Congo is located in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State, North-central Nigeria.

Drugs and sex appear to form a kinship among youths in a city where constant ethno-religious conflict has made a farce of what it once stood for – a home of peace and tourism.

In Congo’s well-known lodge, young ladies like 25-year-old Nafisa don’t dress like sex workers and might not even acknowledge that they are.

Makeway Markus Zang, a 27-year-old man living on the streets, is one of many young men who dress like hip-hop artists. They also don’t seem to hide the fact that they trade narcotics, which is a frequent indulgence among the youth in the area and a huge business.

However, what ties the young together is the way of life in Congo and the nearby Congo-Russia settlement, which centres on drugs, street sex, and other things.

The lifestyle in Congo seems to be the greater influence that bridges ethnic and religious barriers, even though, like some other districts of Jos, there are trained peace ambassadors like Dang Choji who supports a storytelling programme to reconcile Christian and Muslim youths.

Nafisa enjoys using codeine and other narcotics, particularly the one she goes by the name “rochi.” She acknowledges that alcohol does not fit her system.

Intoxicated, Nafisa has a reputation for starting arguments. Because of this, she became known among those around her as Masifatu, which is Hausa for “troublemaker.”

But Nafisa’s journey starts somewhere else, beneath the protection of a soldier spouse, not here, where sex is cheap, drug abuse is common, and the stench of sweat and marijuana lingers.

The popular lodge in Congo features a spacious front porch that opens into a roomy parlour where young guys watch TV and occasionally blow smoke up to the ceiling.

Nafisa, sitting among a group of ladies within the compound, gets up and puts on her headscarf as she approaches. One of her hands is constantly scratching various places of her body as she tells HumAngle her story.

Nafisa was married to a soldier years ago, and he treated her in a way that she thought no well-meaning husband should. It was his routine to get a carton of codeine and other medications for her.

“And I used to ask him, ‘oga, if you love someone, won’t you buy a little of this stuff and more of something else?’” she says.

However, it didn’t seem like he was listening, and Nafisa started to worry about her escalating addiction. She did not want her children to grow up to face discrimination from others outside of their family because of their mother.

Nafisa had already decided to file for divorce when her husband was sent to Kaduna. That’s how she went back to her parents’ house in Jos.

She still seems stuck, though, since she keeps going to Congo’s well-known lodge.

“I have been coming here for many years. It has its good and bad sides,” Nafisa says. “The good thing is, if you’re hungry and the wayward men come around, you can ask for N200 for food. If it’s drugs, they won’t give you.”

According to HumAngle that Nafisa has a problem with being called a prostitute. She reveals that she now sleeps with men cautiously.

“Sometimes, the people I give my body to for money don’t respect me and badmouth one outside, so I try to avoid it,” she explains. “The Muslim men always demand sex when you ask them for money, but the Christian men can give you money without asking for sex in return.”

A common example is the Christian Dang Choji. Born and raised in Chwelnyap, also called Congo-Russia, Choji is one of the peace ambassadors trained by Youth Initiative Against Violence and Human Rights Abuse (YIAVHA). Choji’s neighbourhood is actually part of Congo; its name is just different.

Wearing a crisp white shirt, dark trousers and spotting dark shades, Choji walks with confidence through the streets of Congo, which he proudly calls home.

Maybe few young individuals have assimilated into Congolese culture without participating in its contentious practices like Choji. Since 2020, he has collaborated with YIAVHA, and he currently serves as the chair of an interfaith committee that travels to different areas to preach peace and foster self-confidence via intergenerational storytelling.

In addition to Congo, Choji’s group is currently working in 20 towns in Jos North, paying special attention to the schools there. Children between the ages of 13 and 18 are gathered and brought into a classroom where an elder shares stories of life in the city before to the crisis.

“We tell stories about how we once used to live in peace and celebrate Christmas and Sallah together,” he says, a strategy that is recording some success in various parts.


HumAngle revealed that According to Chogi, competitions between Muslims and Christians from Congo-Russia and Unguwar Rogo were organised in a Christian prayer building prior to Christmas before the crises of 2001. Muslims attended Catholic bazaars as well. Religious differences were never a factor in conflicts because people of various faiths were typically seen fighting for their communities on opposing sides.

When ethno-religious crises erupted in the city years later, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Search for Common Ground and the Peace Building Agency tried their best. Additionally, religious and traditional authorities, as well as youth organisations, put up dialogue platforms.

“The NGOs worked on the people’s minds,” Chogi says. “Now in Congo, you can’t always differentiate between a Muslim or Christian even though the crises have greatly affected the people.”

However, Chogi notes that the drug trade is robust and has been a major factor in uniting the youth of the community. Because of this, several riots that had started in 2001 did not expand to the Congo.

Youth and older people get together for an ecumenical gathering called “Living Together” every Wednesday. Youths from Tudun Bera and Unguwar Keke participate in various events, including listening to a Unity FM peace broadcast and making contributions.

However, despite these attempts, drug dealing, addiction, and prostitution in the Congo have become the norm and are tough to stop. The neighborhood’s original name, Chwelnyap, was nearly completely erased when the names Congo and Congo-Russia became popular.

Choji, a history graduate as well, remembers oral histories that have been passed down in his community.

There was a military barracks near Congo in the 1970s. Because of this, military people developed the practice of coming to the settlement to unwind. Even then, the way of life in the neighbourhood was such that street fights were commonplace and dead bodies were sometimes found lying there.

Nigerian troops who had returned from peacekeeping assignments in the Congo and other nations at the time claimed that life in Chwelnyap was similar to that in the Congo. Additionally, the term Congo-Russia quickly became well-known because to the conflict in Russia.

Thriving Drug Business

One of the Congo youth leaders, Zang, has a successful drug trade. He was born and raised in the same neighbourhood, has been in the industry for approximately five years, and is driven to keep going since he can make up to N10,000 a day from it.

Zang obtains his drug supply somewhere in the Congo; he doesn’t have to travel far to replenish it. All he has to do is get up early and meet his contacts before the streets are packed with people going about their business for the day.

“I know my customers and my customers know me,” Zang offers simply. As far as he is concerned, “selling drugs here is a job to us,” and more importantly, he uses the income to take care of his two children.

Zang is a drug dealer with a gang of “boys” that sell for him, but he also organises the local youth, which is a conflicting force in a community where certain authorities are trying to control the drug trade.

Community Effort

The founding of the Muslim/Christian Forum is another attempt to bring about enduring peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between Muslims and Christians.

It was founded by clergymen from both religions in the Nasarawa division, and Ibrahim Choji Yusuf, the Ward Head of Chwelnyap, is in charge of it.

The Nasarawa Police Division and the forum, which was established in 2015, collaborated to teach the residents of all the settlements to view crime as an atrocity devoid of any religious connotations.

“Now you will discover that a Muslim may have one house at Chwelnyap (Congo) and another at Unguwar Rogo. People started swapping houses,” Yusuf says, adding that after observing this, they decided they must find a solution.

The dispute that began in 2001 originated in Congo-Russia, according to Yahaya Musa, the Mai Unguwa (head of community). However, he thinks that the relative calm in the area now is a change that is here to stay.

“The reconciliation in the state also began here,” Musa reveals. “Any destruction here is caused by visitors. We have made a lot of efforts amongst ourselves to stop the fight. God willing, we will not have any such incident again. And just as the fight started here, the peace that began here will heal the entire state by God’s grace.”

Despite some of the gains recorded in this part of Jos,  there is still evidence of past destructions during ethno-religious riots, especially at an area known as Congo junction.

Still, not giving up, individuals like Pam Bala, Secretary Joint Christian and Muslim Forum, are involved in the sensitisation of Muslims and Christians on the negative impact of clashes between them.

Bala recalls when five imams and reverends preached in Congo and about five youths promised not to go back to abusing drugs. Eventually, some of them left the settlement and vowed not to be involved in armed violence again. “This is one of the most vulnerable communities in Jos,” he says. “Many youths smoke Indian hemp, and there is the issue of child prostitution.”

Toma Maisamari, an immediate past youth leader in Congo, says organising end of year celebrations and other activities has helped in uniting the different religions to a certain extent. He, however, admits that marijuana plays one of the most important roles among the young. “Even when we don’t take drugs, we interact with them and sensitise them on the need to live in peace,” he says.

Maisamari laments that although Congo-Russia does not have a pharmaceutical company that manufactures drugs or a farm where marijuana is cultivated, drugs continue to get into the hands of end-users in the community.

“The security personnel are not helping matters. They are compromised,” he says. “These drugs don’t fall from the sky, they pass through our major roads.”

The community has called the attention of drug peddlers to the dangers, Maisamari explains. The leaders have also collaborated with the police, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and neighbourhood watch. “But the problem persists,” he says.

Uba Gabriel Ogaba, Plateau State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO),  points out that the police constantly engage in raids and have charged persons to court in the area.

Again, not everyone comes to a place like Congo’s popular lodge for the drugs available around it.

Fatima Yusuf Abdullahi, who is a Muslim, has lodged there for about two months just to enjoy the relationships it offers. “We live here like brothers and sisters,” she says. “I’m here with my boyfriend.”

Fatima has a diploma in Business Administration from Nasarawa State University, Keffi and plans to further her education. But at the moment she is jobless and finds Congo a good place to help her unwind.

Although she is aware of the theft, drug peddling and prostitution that takes place in the lodge, she finds it difficult to stay away.

“Police do carry out raids sometimes, but they accept bribes and only arrest the wrong people,” she reveals.

Fatima’s joblessness is typical of the state of youths in Congo. HumAngle observed that there are few businesses in the area and not a single skills acquisition centre for the young.

“This is exactly what we crave for here,” Choji says, pointing to a location he believes will be ideal for such an initiative. “But help is yet to come.”



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