While we were still in the storage room planning our next move, the door of the storage room creaked and opened. We were all alarmed. An elderly woman came inside. She did not notice us as she closed the door. She was holding a mop and a pail, and I guessed that she was one of the hotel’s cleaners. When she turned around and saw us, her eyes grew wide in shock as she held her mouth to avoid screaming.
We begged her to keep her voice low that we were not thieves nor kidnappers, that we were just innocent girls who came from Lagos for an ushering job in Abuja, only to realize that it was all a disguise to get prostitutes that will be sleeping with the big men in Abuja.
The woman listened to us with rapt attention. She had a sad look in her eyes. She told us that she once had a niece who became a prostitute and was later used for rituals, so she said that she would help us to escape from the hotel.
She took us to a corner of the storage room where a big box was. She opened the box, and we saw old clothes, wigs and shoes. She explained to us that these were lost belongings that customers often left behind in the hotel rooms.
She gave us the clothes to change into, and wigs to change our look, even with expensive looking handbags. When we were done, she briefed us on how we were to leave the storage room in our disguise and head to the lobby, past the security men without arousing suspicion.
She carried broom and packer, and left the room first. Five minutes later, Thelma and Mary left the room too, holding hands like sisters. Some minutes later, the other three of us left the room too. As we left we started talking and laughing loudly. Anybody seeing us would just think that we were three friends who were just chatting and gossiping among themselves, that will not arouse attention, especially from those working with Lady T’s escort service.
When we reached the security door, the security man allowed us to pass through the doors. When we reached outside, I breathed in fresh air of freedom. It was relieving, but it was not yet over. If we didn’t leave immediately, we could be caught and sent back into the hotel room for those men to come and pick us later in the evening. The three of us met with Thelma and Mary who were standing under the tree. We all started to work till we reached the hotel’s main gate. We left the main gate and reached the main road. While we were still deliberating on our next move, and how we will get to the car park, God miraculously sent a man driving a blue pickup car. The man stopped at the side of the main road and said:
“Beautiful girls, will you like a drop? Where are you all going to?”
“We are going to the motor park,” I blurted out immediately. Even though the man was a stranger and we didn’t know if he was dangerous, we had no choice but to follow him in his car. It was better than risking us being spotted by Lady T’s men standing at the main road side.
Thankfully, he did not ask us any question. We all kept quiet, each of us in her own world of thoughts, while the music on the radio blared on.
He dropped us at the motor park. We thanked him, got off his car, and entered the park. At the park, we used the 42,000 naira, and paid for tickets that was heading to Ojulegba in Lagos, and boarded a bus. The board was one of the cheapest buses, it wasn’t comfortable at all, but we were grateful that it would still take us to our destination.
We stayed on the road for two full days, because the speed of the bus was very slow, and the fact that the bus had to be stopped several times for breaks, refueling and for repairs, before we finally arrived in Lagos.
Back in Lagos, I informed my mother about what happened back in Abuja, who in turn told her brother, Uncle Danre, who is the superintendent of police. When he came to visit, while we were all sitting at the parlour, he cautioned me at first, telling me to be careful of some job interviews I was invited to. That some of them were just ploys to lure them to join the prostitution business.
He then told me that he would have that particular ushering agency investigated on and arrest all the people that were involved in that kind of business.
With that, he left the house with a determined look on his face. As the days rolled by, I waited patiently to hear what had become the fate of the agency we escaped from. Days then rolled into weeks.
Three weeks later, I was invited to come over to the police station. I went into my uncle’s office. He sat there behind the huge mahogany table, in his officer’s uniform, exuding authority. He offered me to a sit. I thanked him and sat down on the chair facing him.
“Welcome…I told you to come over here, regarding the incident that took place some weeks ago, where you and those girls escaped from. We investigated the matter, and tracked the agency to where they were located at before, but when the police went there, the place was empty. It is like the people knew that when you girls escaped, that the police would be contacted. But we have a file of every member and person sponsoring and financing the group. So, it will not be difficult for us to pull them out of their hiding places.” He brought out a huge file from under his desk, and pushed it across the table to me.
“There are the pictures of every culprit that we need to arrest. I want you to look into the file and point out the people you can recognise there.”
I nodded my head in understanding. I opened the file slowly in fear. I was scared of what I would discover in it. First page, I saw Madam T’s picture, her face was in a scowl, as if she was annoyed with me. I pointed her picture to my uncle, and told him how she was called. He nodded his head, and wrote something down in a black notepad before him. I kept opening the file, seeing several strange faces I had not met before. Then I saw Miss Bella’s smiling face. I frowned at that devilish smile. Next, I saw those two guys that followed us as co-ushers, and I shook my head sadly at the pretense and deceit. I kept opening the book, the person I saw in the last page left my mouth gaping in shock.
It was my friend Laide, the very girl that called me up for the interview. I felt a chill run down my marrows. So, she knew what she was making me go into, I thought. There she was with her innocent smile and face, then I remembered the popular adage that says, “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know.”
I quickly pointed her picture to Uncle Danre. I told him who she was. That she was my close friend back then in secondary school days. He nodded his head and wrote something down. He questioned me, asking me if I knew where she was staying, what she did for a living, and so on. I told him that she told me that she was working in a fast food joint, but now I knew better.
I handed over the file to him. My uncle picked up the telephone, and dispatched unit to go over to pick up Laide. He told me to wait in the office with him, while police men went to her house to arrest her. I told him at first that I could not bear to see the face of the friend that betrayed me, and made me to almost go into something I have always hated right from when I was a little bit young. But he insisted that I should wait a bit longer, and I had to wait in his office.
Thirty minutes later, two uniformed police men, marched into the office with a wailing female. She was crying out aloud and asking them what was her offence. When she saw me, her eyes grew wide in shock and understanding as she finally knew why she was arrested.
“I am so sorry Timi. I didn’t mean for this to happen. That was my way of earning money to take care of my aged mother and siblings,” Laide pleaded innocently.
I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t even look at her. I was really disgusted at what she had done.
“So, selling your best friend out, was your only means to survive, ehn? Well, it is a little too late now. Tell me Laide, what if I had not escaped from that hotel room, and I had been forced into prostitution, and did not survive it, would you be standing there to cry and apologise for your wrong doing?”
Laide, just kept her head low in shame, sobbing bitterly.
“I guess not…You and your evil team are all going down one by one, and you all will never have the opportunity to deceive another girl again,” I said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Suddenly, Laide burst into mirth laughter.
“So, even if you bring us down, don’t you know that there are hundreds of agencies which disguise themselves to be ushering groups, catering groups, and so on, scattered all over the country. So, the business will still go on.”
“At least one of you be people will be no more.” I said and told my uncle that I was leaving. He nodded his assent and I left his office. That was the last time I saw Laide.
I later heard that several of the members of that agency were bursted and forced out of hiding. They were all tried in court and sentenced to life imprisonment, including Laide.
I started a foundation- a foundation for young girls to create awareness and also help them not to be deceived to trade their bodies for money. Some of these girls in the long run, ended up with dreadful diseases, died mysteriously, or disappeared.
Anywhere I went to, I kept telling people about my miraculous escape from that hotel room, with hopes that they will learn a lesson and not be a victim too.