Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Good,The Bad And The Ugly Side Of Kuramo Beach Lagos

Night life may be on the ebb in Lagos metropolis. However, at Kuramo Beach, it is on the upswing as Tunde Busari finds out in this report.
Ruth Edward, a 20-year-old Ghanaian was dressed in what looked like a swimming kit. The biting cold from the Atlantic breeze at the Kuramo Beach that evening meant nothing to her as she was more concerned about the number of men that would look her way and probably warm her make-shift bed before daybreak. 
She hit a target when a reporter hooked up with her. He, however, had a different mission. Ruth nonetheless collected N1,500 from the reporter for the less than 30 minutes chat to, in her word, “make up for taking my time”. Ruth is only one among many young ladies making a living from commercial sex at the beach. 
Although she is in the acclaimed oldest profession, according to her, after a Nigerian tourist she called Austin dumped her at the beach in January. Austin, she said, visited Ghana, struck friendship with her and brought her to Lagos with a promise to introduce her to the Nollywood bigwigs, having earlier shown her passion for Nigerian movies.
Here to stay
 “Since then, I have been here hustling after Austin disappeared. But as a mature person I have mixed with people here and I am okay and enjoying the protection this place offers stranded people like me. There is no big deal in what I am doing as long as I am not committing crime. It’s all fun, fun and fun unlimited,” she smilingly said in a diction that could rival that of a broadcast journalist. 
As soon as the reporter was through with Ruth she melted into the crowd of fun-seekers seated at different tables arranged on the vast sand- filled beach overlooking the ocean where waves and sand provide additional fun. 
The encounter with Ruth is the picture of the kind of night life and fun that goes on at the beach on a daily basis. Confident and occasionally daring, the young ladies in their early 20s are scattered all over the beach in search of fun and cash. A casual whisper or harmless tap is all a patron needs to start a deal while the lady leads him straight to her cabin which serves as her apartment where the act takes place. 
There are many of the cabins leased out to the ladies by beach touts for a fee of N1000 per night. But Rita declined to give the details of the partnership with the touts even though she confessed that the touts also serve as security guards for them, especially against aggressive patrons who may want to short-change them after the act. 
“We are being protected by our friends (the touts) to the extent that no man could play upon our intelligence and escape. He will not attempt it again if he has the second chance. I had planned to do this thing for just two months to raise transport fare to return to Ghana. 
“But the kind of friendliness among us here and the patronage is making me to shift my return forward. I am now thinking of going in December when I would have made enough money to take care of many things at home. This place is cool as you can feel it and that is how it is all day,” Ruth, who also claims to be saving money to return to school in Ghana, said. 
Although the fee charged by the ladies is not fixed as the bargaining skill of a patron plays a significant role in the deal, some of them don’t settle for amount less than N1000 while a few others, especially new initiates take as low as N500 for a round of sex. 
The ones called ‘big girls’ among the ladies prefer short term affairs, saying it pays better than long ones that exhaust their strength. According to Juli, one of Ruth’s colleagues, “There was a time one heavy smoker came to me and decided to spend the whole night, I barked at him. He first thought I was joking until I told him I would shout to call my colleagues. The man was dirty and should not be seen with me under normal circumstances,” Juli said. 
Business on the beach inevitably enters a recession as soon as cock crows in the morning when patrons troop out of the arena in large numbers. They hurriedly jump into available vehicles and disappear from sight. They melt into the surging crowd of Lagosians looking as innocent and serious as your uncle or aunty next door. 
Some of the patrons return to their various daylight jobs right from the beach!  One of such is a commercial driver who gave his name simply as John. He said he relocated to Lagos from Ekiti State to operate the tokunbo bus he bought in March. He said he has not secured an accommodation, hence his regular presence at the beach which he considered safer than Ijora Park where he was freely extorted by touts. 
“This is my home for now at least until I get an accommodation. I came to Lagos two months ago and the first week I spent with my friend’s family at Bariga was not interesting at all. That is why I am always here. Even when I get my accommodation I will still come here because this is a special joint different from what you find elsewhere in Lagos,” he said. 
Time to unwind 
Life is animated from 6 pm when patrons arrive in batches into the waiting hands of a cluster of diligent restaurants’ attendants who struggle with one another to have patrons seated in their stand where branded plastic chairs and tables are circularly arranged on the sand. 
With different brand of music blaring from different speakers mounted at different joints and eateries, the patrons are treated to an electrifying evening on bottles of variety of drinks from soft to alcohol, while some of them rise from their seat to dance away the stress of the day’s work.  All kinds of food are also served with a full complement of fresh fish and assorted meat. The popular suya is not left out on the list of the delicacies. 
The beach is indeed an arena of unlimited pleasure where class discrimination has no place as politicians and captains of industry also sneak in at the dead of the night without their usual aides except a few security personnel in mufti. 
One Godwin, a restaurant attendant, told our reporter that he had once sighted a governor visiting the beach some months ago. “He did not spend the whole night; he just spent a few hours with his boys and left later with three girls he picked here. I later got to know that he lodged at one hotel not far from here. We see these big men coming here in T-shirts and knickers with face cap.”
Mr. Segun Alade, a banker, whose office is located at Marina, could not have been elsewhere as he confessed that the beach joint is a place to be after a hard day’s job. According to him, since his Ireland-based friend introduced him to the place before he relocated abroad in 2010, he had been skeptical about spending an evening at such a place.  
“But I am having a nice night here as you can see. It’s interesting to use this type of place to cool off and ease accumulated tension of the week. I am here for the first time because there is a reason to be here and I am fulfilled,” he said. 
However, the flip side of the beach could be unpalatable, especially to a first time visitor who could run into the hands of pickpockets, who keep an eagle eye on every patron. A first time visitor could also be tricked into enjoying a service his pocket could not afford. 
This was experienced by our reporter who ate a plate of rice with one piece of chicken and was given a bill of N2600. The heated argument that followed this could only be imagined. But, the two parties settled for N1000 after which a friendship was established. 
Law and order
Drug hawkers and gamblers also do their things at the beach in the wee hours. Interestingly, there is hardly a serious case of breaking of law as everybody is engrossed in fun, a sharp contrast to life at the neighbouring Bar Beach where touts make visits miserable for pleasure-seekers. The peace is facilitated by the intimidating presence of a team of policemen from the Victoria Island Divisional Headquarters near the entrance of the beach. 
The policemen, using two patrol vehicles, are stationed at the spot day and night as a pre-emptive move against strange elements. The leader of the team, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, boasted that no criminal could operate at the beach. 
“They cannot risk it. We are here 24/7 to oversee what is going on here. It is a suicide attempt for any criminal to do anything here. That is why we park our vehicles here to enable us see everywhere. People should feel free to come and enjoy themselves. It is safe,” the ebony black police officer said with an air of assurance. 
Surprisingly, it was learnt that a pocket of criminals use the beach as a hideout under the cover of its serenity and safety. “I cannot say much about this. But wherever you have fun, there is no way criminals will not be there but they cannot commit any crime here,” the police officer further said. 
As it obtains at other tourist centres, passage of a patron into the beach arena is guaranteed on the payment of entrance fee of N300 at the ticketing post strategically erected at the only entrance into the beach. Kuramo Beach is a huge investment jointly managed by two private tourist companies. Conservative estimate reveals that not less than 1,500 patrons enter the beach on a daily basis. 
While there seems to be adequate supply of mobile toilets at the arena, the heap of waste mounting some metres away from the ticketing post poses a question mark on the efficiency of the management as the strong stench ushers in patrons thereby constituting health hazard even to the workers who work round the clock at the beach. 
One of the staff of the managing companies, who craved for anonymity, however, rose in defence of the management with a claim that the management does not toy with the sanitation of the arena. “We don’t know why the refuse collectors who normally clear this place have not come since yesterday. If you come back later in the evening you will not meet this refuse here again,” the man said.

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