By Gbenga Odunsi, Lagos
An unpleasant smell of cigarettes and marijuana enveloped the atmosphere when Information Nigeria visited Ipodo Street on a Wednesday evening. Cited close to Computer Village in the heart of Ikeja, Ipodo is a street with semblance of hustling and bustling of Lagos State.
The street is littered with few residential buildings, make-shift shops, and a market. On this street, you would find commercial sex workers, street urchins, drug dealers, cocaine pushers — once night falls.
Make no mistake, Ipodo is also known for commercial activities with traders conducting their businesses in the open, and buyers trooping in and out of the community. However, what obtains during the day is a far cry from what the street introduces you to at night.
Nothing better describes the residents of Ipodo than to be likened to the 1966 Italian epic spaghetti Western film— The Good, the bad, and the ugly— directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as “the Good”, Lee Van Cleef as “the Bad”, and Eli Wallach as “the Ugly”. Ipodo is home to the good, the bad and the ugly.
Hub of drug peddlers
The well-known drug that is being pushed in Ipodo is called crack. Information Nigeria gathered that crack is also known as ‘gbana’ in Yoruba language. In Ipodo, crack is being peddled in secrecy for fear of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) operatives who have been raiding the community.
Findings reveal that besides crack, other drugs being sold at Ipodo market are heroin and cocaine. These drugs, according to a former drug dealer, Moye (not real name) are brought ranging from clean-cut Nigerians to miscreants. Many lives and future have been annihilated in Ipodo due to addiction to crack.
According to Moye, “Cocaine peddling in Ipodo is well-coordinated and done in behind curtains. Only people with strong connections can get the actual location of where it is sold.
He said, “Cocaine is very expensive here. Only big boys patronise the sellers. A pinch is sold for about N1000. Use that to calculate how much a wrap or kilo is sold for.”
He added that “some addicts are ready to do anything to get a pinch of cocaine. I know some broke people who have used their cars as collateral to collect drugs. They get their cars back only when they are able to pay off their debt. These set of people are so addicted to the point that they can sell off their properties just to get cocaine.”
Moye reveals that Police officers work hand in hand with drug peddlers in Ipodo. According to him, most of these officers also visit brothels for short time rest, settle disagreements between drug dealers, and sometimes between prostitutes and their landlords, adding that Policemen work for touts to extort money from innocent passersby.
Information Nigeria visited an electronic store at Oriyomi Street pretending to be a prospective customer. After a few chit-chat and haggling over prices of a 43 inches Samsung LCD, questions were raised as to how legitimate businesses thrive amid prostitution and drug peddling in the community. The store owner. a middle-aged man reveals he is often scared of the boys in the area. He says, ” I am not pleased with this environment, many of my customers are complaining too. But, I have no choice. I am making more sales and making more money here than where I was before.
” What I do basically is to mind my business. This is what I tell new residents and shop owners too. I don’t interfere in things that are not of interest to me. That is what has been keeping me going all these years.”
A married man who resides in the community spoke to Information Nigeria on condition of anonymity. He says, “all forms of ills are present in Ipodo, ranging from robbery to prostitution. The community harbours prostitutes, gamblers, petty thieves, hired killers, armed robbers, and anything illegal that you can think of.
” I came to live here because houses here are cheaper when compared to other places in Ikeja. I am trying to save money to move out of this place by the end of this year.”
“This is not a good place to raise kids,” he added.
However, a Police officer who does not want his name mentioned because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter, told Information Nigeria that the Police are aware of the criminality taking place in Ipodo and the agency is trying its best to sanitize the community by ensuring that drug dealers and all criminals in the environment are made to face the wrath of the law. He, however, admitted that there are bad eggs in the force who are likely to engage in illegal businesses with touts in Ipodo.
“There were times we used to raid their hideouts regularly. But the truth is, when these criminals are arrested, they easily get free because they have strong connections with influential people, who happen to be their customers too. We are trying our best but we need the citizens to support us. Police cannot do it alone.”
Prostitution, a booming trade
Prostitution is one of the major trade in Ipodo Street despite hike in rate of HIV/AIDS in Lagos State. Prostitution in Ipodo, near computer village, sells faster than smartphones and laptops. Information Nigeria gathered that thriving trade has forced some landlords to convert their houses to brothels for prostitutes and for quick money.
A round of sex on this street is N1000, but could be as low as N700 when business is dull, while overnight service cost N3000. Findings show that almost every house in Ipodo serves as a brothel. Patrons of these prostitutes are traders in computer village, bus conductors, bus drivers, and villains living in Ipodo.
A landlord who simply identified himself as Oloye, told Information Nigeria that converting houses to brothels for prostitution is more lucrative than renting to tenants who may owe rents at the end of the year.
A boutique owner in Ipodo said,” If I had money, I would have moved out of this place. This place is a hideout for criminals. Even security operatives help these criminals in perpetuating their evils. Drug dealers and prostitutes have cartels here. You can hardly find any decent girl in this community. That is why I don’t allow my children come to the shop as I don’t want them to be negatively influenced. I will soon move out of this place to a decent environment”, she added.
Another landlord in the area confirmed to Information Nigeria that many landlords have sold their conscience because of money by driving tenants out of their residential buildings to convert same to brothels for prostitutes. He described the mode of dressing of these street girls as an eyesore, adding that most of the girls are between the ages of 12- 19— brought from other states for prostitution in Lagos.
He said: “These prostitutes are a bad influence on our children. We need the government to help us sanitize this community by flushing out these girls and their cohorts. The police are doing their best, but I don’t think they can handle the situation. It is beyond their control. Most times, when these girls are arrested, they resurface after few hours. That means they have been granted bail. The Lagos State government should step in to make this community a better place. We are tired.”