CHIMA AZUBUIKE writes about the growing concerns about the proliferation of unregistered nightclubs and other entertainment spots in Gombe
Local entertainment spots in Gombe State, also known as ‘gidan gala,’ are perceived as houses of exploitation. There, spectators show interest in teenage girls and ladies by ‘spraying’ naira notes on them as they dance to music.
After the dance, any of the spectators perceived to be rich, based on the amount of cash doled out, is tagged as ‘chairman’ and rewarded with the opportunity to select any of the ladies he found attractive.
However, checks by our correspondent showed that as the popularity of the local entertainment spots grew, they became a haven for prostitution and the sale of illicit drugs, and served as hideouts for criminals, prompting the Gomber State Government to announce a ban.
A civil servant who identified himself as Mohammed told Sunday PUNCH that he developed the habit of patronising one of the spots in the Mile Three axis of the state.
“Sometimes, I don’t know if the dancers use juju (charm) to curry favour. I once spent my entire salary on a dancer at a ‘gidan gala’.
“There was a day I withdrew my salary using an automated teller machine and had the intention of going home to meet my wives and children after watching some of the girls dancing, but I didn’t know what came over me. I ‘sprayed’ my entire pay at the place only to return home empty and drained,” he said.
Mohammed, a level eight officer in one of the state ministries who disclosed that he earned a cumulative pay of N50,000, noted that after lavishing the money on the dancers, he had to manage himself for the rest of the month.
“When I was ‘spraying’ the money, I didn’t know that I was throwing my salary away. I also forgot that I had wives and children who depended on my N50,000 pay.
“When I got home, I had to lie to my wives that I was robbed and that I only managed to escape with my life unhurt. My wives sympathised with me – if only they knew that I voluntarily spent the money watching erotic dancers.
“Only God knows how I survived that month as I nearly felt less of a man as I was unable to fend for the needs of my wives and children because I was broke; we practically lived from hand to mouth because of my lack of control,” he added.
When Governor Muhammadu Yahaya, through the Secretary to State Government, Prof Ibrahim Njodi, ordered the immediate closure of all nightclubs, also known as ‘gala houses’ on August 28, 2023, Mohammed said he was one of the scores of residents who were against the decision.
“I was pained by the closure but it soon dawned on me that the ‘gidan galas’ had started draining the pockets of youths, and many married men. Women were not excluded as ‘gidan galas’ had begun to erode their morality and decency.
“I have learnt to not only save but to control my appetite for watching erotic dance. A lot of times it doesn’t end in just watching; you end up doing the ‘real thing’ in a hotel nearby to ease your tension and feel the ‘real thing’. It was recently that I began to see the importance of the ban.”
While the ban came as a surprise to many residents, our correspondent gathered that the governor instructed security agencies to ensure strict compliance with the order.
To further demonstrate its seriousness on the matter, a committee comprising eminent personalities, including religious organisations, and led by Grp Capt Bitrus Bilal (retd.), was constituted to ensure compliance.
The government said its decision was taken following a series of complaints from the general public on the incessant immoral, criminal activities and security breaches being perpetrated in such nightclubs.
The affected nightclubs included Jami’a Gidan Wanka, located at Mile Three, Yola Road, Gombe; White House Theatre (Babban Gida) located at New Mile Three, Yola Road; Gidan Lokaci General Merchant, located at Mile Three, Reservoir Road, and Farin Gida Entertainment II located at Wuro Karal, Kalshingi Road, Gombe.
Others affected were Gidan Zamani Entertainment, New Mile Three, Yola Road, Tumfure; Albarka Entertainment located at Wuro Karal Bypass near Hara Form; and Gala Houses located at Kuri Town, Lubo village all in the Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area of the state.
Also affected were Tauraren Wash located at Trailer Park, Bauchi Road, Gombe; and Gala House located at Bajoga Town in the Funakaye Local Government Area of the state.
One of the operators of the nightclubs, Usman Muhammad, who was arrested for running such outlets, said the spots served as important sources of livelihood for most of the girls and ladies as they used the proceeds to fend for themselves and their families.
Muhammad said the girls were paid a minimum of N50,000 per month, but assured that the girls would return to their various homes in compliance with the government’s directive on the closure of local entertainment spots.
“The kind of entertainment we provide is the kind where we organise dance and also drama where people come to watch, and we also enlighten them of societal issues.
“All the girls you see came by themselves; none of them were forced. Some of them are orphans from Borno. They came and said that their parents were killed as a result of insurgency.
“We do charge a gate fee but when we stage a drama that excites viewers, they give us monetary gifts,” he said.
‘Gidan gala’ my only source of livelihood – Dancer
One of the girls, Rukaya, who was arrested at one of the fun spots, denied dancing to seduce men.
The teenager from Adamawa State, who covered her face to avoid being exposed, told Sunday PUNCH that she began to dance at one of the entertainment centres to raise funds, adding that she did the business to feed herself and family members.
“I don’t dance or entertain people for pleasure. I dance for business; even when I’m unhappy, I just dance to see money to eat and to send to my family members.
“I’m from Adamawa, a single mother, and 19 years old. I have colleagues from Borno, Taraba, Yobe, and Bauchi (states) and some also come from as far as Jos to join us in working at the ‘gidan gala’.
“I don’t use a charm on people to make them ‘spray’ money on me; it’s because they want to and not because I influenced them,” she said.
Rukaya further told our correspondent that she left her child in Adamawa to make ends meet in Gombe. She, however, denied being a prostitute.
“I came to Gombe in 2019 from Adamawa State. What I’m doing is not prostitution; it’s entertainment. They (customers) don’t touch me when I’m dancing, aside from ‘spraying’ money and admiring from afar.
“I can speak for myself because I know but I can’t speak for my colleagues. It’s a thing of choice because I don’t sleep around too.
“We may have no choice but to enter real hustle against our will because, for years, this (‘gidan gala’) has been our means of making money that many of us know without stealing or sleeping around.
“But how can people survive now? How can we continue with resources to feed and take care of our needs? I pray that the government will do the needful before it becomes too late,” she added.
Sunday PUNCH, however, gathered that out of the 48 suspects arrested by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps at local night clubs, six tested positive for HIV/AIDS.
The state Commandant, Muhammad Mu’azu, who was represented by the Public Relations Officer, SC Buhari Sa’ad, revealed that 12 additional suspects had been arrested for the same offence.
“They were arrested within the metropolis around Sabonline, Anguwa Ukwu; they are now relocating from ‘gidan gala’ to local night clubs. The command is equally shifting its attention there,” Sa’ad said.
Confirming their statuses, as of August 30, 2023, a Community Mobilisation Officer, Mahmoud Aliyu, said out of the six cases discovered, three were recently infected while the others were on antiretroviral drugs.
Aliyu said, “Gombe is one of the 19 states that have attained HIV epidemic control. The NSCDC invited us to carry out tests on 48 persons. We realised three were known cases which means they were on drugs, while three were active cases.
“For these new cases, we will place them on treatment; having these in our populace will increase risk. We don’t want to lose the epidemic control status.”
Govt laments conversion of homes to nightclubs, brothels
The state government lamented that many private residences were being converted to nightclubs and brothels, promoting immoral activities in the state.
The chairman of the task force committee on the closure of all ‘gidan gala’ houses said “there are still reports of the activities of some establishments: gala houses, brothels and unlicensed night clubs within Gombe where illegal and immoral activities take place” and which were used as “sanctuaries of some criminal elements”.
Bilal added, “These activities are despite the effort of the task force in carrying out some demolitions and closure of some of these establishments; this was appreciated by the citizens, and some concerned religious organisations.
“Some of these establishments in question are still used to harbour fugitives from justice, propagate illegal and immoral activities in some parts of the state all against the state government’s effort to protect public welfare, promote moral values and ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens.”
He also warned that property owners who converted their buildings residential to ‘gidan gala’ risked having them confiscated by the government.
He said, “Some land owners have continued to allow their property to be used as ‘gala’ houses, brothels or unlicensed night clubs. Some have converted private houses to nightclubs and hotels without approvals or change of purpose from state agencies like the Gombe State Urban Planning Development Authority, Gombe Geographic Information System, and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism.
“For the avoidance of doubts, all ‘gala’ houses (by whatever name called), all brothels and all unlicensed nightclubs operating within the jurisdiction of Gombe State are banned from conducting their respective activities.
“The ban includes the closure and prohibition of any new ‘gala’ house (by whatever name called), brothel and all unlicensed nightclubs, among others, from operating within the state.”
“Henceforth, any land owner that directly or indirectly allows his property to be used as ‘gala’ house, brothel or unlicensed night club shall have that property confiscated by the government and may be demolished or converted into a place for public use as contained in the Executive Order 006 of 2023.
“Violators of this order shall be subject to penalties as prescribed by the existing laws and regulations, including but not limited to fines, closure of establishments and legal prosecution,” Bilal added.
But while operators of the affected ‘gidan gala’ spots groaned over the closure of their businesses, some residents of New Mile Three described it as the right step in the right direction.
A resident, who did not want to be named, said, “Some hotels will now provide comfortable accommodations, and a beautiful environment, with adequate provision of power supply and water.
“Decency can be introduced in the area and those hotels can now breathe as they were been confused as hideouts of criminals who take advantage of their proximity to cause havoc.”
A retiree, Lawan Buba, commended the state government for showing the political will to restore moral sanity to Gombe and address actions or activities capable of promoting crime.
“The government must do everything possible to ensure that they (‘gidan gala’ operators) don’t return. Their activities are injurious to culture and we can’t afford further degeneration of morality in our society,” Buba said.
A petty trader identified as Madam Dora said that many teenage girls and ladies had been exposed to immoral activities.
Dora said, “The number of these houses and girls is increasing in the area, but with the closure, the girls will start moving to neighbouring states.
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