Undergraduate girls in the country’s various tertiary institutions are known to embark on various endeavours for survival and one of these is the trade of flesh. Those who do this are known as ‘Runs Girls’. In this piece, OBINNA OGBONNAYA (ABAKALIKI) and AGATHA CHITUMU (ABUJA) explore the lives of ‘runs girls’ in desperate battle to obtain certificates in a bid to secure for themselves places in the labour market later in the future It breaks essential moral code to note that some of the young girls sent to universities to acquire knowledge and become productive citizens in the state, have found a vocation in prostitution.
The students now ply the trade right inside and outside the school campuses as most times, they are even seen hanging around the school gate waiting for prospective clients that would drive down the school gate, openly negotiate price with them and zoom off with them. It is 8pm, a black Lexus Jeep had parked at a strategic point close to the gates of a popular polytechnic in one of the South-south states.
The exotic vehicle parked while its drivers blinked its headlamps as a sign to notify a group of young girls, aged roughly between 20 and 30. The girls could be seen dressed in skimpy fashion wears that expose almost every part of their bodies. All eyes on them, even the most religious young man in the campus would not resist the temptation to look as they cat walked into the car till it zoomed off.
Of course that is not going to be all for the day as others will join, depending on how arrangements were made and to who and where. As long as the campus lives, the ritual continues and weekends are better for it. They are campus runs girls (campus sex workers), schoolgirls who have turned to sex work for survival and the practice continues to be on the rise. In one of the states of the North-east, the strategy is different.
“In my school days, what these girls do was to leave their pictures and phone numbers with some security personnel at the school gate to show to client. When they come, they would take a look at them and make their choices, put a call across and a deal is activated”, said Yakson Yakubu, a graduate of a tertiary institution in the geo-political zone. Also in the North-central, campus prostitution is a big deal that keeps increasing like a funded industry.
In a third-generation university, two hostels, one with a religious name, are the major hotspots to pick up students for a short romp. Putting up this business is not a problem, all it takes to combine sex work and education is to look good, have make-up kits and get introduced to a campus love-vendor, one of the girls told our correspondent.
“And if returns are consistent in the business regularly, it is easy to jiggle academic pursuit and campus runs because they have everything needed to settle academic failure,” she added. Clearly, from South-west, the story is similar if not the same. And so the pendulum swings in the East. Campus prostitution has continued to cover more grounds in Nigerian tertiary institutions than anyone can think of.
It has become a norm that almost all campuses now have hot spots where girls could be picked up and dropped off after sexual transaction. In Ebonyi State for instance where the practice has not been seriously reported, prostitution among female students is said to be one of the most increasing way of life.
The case has become alarming. None of the institution in the state would claim ignorance of the activities of its female students. Despite the clampdown by the security agencies and the state government being against this illicit trade, the trade still flourishes.
From the state-owned varsity to the federal-owned, it is the business of the town among young female undergraduates. Regrettably, LEADERSHIP findings revealed that most parents and guardians of these girls of easy virtues are ignorant of the trade their children and wards engage in. The prices according to checks range from N5000 to N10,000 depending on the class of the female and the personality involved.
Apart from the usual standing on the major roads waiting for customers, it is also believed that some of the girls also get patronage from government officials. Investigations have also shown that most states government officials enlist the services of these young women especially when there are state functions and personalities are expected to come into the state.
According to investigations by our correspondents, when occasions like this occur, it is the sophisticated ones among them are contacted to keep some of the personalities busy in their hotel rooms for a few that would be determined by those that arranged the business. In government circles, it is allegedly known as “body no be firewood”. This happens most times when important events are celebrated.
“What do you expect of a lady who left home and her parents, her only source of income, could not afford to pay for her academic cost? If she is the type who wants a university certificate like me to secure a future and be respected by her husband, she would do anything to survive”, Emmanualla (not real name) an undergraduate in one of the affected institutions, asked LEADERSHIP Weekend. She continued, “I am the only daughter in the family. I have five kid brothers and three are in the same school with me.
My immediate younger one is about to graduate and I foot his bills. He was almost influence by bad friends to join Yahoo business but I told him it would not happen when I am alive. Bros gals gat to survive and God knows why. “The boys are there doing worse things but people see what we do as evil. Mine is to pay genuine bills.
Others do theirs for fun and I also know those who do it because they want to continue to live larger than life”, said Emmanualla who told LEADERSHIP she had no regret doing it. “We have to survive at whatever cost.
Have you not heard of lecturers asking their female students for sex to pass them in their exams? We do it for many reasons. To feed and to cloth ourselves while the lecturers take their portion to make for our grades. It’s all over my brother, said Preye Pedro, a student of another university. “You came to school initially with the hope to read but these old men won’t let you be. They asked for money to pass you.
What choice do you really have when you don’t have the connection? So, you go out and hustle to make money to pay your way out otherwise they will frustrate your life in the school. It is hustling for survival, not prostitution. Which girl does not have more than one boyfriend in the campus?” For Mimi, an alumna of a university in the North-central, it is two-way thing.
She said runs babes in campus go after men and men do go after young girls as well. She told LEADERSHIP weekend that it is not all runs babes in the campus that are genuine students. “Some are visiting friends who come not only to visit their female friends but end up staying as students of the university.”
According to Mimi, campus runs babes have connections outside school with ‘aristos’ and some lecturers but some of them have been reported ending up in the hands of ritualists. Mimi recounted a story of a familiar student during her time in the university who had a great outing with a man and on her return, she started bleeding in the hostel and was taken to the hospital where she died. A senior lecturer in Ebonyi State, Mrs. Victoria Ogba, who condemned the practice, said “female undergraduates are not only exposing themselves to danger, they are also mortgaging their future on the altar of quick money and instant sensual gratification”.
She fear that the dangers associated with such lifestyle outwear the financial benefit. Ogba who noted that Nigerian universities that used to be the source of pride to young girls that passed through them, no longer have the uniqueness and glamour to the institutions that was once known.
“It is quite unfortunate that those who are supposed to mentor the students are now taking advantage of them. How can a lecturer that has a young girl at home be demanding for mark for sex from a female student? And when the female student attempts to resist him, what does she get in return, she will fail the course.
“Those of them who are willing tools in the hands of the lecturers will simply give in but the brave ones always resist them. It is so disheartening that a parent would struggle to sponsor their child to higher education but what would she get in return, a sick child that may have contracted deadly infection or HIV in the cause of her prostitution.
Many of them are used for money rituals yet others would still not learn from the mistakes of others. “There is no gainsaying that those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that this checked has largely left it unchecked and is spreading like wild fire.”
Moral decadence and a compromised society
Findings by this newspaper have shown that in one of the newly established schools within a state capital, the school management instituted a law that every 9pm, all the female students must answer a roll call. Unfortunately, this is far away from being achieved, as students who are in the trade would bribe their way through some of the security guards in the school to allow them go out and come back in the morning.
This is done under the very nose of some staff and security agents who also see the business of allowing them gain access back to the hostel in the morning as lucrative. A social welfare officer in the state, Mrs. Chibundu Onwe, attributed the ugly trend to the failure of morality among the student. She believes that both the government, security agencies and the university authorities have all failed in their responsibilities.
According to her, “how do you expect that the ugly trend would stop when at night security agencies will swoop on them, take them to their stations and collect N5000 from them and allow them to go that same night? It is also very unfortunate that those who can not afford to bail themselves allow the uniform men to also sleep with them and allow them go back to their business.
“We have had cases where the girls would be arrested and before you get to the station in the morning to see them and talk to them on the dangers of their activities, the information that you will get would be so frustrating and damaging.
Most of the girls get involved in the act because of peer pressure and misleading information. They need to be orientated but those who are expected to lead the fight against the trend are the same people benefiting from it.
Many occasions, the security agencies will surprise you by telling you that the students are adults and should know better, they allow them call the shots. “It is so disheartening that young girls in the campuses have devised ways to trading in prostitution both inside the campuses and outside,” he said.
He continued, “The trade is gradually taking a different dimension now in the state as many of them now operate outside the university campuses.
They now take their trade directly to their customers. Most weekends, you see them in their numbers, those who feel that the “real show” is not in Abakaliki, they move to Enugu, Port Harcourt and other cities that would give them maximum exposure to men willing to pay anything for sensual pleasure.
“At the popular Abakaliki Street in Awka Anambra State, you see many of them from the different higher institutions, they walk around the streets, since they don’t have anywhere to lay their heads until male customers, who are willing to patronize them comes.
“One aspect of the trade that has continued to be a source of worry to mothers is that the girls do not fear for their safety or health, they follow the customers to their homes, brothels or nightclubs. Someone they have never met before but the smart ones amongst them always try to disclose to their friends where they are being taken by the customer.
“Many of them who may not want their friends and relations to know the kind of business they are into always leave their campus hostels on Fridays, pretending to be going home for the weekend, when their actual destinations are major cities and night clubs.
What is their mission, to go look for customers and come back to school wearing the best clothes, live in the best furnished rooms and still disturb their parents for school fees, hostel fee and textbooks”, he disclosed. A former Student Union leader in Ebonyi State, Miss Chinyere Obioha, said that the major reason behind the rise in the trade is greed.
According to her, many of the girls when they gain admission into the school are innocent, homely and would have never gotten involved in such a trade but when they begin to mix up with friends who showcase their expensive phones, jewelleries and other things, the innocent ones out of greed would always want to belong to that class of big babes. She added, “It is very unfortunate that in the state today, the politicians are the major customers of the girls.
When you visit any of the campuses in the state, they will always come under the cover of darkness with their flashy cars, take the girls out of the town to Enugu, spend days with them, give them plenty of money and when they come back, they will present it to their friends who will not desire to benefit. Most times they will come with their friends and ask the girls to bring more girls.
“Most times many of their male patrons who may not want to be identified usually work with male undergraduates who help them in arranging students from their different hostels. They link up with the girls, fees are agreed upon and the girls are notified and given a time and place”, said the former students leader.
She also revealed, “The male student usually agrees on a percentage with the girl and immediately the business is executed, he gets his percentage and await another contact.” The trade, despite the dangers associated with it, is fast flourishing in across campuses in the country.