No fewer than 59 commercial sex workers have been arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) in Calabar.
The numbers are made up of 43 women and 16 men.
The DSS is primarily responsible for intelligence gathering within the country and for the protection of senior government officials, particularly the President and state governors; however, Ilupeju Adebayo, Director of the agency in Cross River, told journalists on Staurday that the girls were arrested at Peace Garden Hotel and Papsi Place along Murtala Mohammed highway.
“We got an intelligence report and swung into action," he said.
"We have been on the matter for months. We discovered that the girls are mostly underage, mostly 13, 15, and 19 years of age. We also know that they were brought in by a cartel, deeply involved in the business of trafficking and using the girls as commercial sex workers.
“The girls then bring returns to them at the beginning or close of the week, depending on their modus operandi. We have made some arrests, including that of the owner of 'Papsi place', a brothel that houses mostly underage girls who pay him N2,000 on weekdays and N4,000 at weekends as lodging fee. They operate from the hotel to clubs where we arrested them stark naked."
He added: “We have contacted the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons while investigations are ongoing until all those involved in the illicit trade are arrested and charged to court."
One of the girls said she was brought to Calabar from Rivers for a sales girl job, but she ended up becoming a commercial sex worker.
“I was brought to Calabar through a friend to attend night clubs," she said.
“I ran away and then they traced me and brought me back; they wanted to force me to take an oath but I objected and absconded again to meet my friend whom I came with to Calabar then. Aunty Favour came there with the boyfriend and some cult boys and beat me up. And told me that if I run they will kill me or I will die.
“So, I usually go to her house to make returns to her every week but I am not happy with the kind of work I am doing; it was never my intention to do this because my friend did not tell me that it was this kind of job."
One of the suspects, Edem John, who was among the 16 men in custody, and owner of Papsi’s Place, denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he had been warning the underage girls not to come to his place for commercial sex.
He, however, added that because of the trying times, he had no choice but to do his business.
“I have been doing this business for about two years; they pay me N2,000 for the accommodation where they have sex with men," he said. “Although I have been warning the underage ones to stay away from my place, they still come back — and I need to do my business because I have a family to feed."