Kuramo village fell to ocean fury and the rage of the Lagos State government last week. But tales of prostitution and drug peddling which defined its exixtence have come to the fore, as insiders recount, reports SAMUEL AWOYINFA
Kuramo Beach, to its residents, is escapism of some sorts. Besides its regular occupants, prostitutes and drug peddlers see the place as haven for their operations. It was like an island on its own.
For those who wanted to ‘feel high’ on illicit drug, Kuramo also gave them that illusion of being on top of their world. Kuramo offered unending music, blaring from speakers of numerous drinking joints that lined the ocean front.
But the music stopped early hours of Saturday, August 18, around 3:00am, when ocean surge, entombed a large section of the shanties and cabins. It was not only the shanties and cabins that fell casualties, about 16 persons were also swept away by the ocean rage.
By Sunday, the picture became clearer, as government agents moved in, and demolished the remaining shanties. As a result, the residents have scattered. But some of them still wished it were a bad dream that would soon go away. They were seen on Wednesday still hanging around the Kuramo Beach extension.
Some of them lived there for over 10 years, and for those in this category, it is difficult, having another place to call a home. One of them, who pleaded anonymity, said Kuramo though offered them a shelter; it also played host to a lot other negative indulgences.
According to him, over 50 per cent of the inhabitants were prostitutes and they were the main attraction, given the number of men who trooped in, mostly at night.
He said, “The prostitutes are the main attraction in Kuramo village. They were there in all shapes and sizes. From 8:00pm, men would start arriving. Some after gulping some bottles of alcoholic drink, would face the commercial sex workers.
“Besides prostitution, drug also came handy here. Whatever it was you wanted. Is it marijuana or crack (cocaine)? They were available. A pinch sold for N250, a wrapper of marijuana is N50. Again, there was another form of marijuana, which a wrap sold for N200. That one was the concentrated type.
“And for those who wanted to enhance their sexual performance, there were those who sold the local aphrodisiac called Bura ntasi.”
This source who spoke fluent English, said the prostitutes who lived inside the cabins, where they paid between N800 -N1000 daily, depending on the size of the room, were however, conscious of being infected with HIV/AIDS, as they insisted their clients must put on condoms. But he however, added that they had perfected some tricks, in which they swindled some unsuspecting clients.
The source said,“These prostitutes had agents, and the agents normally lurked around. As soon as any man entered the room with any of them, he would be asked to hang his trousers by the window. As soon as the client got carried away by the sexual ecstasy, the agent stealthily picked the trousers from outside, and emptied the money and valuables therein.
“Many patrons of prostitutes here had lost their valuables in that manner”. According to him, the prostitutes charged between N500 -N1000, and all depending on negotiation skills of the client.
“Kuramo ran on 24 hours basis, it hadly went to sleep.”
One of the former inhabitants, Mr. Samuel Adebayo could not be bothered about sex hawkers and their antics.
His concern was where he would start his tailoring business again. Having lived in Kuramo for over 10 years, and being thrown out under three hours, had left him puzzled for now. He was among those seen at the Bar Beach sea front, about 100 metres from Kuramo, on Wednesday.
He denounced the claim of the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure that they were given four days notice.
“I had lived in Kuramo Beach for over 10 years, it was not true that there was any notice. It was on Sunday (August 19) morning that the DPO of Bar Beach police station led his men to this place and told everyone to come out.
“We were given only two hours to pack our belongings. How many things could one pack in two hours? So, some of us only took a fraction of what we have, before the caterpillar moved in,” he said.
He recollected that there were about 110 cabins, and they paid for everything there. “There was no water, no toilets and no bathrooms. We bought water at the rate of N50 per bucket. To bath, one would pay N100, and to use the toilet, it attracted N100.”
On his own part, Mr. Laja Obasi, who said he was a security man at Kuramo, also said he lived there for almost 11 years, and he was almost regretting it.
Obasi who explained that he earned N3,000 per week, stressed that his fear was how to get another job.
Himself and his colleagues were for now, living at the mercy of friends and passers-by. He moaned, “I’m still fit to work as security man, but who can employ me?” He suffers a limp in one of his legs.”
Another former resident, who simply preferred to be addressed as Prince, said he was a tourism promoter at the beach front, and all that had gone with the wind. Dressed in a jeans trousers and ash-coloured sweater, he said he was in the business of making those who visited the beach comfortable, providing them good drinks and accommodation.
As at Wednesday, Prince was still in a quandary about the way forward. “I really want to retrace my steps by going back to God in a seven-day prayer and fasting,” he began. “After that, I will now decide what next to do. I have two options -either to raise money for my young wife to start business, because I had been the one shouldering the family’s burden or buy a car which I will be using to do kabukabu.”
The commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure, Mr. Olusegun Oniru, who visited the site on Monday reiterated that a four-day warning was given to traders and residents. He said, “It is not that we waited for this disaster to happen before we started acting. We gave them a four-day warning of the looming ocean surge and high waves but they wouldn’t listen. It is rather unfortunate that they waited for nature to force them out.”
Oniru added that the state government was faced with an Herculean task, because some of the residents, had no place to go. Some have constructed some shanties, directly in waterfront at the Bar Beach, and inside and outside where they kept their wares and personal effects.
Besides, some traders who were equally dislodged displayed their wares inside their buses and cars.
While most of the residents and traders ruled out compensation of any kind, some of them were still bogged down by uncertainty of their future.