The conversion of livestock into meat at the abattoir could encounter various health and environmental hazards. But fortunately, such hazards can be contained if an abattoir functions properly and produces meat according to the stringent and environmental practices.
Those standards are what correspondent sought when it visited the Oko-Oba Abattoir and Odo Eran markets in Lagos state. Our reporters write.
Abattoirs are supposed to be public health outfits that cater for the supply of meat to the public. No doubt the growing livestock production in response to the increasing meat demand is always affected by environmental pressures and problems. Most of these problems are unavoidable and difficult to address.
Being a mega city, Lagos State has so many illegal abattoirs prompting the government to take the issue of meat consumption very seriously.
Despite efforts of the Lagos State Government in carrying out reforms in the state abattoir, the Oko-Oba Abattoir and Odo Eran market where about 300 cows are killed daily show that a lot still needs to be done to achieve the desired results.
At a glance, one could see signs of unhealthy and unethical practices in the way cows that are distressed, bruised and unable to walk, are slaughtered at the abattoir with vets and other task force teams on duty, not minding the situation.
Our reporters discovered that another area of concern in the state of the abattoir is the stench oozing out from the abattoir.
Ayodele Odulaja who lives at Moke Oyelodun Street at the back of the abattoir lamented about the filth and stench from the daily activities at the abattoir.
He said: “From a distance up to Fagba junction you will perceive an odour that tells you that you are close to an abattoir. When you get close you will see smoke coming from there. Every year we continue to paint our houses, and inhale very bad smells coming from the abattoir.”
“Lagos State Government must do something fast about this abattoir to save our lives. Anytime there is outbreak of epidemic here, though we do not pray for it, I am afraid the government will not be able to contain it,” he added
He argued that, though the state government monitors the operations at its abattoirs to ensure that before meat gets to the stable in the market, it must have passed through a standard process, “there are still lapses on the ways things are being done here,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Government did not hesitate to shut down the Oko-Oba abattoir located in Agege area of the state from time to time over unhygienic practices and non-compliance with the relevant laws governing meat slaughtering.
According to the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperative and Society, Oluwatoyin Suarau, the abattoir was shut to enable the government sanitise the environment by carrying out ‘massive cleanup’ and ensure cattle slaughtered in the facility are safe for consumption, adding that the abattoirs in the state must conform to standard practices.
Suarau added that the state government will not hesitate to lock up any abattoir found to be in unhygienic condition as well as non-compliance with the relevant laws governing meat slaughtering in the state.
He said, “You recall that the Lagos abattoir was temporarily shut to enable the government carry out massive clean- up in the place. The facility had to be shut once in a while in order to give room for total clean up. It is a place where our cattle are slaughtered. We must make sure the place is hygienic always for the slaughtering of cattle and other activities to take place. We have to do so, because we cannot allow our abattoir to become eyesores.”
In furtherance of the reforms of the red meat value chain in Lagos State Abattoir and Lairage Oko Oba, Agege, has witnessed gradual transformation as a result of reforms being carried out with the involvement of various stakeholders.
This led to the administration sponsoring about 39 of the abattoir stakeholders especially the leadership to go to Kenya and Botswana to see what is happening in those countries.
According to Suarau, “We have veterinary officers deployed to all recognised abattoirs in the state to inspect and certify the meat hygienic for human consumption and that is why we are advocating that all illegal abattoirs in the State should be shut down.”
The Commissioner further disclosed that the authorised abattoirs in the state are Abattoir and Lairage Complex Agege, Achakpo Mechanized Abattoir Ajegunle, Ologe Mechanized Abattoir Badagry (Under construction), Matori Slaughter Slab, Itire Slaughter Slab, Ilaje Slaughter Slab, Ikorodu Slaughter Slab, Badagry Slaughter Slab and Epe Slaughter Slab.
On the impact of the moves by the state government, a senior staff in the Ministry of Environment, who craves anonymity, said the operators came back from the trip asking for change and reforms.
He added that what the state government has done is to allow them to lead the reforms they themselves want.
According to him, “You would see in our abattoirs that they built now their own separation cubicles, they now put their white rain boots there, they put their lockers there, so you change into white garment so that at least the process of cleaning, killing and processing the meat is improved and the hygienic condition of what ultimately gets to your table and my table become better.
“You can now see the mechanized section in the state abattoir where machines that have been there before during Governor Governor Babatunde Fashola regime being put to use gradually and that is servicing what we call corporate butchers section where the UAC and all those who deal in bulk trade of beef and its accessories are being serviced.”
He explained that: “when the operators were given the exposure to international best practices in Kenya and Botswana, one of the things they realised was that by making their cattle walk so many kilometres before it is slaughtered, they are the ones actually losing because the animal is stressed and the beef is equally reduced in quality and quantity.”
Going forward, he said that the State Government also intends to build a camp like a hostel so that those who come to work in the abattoir can find a place to sleep, to wash, to eat and support their business and to ultimately help them to clean up the animal market.
“As I have said, one of the things we would do very quickly is to help them fence up this place now because that is one of their requests,” he said.
Alhaji Sule Zangina, one of the officials of Harmony Abattoirs Management Services Limited, who manages the abattoir, said the Lagos Abattoir remained one of the best he had seen in the country.
He said, “The Lagos Abattoir is fine. The government has been making sure that the place is clean and a new way of killing cows is introduced to the abattoir. I have seen many abattoirs in Nigeria, Niger and Chad, this one in Lagos is getting better every day.”
For Mrs. Fidelia Oyewole, a consumer who runs a restaurant in Ogba area of Lagos, “I buy my meat from this abattoir in Agege. The place is very clean now. Sometimes health officers inspect animals and meat in the abattoir.
“Right now you can just buy your meat and the meat van will bring it to your house. Unlike before when the whole place would smell bad. It is so good now; the government should not leave the abattoir to the operators to ensure meat bought and consumed from the abattoir are not harmful.”
The senior staff in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, who would not want his name mentioned, maintained that, “The rule is that any cow that is to be slaughtered must be healthy. In drug administration to animals, there is an amount of pills you give to an animal before it could be slaughtered for consumption, otherwise it will do harm to the kidney of the people eating it.”
Odo Eran market
A visit of to Odo Eran Market located at Itire area of Lagos where beefs and cows are majorly sold in pieces, as well as other food stuffs revealed that over 100 cows are slaughtered and sold by the traders every day, thus customers are sure to get fresh meat whenever they get to the market.
Buying and selling is convenient for customers and traders because they get whatever food they want at the place and also get good bargains. It is one of the peaceful markets at Itire presently.
Mr. Salaudeen Adedoyin a meat seller said: “we are safe here. There is no disturbance in this market and we pray not to experience fire like some markets did recently. Everything is going on smoothly and in a day we slaughter more than twenty cows and by God’s grace we sell all before the end of the day,” he said.
Mrs. Gbolahan Tosin said “everything is in other, we have a union that settles misconception in the market.
Mrs. Akintayo Monsurat a customer said: “I prefer this market because you won’t walk far before getting all the food stuffs you want. I usually shop here every weekend in bulk. To be sincere, this market is neat despite the fact that they kill cow and do other rough work here, still it is neat, that shows how discipline they are here,” she said.