a clue to this new method of bizarre killing.
Our correspondent, who visited some of the hot spots in the state capital to feel the pulse of some sex workers scooped that some of the prostitutes who lay siege of clients have resolved not to follow any man to the hotel of his choice or his house. Accordingly, “any man that wants to have me for a night must agree to my terms,” one of them volunteered.
The girl, who is within the age bracket of 23 to 25 years old said “any man that wants to have fun with me must accept to follow me to the hotel of my choice. We can only go to where I want us to go to. That is the only way we can avoid this kind of killings in this state,” she said.
Another of her colleague at GRA in Port Harcourt who simply gave her name as Joyce said they were scared of the spree of killings of young girls in the state in recent times. “I am really scared. Sometimes I don’t come out. But when you realise that you need to put food on the table, change your wardrobe and pick up some bills, one has no option but to come out and try your luck and risk it all.”
She corroborated her colleague that for safety, “I can invite the man to my room. But before I do that, I must introduce him to my friends; if possible we take a picture together and then send it to two or three of my friends so that they will know the man that is sleeping with me that night”.
Joyce vowed that she would never follow a man to any hotel she does not know no matter the amount of money he promises to pay her for the night. Besides, she was of the opinion that any man that promises to pay her huge amount of money or who accepts to pay any amount of money she charges without argument, is a suspect. “I can’t follow such a person.”
They however pleaded with the security agencies to help them in their “chosen carrier” by tracking the killers of young girls in the state. “There are no jobs in this country and things are becoming difficult every day. Why are they killing innocent girls who are out there to make a living for themselves?
“The security agencies should give us maximum security. They should arrest and prosecute those who are killing these girls”, said Sandra, another prostitute pleaded. She said it would even be more risky to take a stranger to ones’ house giving the high rate of insecurity in the country.
“I can take him to a hotel that I know but not to my house. I must respect my privacy. If I am living alone in the room, the man can still kill me and walk out of the house. That will even be easier than the hotel. He can just kill you in your house and then walk away. People will not suspect him immediately because they know that that is your house. I can’t do a thing like that”, she said.
Both the hotel owners and the security agencies in the state have deplored various possibilities through which the menace could be put to check and save the lives of young ladies who rely substantially on prostitution to eke a living. While the option of stopping short time sex in hotels is still on the front burner, total abstinence has been advanced as the best way out.
Mr. Eugene Nwauzi, chairman of the Rivers State chapter of the Hotel Owners Association said the association was doing everything within its reach to stamp out this strange occurrence in the state, believing that self-control and censorship should be encouraged.
“On our own as an association, we have encouraged our members to install close circuit camera at strategic places in their hotels. They should install these cameras in the corridor of the hotels, the gates and other strategic locations.
“We are not out to invade the privacy of people who go into hotels for relaxation and enjoy themselves. But it has become necessary to protect not just the lives of the ladies but that of the men too. This is very important. About 90% of our members have complied with this directive already.”
Nwauzi however enjoined the young girls to be security conscious whenever they come across any man. Accordingly, he warned that any girl who wants to go out with a strange man should inform her closest persons and if possible, record the man’s identity.
The association’s chairman, who expressed delight over the success the department of state service, police and the media have recorded so far leading to the arrest of two suspects already was optimistic that with the arrest, the dastardly act “by these heartless individuals will soon fizzle out.”
Police sources however revealed that the reason behind this new trend of killings in the state could not be immediately established. This is because “autopsy investigations are still ongoing. We cannot establish anything yet until the end of the investigations,” the source said.
Some observers in the state believe that the killings maybe a new way of money-making by ritualists probably after seemingly exhausting kidnapping and other forms of criminality in making quick money. While this is happening almost close to Christmas period gives credence to the conspiracy theory that this is nothing but a money-spinning ritual scheme by a well-orchestrated gang.
“We are yet to establish that theory,” said the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Rivers State Police Command, DSP, Nnamdi Omoni, in a telephone interview. Omoni said that the incidence was not one that anybody should jump to hasty conclusions when investigation was still ongoing.
“It is important for us to exercise patience until after the investigation,” he said, adding that the girl who was rescued from a young man from Akwa Ibom State who took her to a hotel in Port Harcourt on Tuesday was lucky to be alive because she screamed to the hearing of the hotel staff who then raised the alarm leading to the invitation of policemen for the rescue mission.
“The suspect (the man) claimed that the girl had a nightmare which was why she screamed that he attempted to strangle her to death. He used the pillow to suffocate her then suddenly the girl screamed and this attracted policemen to her rescue. We cannot obviously establish anything concrete until we finish the investigation”.
However, the ritual theory holds strong evidential support giving the fact that the girls who were killed at Omoku, GRA and some parts of the capital city, were seen with white handkerchiefs tied to their necks and in some cases the two legs together.
This conspiracy theory drives home the belief that the men who are on the prowl of these innocent ladies with the aim of taking their lives do so for money ritual purposes. These cannot be established though, but the conviction is too strong to undermine.
The Rivers State Police Command said it rescued a young lady who escaped being strangled by a suspected ritualist in a hotel in Mile 4 area of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Wednesday.
The lady whose name and identity were not disclosed for security reason was said to have struggled with the young man who attempted to choke her with a pillow while she slept off.
The Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Mustapha Dandaura made this disclosure while addressing some angry women who staged a peaceful protest on the serial killing of young women in hotels in some parts of the state.
It was gathered that the woman had slept off, but woke up coincidentally around 2:00 a.m. to notice that the man had carried a pillow to choke her to death.
The CP said the woman began to raise the alarm when the man became violent and struggled with her as she made her way to the door for possible escape.
“The woman went into the hotel on the man’s invitation and when she slept off, the man tried to kill her with a pillow. She was lucky to have woken up as the man tried to press her down.
“The woman immediately began to shout and the people in the hotel called the police, who raced to the place and forced the door open. They (police) eventually rescued the woman and arrested the man,” a witness said.
Confirming the incident, the State CP said the suspected killer was arrested by his men when they got to the hotel, noting that a thorough investigation had commenced on the matter.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, said the suspect had been moved to the State Criminal Investigation Department of the Police Command.
“The young woman escaped because she was able to raise the alarm around 2:00 a.m. She was sleeping when she suddenly woke up and saw the man who brought her to the hotel was charging at her.
“The people in the hotel called the police, who rushed to the place, rescued the young woman and arrested the man.”
The ongoing serial killings of young ladies in some parts of Rivers State has continued to spark more condemnations as the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt South, the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and 73 other women groups on Wednesday staged a peace to condemn the dastardly act.
It would be recalled that no fewer than 11 young women had been strangled to death in hotels located in parts of Port Harcourt, the state capital and Omoku, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of the state in the past two months.
The Nigeria Police, which has insisted that only eight women were killed within the period, has sealed two hotels where corpses of two young women were found as well as arrested two suspects in connection with the killings.
The peaceful protest, which started at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Port Harcourt, moved to Government House, Port Harcourt and later to the office of the Department of State Services (DSS) as well as the headquarters of the Rivers State Police Command.
The protesters, who carried several placards and banners with inscriptions like: ‘Protect the Women Life, Stop the killings’, ‘Respect the women, don’t kill them’, ‘Women have right to life’, amongst others, want an immediate end to the carnage.
At the Government House, the protesters presented a copy of their petition to the Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), Dr. Tammy Danagogo, who received them on behalf of Governor Nyesom Wike and promised to convey their message to the Governor.
Presenting the petition, President of Rotary Club of Port Harcourt South, Rita-Marley Idonoh, said women in the state are worried over the killings.
Idonoh called on security agencies in the state to step up their operations and ensure that the perpetrators of the act are arrested.
She demanded for a public apology from the Rivers State Police Command for referring the young women killed by the serial killers in the state as prostitutes.
Also speaking, former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ibim Semenitari, said women in the state are burdened because people are dying in the state without cause.
Semenitari said: “We are here to make a demand from the Governor of Rivers State as the Chief Security Officer of the state. We are here to make a demand because our mothers are being killed. We are here to make a demand because our daughters are being killed.
“We are here to make a demand because our sisters are being killed. We know that he will be able to do something about it and we have come with a petition to Government House, Rivers State. We are burdened because people are dying in our state without cause.”
Receiving the petition, Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, apologised to women in the state over the statement credited to the authorities of the Nigeria Police.
Danagogo, who said the state government was on top of the matter, advised residents of the state, especially young ones to be security conscious.
He said: “We doubt if the Commissioner of Police or the Police PRO had said something like that but we sincerely apologise to Rivers women over such statement. A lot of the victims might have been careless but it will be wrong to address them as prostitutes.
“All of us must understand that the Nigeria of today is not like Nigeria of yesterday where some of us grew in. We have to be very careful. That time you can stay anywhere till anytime and nothing happened.”