Allen Avenue is known for its thriving night life; and booming commercial activities during the day.
Allen Avenue is one of the most famous places in Lagos. It is located in the state capital, Ikeja. There are no fewer than 20 commercial banks on the stretch. On a normal day, you are most likely to see currency dealers on both sides of the avenue trying to convince you to convert your foreign currency into Naira or vice-versa.
Allen Avenue has a heavy presence of companies, high brow shops, boutiques and fast food joints. For a fact, it is a business hub. The popular song by Weird MC, ‘Allen Avenue’ truly reflects the district. At night, the Nollywood movie, ‘Domitila’ comes to mind due to the heavy presence of Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) who ply their trade along the avenue.
On Allen, night life actually begins when normal commercial activities are over. The period is truly, a reflection of a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Regular restaurants close for business at night but for many night crawlers, there are alternatives as roadside tea brewers, known in local parlance as mai shai, Suya (meat kebab) and the noodles sellers make brisk business from dusk till dawn. Allen Avenue is indeed, a choice place for night crawlers.
Over the years, Allen has been both popular and notorious. While many will always remember it for the array of high profile businesses that are present there, the sex trade that thrives at sunset gives it a different image. The commercial sex workers come out in their numbers, hanging out on Allen and the connecting Aromire Avenue and Opebi street at both ends.
“This has been the way of Allen since the 1980s,” a suya seller who simply gave his name as Sule said. Sule, who has been living in Lagos since 1983, described Allen as “the home of prostitutes in Nigeria.”
At night, a good number of them converge in front of Peka Hotel. During the day, Peka, which is adjacent to Sweet Sensation at Opebi, just looks like an open space where anyone can go and have a drink. But at night, the place comes alive. In large numbers, fun seekers gather in the open bar to drink and patronise the suya spots around while the prostitutes prospect for customers. In different shapes, heights and sizes, these women of easy virtue adorn the streets. By the Opebi roundabout, there is usually a Police patrol vehicle stationed throughout the night.
The Next Edition gathered that some night guards within the area turn their security posts to temporary short time brothels at night. They take money from the commercial sex workers who in turn, take their solicitors to the usually small rooms.
A security guard at one of the banks on the avenue, who spoke to The Next Edition on the condition of anonymity said, “It is a common thing here. I am not the only one who uses my room for short time. Almost all the security men on Allen do the same.”
Does this happen only on Allen Avenue? The guard explained that “It happens in environments where prostitutes are on the streets. Sometimes, the prostitutes approach security men for the deal, and at other times, it is the other way round. The security men approach the prostitutes to tell them their rooms are available for short time.”
However, widespread as the practice appears to be, he said there has been no case of any security man being caught in the act by the owners of the property.
Amid all the escapades in the environment, fun seekers have Policemen on night duty to contend with. It was gathered that while the ladies of the night are out there for their business men of the Nigerian Police are also on the prowl in search of scapegoats to exploit.
It was learnt that the Police are usually out for night crawlers, especially those who patronize CSW. Sometimes, they hide in dark corners and take people by surprise whenever they see anyone trying to chat with the prostitutes by the roadside. In most cases, they demand money from the victims without any plans to take them to the station. Most solicitors would feel thoroughly embarrassed to be taken to the station on charges of soliciting for sex, so they will rather part with some money to regain their freedom. In rare cases where they are taken to the station and they end up spending the night there, they are most likely to be bailed the next morning at a higher cost.
Lagos State Police Public Relations Office, ASP Olarinde Famous-Cole, while responding to questions posed by The Next Edition, declared that two wrongs do not make a right. “It is wrong to solicit sex from prostitutes and also wrong for the police to take undue advantage of it. No one should be extorted. We as Police should obey the law in everything we do,” he said.
The Police spokesman further disclosed that much is being done to sanitise the force. “The Inspector General of Police is doing a campaign to assure everyone that bail is free. He has advised members of the public to report any station that collects money to free anyone via the citizen’s complaints numbers.” He also admitted that “there are bad eggs in the Police Force just like every other institution.”
Since night life on Allen Avenue is a blend of the good the bad and the ugly, fun seekers can only play safe if they consider the all-round implications of being caught on the wrong side of the law.