There is no doubt that pockets of gay people in the country would be living in fear as a result of a recent law that criminalises homosexuality in Nigeria, with the possibility of 14 years imprisonment.
But Saturday PUNCH investigation shows that a bar by the roadside in Agege, Lagos might be offering comfort to members of this community.
Our correspondent visited the bar.
Aware of how dangerous this kind of curiosity could be, our correspondent went under the guise of being a model looking for where to have fun and also “organise” young men and women for his homosexual clients.
The bar, which is located next to a popular petrol station in the area, brings to mind the popular saying that the best way to hide anything is to put it in plain sight.
Dressed casually to blend with the crowd, our correspondent learnt on getting to the bar that a 24-year-old young man owns and runs the place.
Stoutly built with an average height of about five feet, the bar owner’s (name withheld) feminine disposition seemed to suggest that he might be gay.
Still apprehensive about a possible raid, our correspondent asked if the place had ever been raided by the police.
“No, my shop is very safe and has not been raided before,” the owner replied.
Outside the bar, left-over decorations used during the last Christmas hung on the grey double-leaf metal door outside.
To any observer, the bar is like any regular hang-out spot but visitors would immediately be conscious of the peculiarity that would suggest that this might be a gay bar.
Our correspondent learnt that on a good business day, homosexuality, prostitution and Indian hemp smoking thrive in the bar.
But during our reporter’s first visit around 8pm, the pub was not full. It had just three young men who were in their early twenties in it, apart from the owner.
Two of the men seemed to be the bar owner’s friends from the way they acted, and the fourth, a dark-skinned, scruffy looking man wearing dreadlocks sat by the wall, enjoying the music blaring from the only two speakers in the pub.
The squalid cubicle-size bar can only accommodate a table with about ten chairs arranged round it.
The coloured lights in the bar made it impossible to determine the colour of the interior. Even though there was no television, guests had to manage the non-stop party music. It was later learnt that those who could not get inside the bar stay outside to have their drinks.
The small bar is divided into two sections, the section is where the drinks are inner and sometimes used for quick romance as observed by our correspondent. The outer part is where the table and chairs are arranged for customers to sit and have a good time.
Immediately our correspondent settled in the bar, the owner came to sit close.
“I think I saw you earlier in the day strolling around, or was it not you?” he asked.
“Yes, that was me. I actually noticed you were looking at me and that’s why I decided to come and hang out here. I came to see a friend and I would leave here in some days,” our correspondent said. It was a cue to earn his trust.The conversation ended there.
Barely five minutes after the brief conversation, the bar owner astounded our reporter as he kissed one of his friends on the mouth before he briskly went to attend to another male customer that had just walked in.
When he came back, he sat playfully on the laps of his friends before finally settling down in the middle of the two men.
The young man whom the bar owner kissed wore a shirt with the inscription ‘T-boi Swag.’ He stood up and started dancing seductively. It was not clear whether the theatrical gesture was for the benefit of our correspondent or the bar owner’s.
He was at it for a long while before he finally stopped.
Shortly after, another young man walked in and ordered a drink. As if jolted from a long sleep, the scruffy looking dark skinned guy with the dreadlocks ordered a can of energy drink, dipped his hands in his pocket and brought out a roll of Indian hemp which he smoked as he drank.
This reporter invited the young man who came in last to sit with him and started a conversation to determine if he was a part of the happenings in the bar.
He looked puzzled.
“I only came to see a relative around here and I decided to come here to have some drinks out of boredom,” he said.
He left shortly after.
Another scenario played out when one of the young men was eating diced pineapple. The bar owner asked to be fed some and when his friend opted to feed him, he shook his head signalling that he wanted a mouth-to-mouth feeding with his friend. Without hesitation, his friend obliged and a brief kiss was shared.
Some other three young men walked in, all ‘sagging’ their trousers, ordered drinks and brought out their stash of Indian hemp. A smoking session soon began as they puffed on their stuff freely.
Just when this reporter thought he had seen it all, a set of four girls dressed in skimpy and tight-fitting clothes walked in and greeted the bar owner in a very familiar manner.
It was later discovered that they were commercial sex workers. They ordered some drinks.
Few minutes before this reporter left, another pair of commercial sex workers came into the bar.
Our correspondent spent three hours at the bar.
Before leaving, he called the bar owner outside for a brief discussion and to get his phone number. The young man initially hesitated.
But when the bar owner was told that there was money to be made if he could arrange men for orgies for our correspondent’s homosexual clients his disposition became friendly and receptive at this point.
He told the reporter that he was also a make-up artiste and asked where the reporter was headed.
“I close around 12.30am. When you are done, you can come and pick me and we would have a nice time. I will call my aunt to tell her I am not coming home tonight,” he said.
This reporter never showed up till a few days later.
The next time our reporter visited the bar, it was around 1pm, but the bar was locked.
While pondering on what to do, he noticed a light-skinned lady staring at him. Just when he wanted to turn and leave, the lady and her friend came and tapped at his car glass, asking if he wanted to see the bar owner.
“I recognised you from your first visit,” she said. The ladies got into the vehicle and took him to the bar owner’s house.
The young man came out 10 minutes later with signs that he must have been sleeping.
Our correspondent and the bar owner drove away from the compound.
In the car, both our correspondent and the bar owner had an extensive talk, which was secretly recorded.
Our correspondent said he was a model based in South Africa. The bar owner was asked to handle the business our correspondent had told him about during the previous visit, promising that he could make between N50,000 and N70,000.
He was also asked how safe his bar was for the business as no interruption by the police would be needed. He said his bar had never been raided by the police since he had been running it for about five years.
The bar owner later opened up on his life as a gay, his bar and how he deceived his parents into thinking that he had a normal sexual orientation.
When asked about the kiss with his friend, T-boi, he said it was a normal thing but he was not in a relationship with the young man. He said that he was in a relationship with a boy and a girl. The girl was to serve as decoy to friends and family, so they won’t know his sexual preference.
He said, “I just kissed him that day but there is nothing between us. I am in a relationship with a guy and a girl; both of them.”
He explained that whenever his friends, the commercial sex workers, wanted to go out and have a good time with their customers, his bar was always the first point of call.
“They come to my bar first, drink, smoke shisha or weed if they want. From my bar, they go to their various destinations,” he said.
The bartender said that he also organised young ladies and men for interested clients. He said that for clients with a normal sexual orientation, he charges between N10,000 and N15,000. But homosexual clients pay more.
“Yes, I have girls that can have sex with other girls. If there is money, they can do anything. If they want to do two some, not with lesbians, sometimes they collect N20,000 or N30,000 for the night. T-boi, on the other hand, does it for money. They always give him money. The guys I have collect about the same amount. If you give the girls about N20,000, they would be interested in being with a lesbian partner but if it is a normal day that they are not going to club, you can give them about N10,000.”
He told Saturday PUNCH that he would rather be with someone who has a normal sexual orientation and wait till the person flirts with him than with someone who already knew he was gay.
The young man said he was more of a romantic person and would not readily want to have sex with another man for money. He, however, said if he needed the money, he would take it.
He said, “I am always scared when I go out with a complete stranger. I am always careful when I meet people for the first time. I don’t know what the person could be up to; that is why I am scared.
“I really don’t like people that are openly gay; I prefer people who have a normal sexual orientation and do not know about my sexual orientation but make advances.
“I like them like that, but if people that are gay like me offer to give me money, I don’t accept it. I would rather introduce them to another guy. I have friends that would be interested mostly because of the money,” he said.
He believes that being a homosexual is his destiny. He said he embraced it wholeheartedly about three years ago when he turned 21.
The young man told Saturday PUNCH that there were tell-tale signs that he was homosexual when he was young as he always mingled with the opposite sex. He said it was his nature and that was the way he was created.
He said, “While growing up, I was always mistaken for a girl till I began to grow beards. Now, I’m attracted to men instead of women.
“I believe it is the nature of my body and my destiny. I cannot deceive myself anymore because I have more feelings for men than women,” he said, making feminine mannerism.
“I count myself lucky because when people come from South-Africa, they come to my shop. I don’t know how they know my shop. This thing is natural, you cannot hide it. I was still a kid when I knew I was gay. Then, I used to play with girls and I was always involved in girls’ games like ten-ten, playing with dolls and the likes.
“Back then, people used to ask me to take money or bet on whether I was a girl or a boy. It was not until I started growing beard that they knew I was a man. While growing up, my girlfriends would always come to my house to invite me to play with them.”
The bartender said that he did not like the location of his shop as the neighbourhood sometimes scared away his customers. He told Saturday PUNCH that when he got more money, he would establish a hotel with a much bigger bar for his customers.
“I want to move because there are times when I meet some clients and I give them the address of my shop and they are scared to come because of the location. Most times, they like me but the location of my shop discourages them,” the bartender said.
The last born in a family of four, he said that he came from a good Christian home and none of his family members was aware of his sexual orientation. He said he once impregnated a girl to prove that he was not a homosexual.
He said that the baby had a striking resemblance with him and that he had been responsible for the child as the mother insisted on keeping the baby.
“My family confronted me about whether I was gay once but when I got the girl pregnant, they stopped doubting me. People in my area were the ones feeding them with all sorts of rumours,” he explained.
The young man who said that he could play the role of both a male and a female in a relationship, gave hints on how to know who is the “king or queen” in a homosexual relationship.
He said, “In a homosexual relationship, it is easier to know the king than the queen. For example, the king in a lesbian relationship is the one that acts like a man. She likes men’s sports, dresses like a man and even fights like a man.
“The queen is not so easy to spot. If a girl is naked before her, once she sees her nipples, she would become aroused and attempts to touch the nipples. That’s when you would know the person is a lesbian. I play the two roles of both a male and a female.”