Nigerian Man, the next time you patronise a prostitute, know that you are contributing to financing organised crime. Nigerian Woman, the next time you solicit for sex to get paid, know that you are at the mercy of the man who’s paying: he may be a rapist or killer. Nigerian Citizen, the next time you buy any hard drug, know that you are contributing to financing organised crime.
The Netflix Original Series ‘Shanty Town’ is a cautionary tale for anyone who engages in any or all of the above.
Ini Edo, Nollywood superstar and producer, has teamed up with others to bring the six-episode blockbuster to life. Shanty Town lays bare Nigeria as it is today, showing us the consequences of some of our country’s vices – women trafficking, drug smuggling and the human parts black market.
Women trafficking, however, carries the most weight out of all the ills shown on the show. Shanty Town is a community, a kind of separate abode from the rest of Lagos, where sex, alcohol, hard drugs and violence are exchanged as freely as the air we breathe. All the women who were brought there as very young girls from different undeveloped Nigerian villages could be easily lured into a life of prostitution and psychological imprisonment because of their little education. The money from their sold sex goes to their pimp, Scar, played by Chidi Mokeme. He in turn kicks it up to his boss, Chief Fernandez, the favourite to be Lagos’ next governor, played by Richard Mofe-Damijo. Chief Fernandez is the silent owner of Shanty Town. The prostitutes are at the mercy of both Scar and Fernandez, who have sex with them whenever they please, sometimes without their permission. No right-thinking person can watch the series and not feel pity for these helpless women whose bodies are essentially pieces of meat for the highest bidders.
Cocaine and marijuana are the drugs of choice in Shanty Town. Marijuana is smoked freely in the community by the prostitutes, henchmen, Madam and pimp. Cocaine is inhaled by the prostitutes before they dance sexually in front of several of Lagos’ powerful men. Not only do the community members sell drugs on Fernandez’s behalf, they also use the drugs. There’s a scene where Ini Edo’s character, Inem, is offered cocaine before she is to dance seductively in front of Chief Fernandez and she refuses before being coerced by Madam Ene, played by Nse Ikpe-Etim. What Nse’s character didn’t know at the time was that Inem is an undercover policewoman working to bring Shanty Town down. Inem needs all her facilities working optimally and that’s why she refuses the cocaine. After inhaling it unwillingly, it kicks in and leaves her unable to control herself in Chief Fernandez’s bedroom: he takes advantage of her state and beats her before raping her.
In the second episode, Chief Fernandez boasts to Scar that he owns a tenth of Lagos and we come to find out that this was possible through running his very lucrative prostitution, hard drugs and human parts black market rings. At the end of this episode, one of the prostitutes, Jackie, played by Nigeria’s first female Big Brother Naija winner Mercy Eke, is beheaded after trying to start a new life for herself far away from Shanty Town. Indeed, her death shows how money of any kind is desired in Lagos: the community taxi driver who drives her out of Shanty Town secretly texts Scar her destination and he catches up with them to behead Jackie personally. Her severed head is collected by Ene to be sold on the human parts black market.
Shanty Town is the most graphic visual story of everything that is bad about modern-day Nigeria we have ever seen and after you watch it nobody will tell you what choices to make.