In June 2010, a representative of Nigeria's political capital, Abuja, announced that local prostitutes had "48 hours to vacate the city and quit the job". Abuja's Secretary for Social Development, Mrs. Blessing Onuh, also warned men that make use of prostitutes that they will be arrested. Almost two months after that proclamation, Onuh has announced that prostitutes will be sent to a rehabilitation center to prepare them to reenter society. The new information on Abuja's plans for call girls is welcome news. However, as is often the case, a lack of information creates more questions about the strategy to give prostitutes options that would discourage them from having to sell their bodies.
LUGBE REHABILITATION CENTRE
Onuh shared more information about Abuja's plans in response to concerns that the government was not serious about removing prostitutes from the streets. According to her, all prostitutes that voluntarily abandon the sex trade will be sent to the Lugbe Rehabilitation Centre (LRC) to participate in a "robust rehabilitation program". The program is set to include counseling from religious leaders, motivational speakers and others. All repentant prostitutes will receive training in the following vocations: hair dressing, computer programming and cake making. And, as if Onuh read this writer's article on the original 48 hour announcement, or the scathing comments from readers, she mentioned that,
"We cannot just take [prostitutes] off the streets and tell them we don't have any plan for them. We have to make the centre habitable and comfortable for them."It is excellent that Abuja's government plans to train former prostitutes so that they can work in trades other than one that requires them to sell their bodies. Hopefully, officials will not only offer these ladies training but also empower them to become entrepreneurs and not just employees. And, these same officials will realize that the pimps who control prostitutes must be the main focus of their "war on prostitution".
PUBLIC RELATIONS 101
While Onuh and the Abuja government plans to rehabilitate prostitutes, the fact remains that the LRC is yet to be completed and in fact lies abandoned. Onuh herself acknowledged that a road to the LRC remains incomplete, blaming the "procurement process" for that reality. Given that fact, why is it that she and her boss, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), gave prostitutes an ultimatum without being ready to address their needs and concerns? Even the most brilliant and best intended plans need to be organized and well thought out before they are announced. This failure on the part of Onuh's boss, Senator Bala Mohammed, reflect a constant failure of most Nigerian officials. They simply make announcements about plans without actually having a clear and concise way to make things happen.
Mohammed should not have issued an idle ultimatum to prostitutes to leave the trade. At least not until Abuja had the tools necessary to help them become self sufficient. Although Onuh mentioned that various civic society leaders were contacted to assist in the rehabilitation program, there is no indication of who these leaders are and exactly what role they will play. This lack of transparency and as such lack of credibility, could have been addressed via the creation of a simple website that not only provided the necessary information but also allowed for the participation of local organizations that are probably in a better position to achieve the goal of less prostitutes than the government.
At least Abuja's "war on prostitution" is proving entertaining as a former high ranking local official was nabbed along with 60 prostitutes in the early hours of Saturday, August 7th, 2010. Mr. Clem initially told the arresting officials that the lady he was negotiating with was actually his daughter. Another young lady arrested in the raid confided to journalists that she had called a Senator-client of hers for help in obtaining her release. He unfortunately hung up on her when he learned journalists where at the scene. These arrests coupled with the reality of the uncompleted Lugbe Rehabilitation Centre beg the question of whether this group of ladies will not have the benefit of visiting LRC and getting some vocational training. This writer also wonders if individuals like Mr. Clem will also be sent to rehab so as to learn how to 'just say no' to prostitutes. Maybe in another lifetime.
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