Pornographic Videos Flood Nigeria as Authorities Stand Helpless
Perching on a concrete slab under a motorway bridge, Jude Anyadike displays his pirated video CDs with titles such as "Curve Enticement" and "Interminable Pleasure".
Anyadike, 34, is one of the hundreds of sellers of "pornos" in the sprawling city of Lagos where people brazenly break the law and authorities very often look the other way.
Anyadike, a secondary school drop-out, described himself as a staunch Roman Catholic but the need to feed his family of five means he sells pornographic films seven days a week, even on Sundays after mass.
"Romantic love", "Playboy", "Gigolo" and "Sexual Urge" are some of his other titles -- pirated versions of films imported either from the United States or from elsewhere in Africa.
His rickety stall in the run-down Obalende district, is just down the road from the cathedral where he attends Mass every Sunday and next door to a police station.
Theoretically, it is illegal to sell, market or distribute pornographic material in Nigeria.
"Religion and morality take second place in my consideration when it comes to doing my business. Sales are not bad at all. People keep coming. We display the 'pornos' massively on weekends when policemen are not around," he said.
In Lagos, Abuja and Nigeria's other urban centres, especially in the Christian-dominated south, the pirating, sale and distribution of thousands of video CDs goes on virtually unhindered as authorities charged with controlling them saying they helpless to stop it.
"We do sometimes arrest their distributors but there are so many other crimes, such as armed robbery, murder and burglary which compete for more police attention," Lagos State police spokesman Frank Mba told AFP.
"We are aware of the negative influence of these pornos, especially on our youth, but we lack the manpower. Getting those arrested successfully prosecuted is another problem. When there is a pressing demand, the police divert their attention to other areas," he said.
A 14-year-old schoolboy, who simply introduced himself as Dimeji, bought a "porno" video CD at Ojuelegba, a densely-populated southern district of Lagos.
"My parents have gone to work. I am not at school today ... I am buying this CD to enjoy myself, kill boredom and get some excitement," he said as he quietly tossed a 200 naira (1.7 dollars) note into the palm of the seller.
"Nigeria seems to be a dumping ground for all these videos," said Gabriel Osu, spokesman of the Lagos Catholic Archdiocese. "They have a negative effect on the proper upbringing of our youths, promote prostitution and permissiveness."
Abosede Francis, National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) director for the South West said the body, which was set up around 14 years ago, was doing its best to ensure compliance.
"But we do not have the manpower and operational facilities to deal with the situation," she told AFP.
"We work in conjunction with the police. Thirteen suspected pornographic video sellers have been on trial since last year in a Lagos court. Some video producers do not submit their work for NFVCB's approval while others release to the market works other than those approved," she said on a despondent tone.
The circulation of pornographic videos is less rampant in the Muslim-dominated north of the country where a dozen states introduced a strict Islamic code or Sharia that punishes sundry offences including display of obscene materials.
"Those who sell them, do so underground. We do arrest and prosecute offenders. Sharia enforcers are very effective in the north. The problem is not as serious here as we have it in the south," Bernard Goyit, another NFVCB official told AFP.
"That is what you get in a country such as ours where law enforcement is almost nil," concluded Lamidi Yusuf, a Muslim leader in Ikorodu, on the eastern outskirt of Lagos.