Residents protest dirtiness of Abbattoir
Because of the nature of the job done there, an abbattoir is expected to be messy,but the operators are expected to make it clean at all times. It seems this is not so with the Agege,Lagos abbattoir, whose host community is complaining about the threat the facility is posing to life.
For residents of Agege, a Lagos suburb, these are not the best of times. They are angry because an infrastructure which the state government built has been abandoned by people for whom it was originally built and have chosen an alternative which has allegedly become a threat.
The residents are protesting the appalling condition under which butchers slaughter animals at the abattoir. They alleged that the butchers have blocked the drainage with effluent.
The residents said they deserve good and healthy environment. They urged the butchers to use clean slaughter slabs in order to produce hygienic meat and also ensure proper waste disposal.
Reacting, the government promised to overhaul the abattoir.
Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, expressed dissatisfaction with the state of the abattoir, promising that a multi-ministerial approach will be taken to give the infrastructure a facelift. He explained that the approach became imperative because of the manner in which meat handlers and butchers conduct themselves despite sensitisation campaigns organised for them by the government.
He admitted laxity in maintaining cleanliness at the abattoir and spoke about ongoing steps to improve the situation, including shifting of the heap of garbage within the abattoir. He said he was dissatisfied with the dirty condition at the abattoir. He admitted that the unclean environment in which the butchers operate with refuse dumped carelessly made it injurious to human health.
According to him, the abattoir has the capacity to slaughter about 2,000 animals daily, lamenting that it hardly gets 200 cows to slaughter in a week, promising that the state government would find a way to sanitise all the abattoirs in order to ensure that they work at full capacities.
Lawal lamented that the butchers hardly use the mechanised slaughtering facility at the abattoir, but assured the residents that the government was working on ways to address the problem of the offensive odour emanating from the abattoir.
He urged the management of the abattoir to ensure that slaughtering of animals and disposal of waste were carried out in a more environment-friendly manner.
The government introduced the Eko Meat Van and customised tricycles to avoid unwholesome means of conveying beef within the metropolis’ markets and to end consumers. The government also banned packing of beef in sacks and distribution by motorcycles.
Residents of the community are unhappy about the garbage dump on the access route to the slaughter slabs, adding that the cows were also slaughtered by dirty-looking workers who were unmindful that the cows were for human consumption.
The Managing Director, Harmony Abattoir Management Services Limited, Moshood Bello-Olusanya, accused the butchers of prefering the slaughter slabs to the well- equipped modern slaughter facility put in place by the government.
Why would the butchers prefer the make-shift slaughter slabs to the one provided by the state government? According to findings by The Nation, butchers don’t patronise the modern slaughter facilities because it will attract a fee of N2,500 while the alternative attracts N1,000. Another reason is religion. According to one of the traders, the way the machine slaughters the cow runs contrary to their belief, adding that some of them even pray before slaughtering the cows.
Bello-Olusanya said slaughtering of animals through this method is crude because it does not take into account the health implications, adding that meat produced under such conditions lacks veterinary inspection and stood the risk of becoming hazardous to human health.
The slaughter slabs lack skinning cradles for cattle and small stock, rails for hanging the carcasses and adequate water supply. Animal dung, meat and clotted blood are dumped on the slabs which are not fenced allowing dogs to stary into the area to lick slaughterd animal blood.
Bello-Olusanya said the government is doing its best to improve hygiene at the slaughter house, lamenting that despite the provision of these facilities, butchers prefer the less dignifying alternative. He condemned the manner the butchers were disposing waste from the abattoir into gutter without considering its effects on the environment.
According to him, disposal of the by-products of the process, known as offal, is an additional challenge for those using the slaughter slabs, adding that this has led to undue generation of noise and horrible odour that pollutes the atmosphere.
Bello-Olusanya said the abattoir provides improved marketing opportunities for local farmers, helps to make local food more available to consumers and create environmental and animal welfare benefits.
An outstanding benefit of abattoirs, he explained, is that the animals are subjected to a minimum of stress compared with conventional pre-slaughter handling that often includes stressful loading, transportation, mixing and crowding, and rough handling by humans unfamiliar to them.
He urged Nigerians to use the government-inspected facilities for hanging carcasses, curing, cutting and wrapping to ensure consistent high-quality management of the carcasses in their transformation into premium meat products. He appealed to the state government to stop the indiscriminate slaughtering of animals at home and other unauthorised places in the state, stressing that such activities should be carried out in abattoirs built in strategic places in the state.
Corroborating him, the General Manager of the firm, Sheriff Akinwunmi Sanusi, said the abattoir is still a vast heap of refuse and waste because the butchers are using slaughter slabs.The slaughter slab, on which animals are butchered and processed, is located metres from these heaps of waste.
He said the high number of cattle being slaughtered on the slabs has one significant implication: the stench that emanates from inside the abattoir and the dirty water that runs out of the place into the large canal nearby. He warned that the blockage of drainage channel could cause stagnation and backflow of blood and abattoir waste and this could create a cesspool within the abattoir environment and from which diseases could be contacted.
According to him, slaughter slabs lack so many facilities which are provided at the slughter house.
At the mechanised slaughtering facility, about 2,000 cows can be slaughtered in a day. It has a facility where animals are stunned, bled, slaughtered, flayed and dressed in successive operations. The house has facilities for the processing and large-scale storage of meat, and the utilisation of inedible by-products.
Sanusi said the facility allows carcass to be dressed out rapidly, the offal inspected, cut up and the stomach and guts opened, cleared of manure and flushed. The manure, he added, is taken to a pit outside the building, while the rinsing water is directed into the main drainage system.
An abattoir ought to be neat and hygienic, but the Lagos State Abattoir Complex at Oko-Oba, Agege is far from being neat. There are various groups of traders, cattle traders, foodstuffs, water merchants, labourers men and women, intermediaries, butchers and others going in and out of the abattoir.
A ramshackle community has grown up around the facility. In particular, people around the plant have relocated. That growth has forced the government to step in.
The Lagos State House of Assembly has ordered the stoppage of construction of the loading bay at the abattoir to forestall imminent break down of law and order.The Irepodun Abattoir and Lairage Association of the market petitioned the House of Assembly on some activities on the bay. The butchers claim that, the slaughter house lacks a drainage system and is too small to handle the number of animals slaughtered there. They said the facility lacks space where they can keep their animals and meat after slaughter. He also faults the butchers for using the facility irresponsibly and failing to clean it after their work. The knock-on effect of the new abattoir could be significant for farmers as it will provide them with a chance to expand their meat herds.
Analysts say meat-processing regulation is necessary to protect public health. Mobile poultry slaughterhouses may also be part of the answer for small butchers. A large number of small slaughter houses are scattered all over the country. Unlicensed slaughter houses are spread in the villages without any proper plan to harmonise their activities.