“We can’t wait for coronavirus to be defeated. This is the second week that I haven’t made at least N50,000. I make as much as N100,000 or more weekly when business is really good,” says Angela*, a stripper at the Teazers strip club in the Festac town area of Lagos, through a puff of cigarette smoke.
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has crippled the boisterous nightlife in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial and entertainment capital.
And revelers, night club goers, strippers, pub owners and just about everyone who loves a drink or two after hours; or a lap dance after a mad day at work, aren't amused.
Once busy and chaotic streets are now deserted at night time in a city that never sleeps and one that rarely jokes with its sex, booze and mad fun.
Paul, who runs a pub in Opebi in Ikeja, tells Pulse that business has slowed to a trickle since Covid-19 sauntered into town. “We will be shutting down completely this week in accordance with President Buhari’s 14-day lockdown directive, but my brother, it’s been tough.
“Just look at Pekas,” he says, while pointing to a pub in the opposite direction which often mills with sex workers gesturing at men riding in exotic cars. “You see as the place dry ba? Even ashawo dey vex. Dem no dey see nacks again. My brother, e don red.”
All of Allen, Opebi, Toyin, and Adeniyi Jones streets in Ikeja are unusually quiet at this time and bereft of humans. Gone are the skimpily clad sex workers and ladies of the night beckoning on men to hire them for 'short time'.
Pubs are closed and cabs are driving around empty and in search of passengers.
A Deejay at the Ocean Blue strip club on Opebi tells Pulse that it may take a while for them to bounce back when all of this is over. “People stopped coming here in early March, soon after Nigeria’s index coronavirus case was detected. Business has been slow since that time,” he says.
The Cave, Unique Gentleman’s, Didoz, Diamonds of Lagos and Pedigree Lounge--all strip clubs in the Ikeja area--have also been groaning about poor patronage since Covid-19 began dominating the news. “I’m looking for another job. Maybe this is the right time to give my life to Christ and become a new creature,” says Mary, a stripper at The Cave, with prolonged laughter. “Besides, I don’t think this is a black man’s disease and I don’t get the panic. It’s for the elite and big men. It was never going to get to those of us who live from hand to mouth.”
Strippers at De Crib on Bode Thomas in Surulere, are just as furious with Covid-19. These days, the strip club which is nestled opposite Lounge 38, wears a forlorn look.
Sex business slowed to a trickle on Bode Thomas, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Akerele and Babs Animashaun in the early days of March, as figures of the infected in Lagos rose with every announcement from the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).
Night club goers and fun seekers in Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki can’t wait for all of this to be over as well.
As Pulse drives through the stretch of Adetokunbo Ademola and Ajose Adeogun where the nightlife is always lit and frenetic, sex workers throw their hands up in the air in dejection. “How far na? Wetin dey? Any amount go do!! At all at all na winch," they bellow in the still Lagos air.
The Didoz strip club on Ajose Adeogun has just two strippers tonight. As the Pulse team walks in, both ladies practically jump at us, while making for our thighs. Time check: 1am.
When we tell them we don’t want lap dances and only stopped by for a night cap, they hiss, plead some more before giving up in utter dejection.
Silverfox in Lekki, has long been closed to club goers and strippers. One stripper here who identifies herself as Favour, says they are better off, even in Covid-19 times. “We aren’t worried about the closure of our club because we aren’t broke. We made steady cash, so a few weeks of Covid-19 induced holiday won’t make us go broke.
“Some of us made about N3million during the Christmas holidays. And by the way, money is not everything because only the living can enjoy money. We will stay at home for as long as the government wants us to. We aren’t complaining at all,” she says.
In Yaba’s Commercial Avenue, pub owners and strippers tell Pulse that things have gone from bad to worse. “I hope they find a cure for this stupid virus soon. The thing don spoil business plenty o,” one stripper says in the dim lights of a strip club that was just about to shut down for weeks. “This isn’t even funny.”
One stripper tells Pulse that even clients who normally place calls for “home service” have retreated into a world of social distancing with their wives. “Alhaji has stopped picking my calls. He says it’s too risky. The other chief says he’s practicing social distancing with his wife. So, coronavirus has killed our business both home and abroad. Na thunder go faya that yeye corona,” she says, amid raucous laughter.
Editor's note: *Names in this report have been changed to protect the identities of the respondents.