There is need to introduce what night life in Abuja could be. Basically, the federal capital Territory is known to be a seat of power and naturally, a city full of civil servants and politicians. It is a city characterised by the hustling and bustling of city dwellers doing all they can to eke out a living.
The city used to be known for its vibrant nightlife as in the evenings, men and women were seen at bars, unwinding after a long day’s work to ease themselves of the hassles encountered in the course of the day. As the evening progressed, other forms of entertainment such as nightclubs, live bands and bars would begin to come alive. At this time, you’d see fun seekers wining and dining and shuffling their feet to the rhythm of music played by DJs and live bands.
The several relaxation spots in the Federal Capital territory were always jam-packed with each relaxation centre trying to outdo the other by adding something different to its services such as cocktail, comedians and dancers in a bid to endear itself to more regulars.Also, some of these hang-outs provided residents the opportunity to unwind and fraternise with pals and business partners. Indeed, life was fun in any of the city’s many gardens.
But the gaiety that characterise the city is almost gone , thanks to the current security situation in the country. Besides insecurity, the situation worsened when the Federal Capital Development Administration, FCDA, announced new measures to ensure security of lives and property within the metropolis. It stipulated that nightclubs, beer parlours and cinemas must round-off their activities by 10 p.m while public parks and other places that admit children must call it a day at 6 p.m.
Cecilia Sunday and her family moved to Abuja recently from Port-Harcourt but unfortunately, could not get the type of fun they used to get when they were in P/H. Cecilia whose husband works in an oil firm resigned her job in P/H and withdrew her kids from school to join her husband at Abuja but unfortunately, the first outing they planned in Abuja on transfer was frustrated by a bomb blast that rocked the city at that period.
” We couldn’t go anywhere. We were so scared that the first thing that came to our mind was to move back to P/H but we have overcome that fear now. We go out in the night but are not free as we ought to be. There is always this fear that something could go wrong and we always have that at the back of our mind. As it is, everyday we go out to any of these joints and come home is a miracle. But even when we go out, we don’t take everyone along. We divide ourselves and alternate . This is not how we used to do it”.
Another resident , Michael Anumba told our reporter that it has become almost impossible to hang out in Abuja at night. ” I’m a night crawler but since the bomb blasts began, things are no longer the same “, says Michael.
“It is difficult to hang out at night . Everybody enjoys the peace of the home and at the close of work, people prefer to go home instead of hanging out. There was even a time the situation was so bad that sale of alcohol was prohibited in restaurants and bars. Government said no more alcohol sales in gardens and parks, and that they must stop business at 10p.m. It was that bad that even when people are afraid, stringent laws are compounding our fears.
” I stopped going to mammy market. I used to frequent Mogadishu Military Barracks mammy market but since that market was bombed, I have stopped going there. My friends too have stopped. Nowadays, when we have the boldness, we hang out at other joints . There is one park at Senegal/Accra Street, Wuse Zone 5, where we go after the day’s work to share drinks with friends and colleagues.But even then, we don’t stay long.”
Since the bomb blasts began across states in Nigeria, things have generally changed for Abuja residents. During the visit of our reporter to Abuja not long ago, she was compelled to visit some joints around 9-10 p.m but realised there was a poor turn-out of patrons compared to how it used to be in the past.
Operators of bars and restuarants told this reporter that things were not really bad as the blasts were no longer frequent as before.
” Things are not really as bad as it seems. Customers are coming in but what we have noticed is that people don’t stay out for too long. They come and go as others are coming in.” said the bar staff.
At a popular garden in Garki 11, our reporter observed that business was moving but not as it used to be.Customers were coming in but they were not staying for too long.
It was obvious that patronage has reduced . ” All die na die”, said Ikenna, an Igbo businessman living at Abuja. ” Something must kill man. If not sickness, then bomb blast or something else. Some people have stayed in their homes, hale and hearty but something came and killed them. It’s very okay to hang out but one has to be careful.
“My wife used to hang out with me but not anymore. Since the blasts,she has become fearful and she doesn’t go out once it’s 7pm. I understand her fears, but sometimes, I think she is overdoing it because bombs don’t happen everyday in Abuja. It hasn’t happened recently and we shouldn’t think bomb all the time.”
Nze Paulinus Obieze, another resident told Saturday Vanguard that he has devised another means of catching his fun. ” I don’t patronise beer parlous as to sit down and drink at the restaurants . During the week, I try and restrain myself and my wife keeps some at home. Even when there is none, I go the beer parlours, buy my drinks and take them home. I have to avoid the joints until security is restored in the country. My wife is also a good cook and so, on weekends, my friends come to the house and my wife prepares the delicacies and some other weekends, we visit another friend.
“Today in my house, you can get catfish pepper soup, nkwobi, isiewu and where my wife cannot prepare it, we send somebody to go and buy and bring to the house and we gather as friends to make merry. But nothing can match the fun of hanging out and that is why I pray that government do all they can to restore security in the country”.
But not everywhere in Abuja is affected by this development. In places located close to Transcorp Hilton Hotel, there was never a dull moment as fun-lovers who patronised the place sat in colonies, enjoying snacks and drinks. The security situation never affected business that much as the road leading to the park’s gate was lined with food-vendors, mallams selling suya and others.
When the bomb blasts in FCT were still fresh, Saturday Vanguard learnt there was great fear but that fear we learnt is dying.
Memuna, a single lady living in Abuja metropolis and working in a government establishment said she still hangs out at night with her friends.
“I never stopped but I’m aware some of my friends stopped hanging out. What they do now is once it is 5 pm, the official closing hour for workers, especially those working with the government, they head to their various homes and retire for the day with their families, while to a whole lot of others like me, it’s time to commence another round of life to unwind the day’s stress.
How long does one have to live that one has to scurry home after the day’s stress? I have to unwind because I know how my schedule in the office is. There is only one life and I have to live it well. Personally, I don’t drink alcohol but I catch fun with what I drink. Just staying out and seeing others catch fun releases stress. Listening to music from band stands eases stress”.
Despite the odds, Saturday Vanguard can reliably inform that a lot of Abuja residents have discovered some kind of addictive evening fun-time in the city and are savouring it.There are no strictly restricted areas to roll with as night enjoyment cuts across garden and parks, night clubs, eateries, hotels, brothels, among other regular hang-outs.
Although life in Abuja is highly expensive,the business is expanding and better ways of attracting and keeping customers are being invented. A manager of a major restaurant at Garki 2 said they are still getting high patronage. ‘” There is high patronage of customers, demand for drinks and appeal to extend our closing time. We also have a disc jockey who provides music as part of the evening activities. It is obvious that we make good business and our customers are happy.”
Downtown Abuja also has an array of bars and restaurants. Bars and pubs are also a part of the Abuja night life. The live music shows are arranged and organised to entertain guests. Some of the most notable hangouts are Safari Night Club and Lobby Bar at the Hilton Hotel and Elephant Bar and Dazzle Night Club at Sheraton Hotel.
These bars offer various entertainment for high class fun seekers and their locations are well guarded.
Another major night life spot in the FCT is the popular Gimbiya street, Area 11, Wuse 2, where most of the city’s night clubs are clustered as well as the highbrow Asokoro District, where the Eden V.I.P. night club is located.
There is the Ignorbiz in Kubwa in Satelite town with a live band that performs thrice or four times a week.These red light districts are spread across the city and are guarded by security agents.
Davido, a night crawler opined that besides a place to unwind, present day night clubs afford a rendezvous for professionals to meet and interact.
” Hanging out is not only for drinks and dancing. You can discuss multi-million naira businesses at bars and restaurants. There are people who prefer the cover of darkness to socialize. Besides, night clubs, like the name suggests, operate only at night. People are supposed to work during the day and have fun or sleep at night. It does not harm the body. Rather, dancing relaxes the nerves and it is a form of exercise as well.”
A member of the national assembly who does not want his name in print told Saturady Vanguard that most political activities are conducted at night.
” A politician’s life is a night life. There is no sleep. Some of the intigues that we bring to the floor of the national assembly are hatched out at night. Committees meet at night. Most political activities are not day activities. During the week, night life is alive in Abuja. But some of my colleagues travel at weekends and it is only then that one can experience a lull but that is not always every weekend”
Saturday Vanguard also learnt that some hotels in Abuja had issues against women in their bid to stop the female sex workers from plying their trade in the FCT. It was gathered that the FCT administration sometime in the past carried out several raids at different parts of Abuja and hundreds of girls including sex workers and harmless young ladies who were seen unwinding at night, were molested and arrested.
A recent report in a national daily opined that not only were young ladies put through dehumanising situations but more than a few hundred young ladies were stripped naked, beaten, battered and left with injuries and some were hospitalised. It was also alleged that even people’s homes were invaded in a bid to fish out the sex workers. To this end, nightlife in Abuja became a big risk for young ladies who may opt to unwind or hang out after work hours.
A hotel staff who proferred anonymity revealed also that many females loiter around or within the hotels to hustle at night and because of that, even responsible ladies who want to hang out at night fear to do so.
“This idea of thinking that all ladies are whores pisses me off,” said Lydia, a civil servant. ” I have two First Degrees and two Masters and I don’t see how anyone can mistake me for a whore. I work very hard as a computer analyst and don’t see why anyone would mistake me for a prostitute even though they abound in Abuja just like any other city.
Or is it because Abuja is a seat of government? My friends and I relax as a group just as other single girls but there are a few bad eggs who are spoilers and they spoil things for us. It appears these bad eggs who go to hotels alone go there for hustling but not everybody”.
Another hotel staff who spoke to us said hotels were forced into taking some harsh policy against ladies because some girls were becoming nuisance to customers.These ladies are creating bad image to hotels and the customers were complaining of the attitude of the girls.
We don’t deliberately harass women, but when a girl is not properly dressed, we ask politely what her mission is to be sure she will not be a nuisance around the hotel. This is the practice everywhere around hotels in Nigeria”. Vanguard Nigeria