by SOLOMON AYADO
……the fear of consuming contaminated or expired imported frozen poultry products in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT has resulted in a huge appetite in the residents for live birds. The Karu Chicken Market environments in the FCT in which live birds are sold, slaughtered and pared for consumers stand out in filthiness.
Nazibi Ahmed operates a makeshift stand that cage different species of birds including chickens, at the popular Karu Market in Karu District, situated along the Abuja-Keffi Highway in the nation’s capital. The market is only a kilometers away from the upscale Asokoro District. Fondly called ‘Mango Tree’ by commercial motorcycles and tricycles operators, the market sprung from the newly developed Karu Ultra Modern Market.
The name ‘Mango Tree’ in the Karu Market extension is derived from gigantic mango tree that is a major landmark in the place for years on end. The area is usually full of parked cars and motorcycles, and crawls with hawkers, artisans, shoppers, customers and commuters.
Nazibi sits on a constructed wooden stool in front of his stand and would actively beckon on any person entering the market to buy chicken, either to be slaughtered thereon or taken away. A young man, he looks agile with a mien that depicts that he is civil and happy to do what he is doing.
Asides the chicken business which is the major commercial activity thriving in the place, a tea vendor commonly known as ‘Mai shai’ also operate a stand at the entry point. The middle-aged man prepares noodles, tea and bread, just as he sells mobile phone recharge cards and operates a commercial charging platform for mobile phone batteries.
“Oga, which type of chicken do you want to buy? I have very healthy chicken of different species. There is big and small; old layers and broilers. Anyone you point I will bring it out for you. It can be slaughtered here for you or you can take it home? My chicken is very cheap and you will enjoy it.
“Just point at any one you want. But if you don’t want the ones arranged down here, there are bigger ones at the upper partition of the cage, you can see they are very healthy. Nothing do them. I have sold many of them today and before you know, customers will come buy them all, after all, today is Sunday,” he spoke persuasively.
Nazibi would grab a chicken out of the very many placed in the cage, after the price must have being well negotiated and agreed upon. For him, doing the business is more lucrative than handling a gun to torment innocent people on the streets. As he goes to the market every day, he meets people of varied status, men and women, as well as the rich and poor.
According to him, he has been in the business for not more than five years, but the journey into the commercial activity, he said, has been somewhat tasking but very encouraging. “I am from Kano, it is not up to five years that I started this business. But I like it because it is fetching me money and it is better than taking to social vices,” he stated.
As early as 7am, Nazibi comes to the market and opens his stand for business. He separates the birds that are troublesome as he fetches poultry feed and pours into the pen. As he agrees on the price with a customer, he would quickly call one of the butchers and hand over the chicken to them for slaughtering. A chicken sells between N1500 and N4000 while the processing and carving go for N100.
Marshy and flowing with blood is the ground on which the birds are slaughtered; and malodorous due to stagnated fluid. There is an overly dirty small stony slaughter slab in which most the birds’ blood are spilled. Within the same environment, few meters away from the slaughter slab, is a big black soot-coated drum that is constantly set on a flaming fire, with a little boy fanning the firewood intermittently. No one bothers to renew the water in it in which all the slaughtered chickens are cooked momentarily for easy feather removal.
At one side, there is a big jar, containing water and perhaps liquid feather removal in which the slaughtered chicken is dipped before it is finally dropped into the drum of hot water. The environment is a hotbed and natural incubator for germs and bacterial, yet a popular meat factory, even as health workers don’t bother to show up to regulate the activities.
The more than a hundred makeshift kiosks situated around the big shade clearly speak of a booming business in the selling and slaughtering of live birds despite the nauseating environment. About 50 slaughtered chicken that were washed clean and arranged for paring into pieces were seen heaped on the wooden table, while the hurry with which the butchers carried out the activity implied no cumbersomeness and dexterity.
Along the line, those who had purchased a chicken will either sit or stand waiting for it
to be processed and delivered. There is customers wooden bench by the side of each kiosk, even as some operators keep plastic chairs for their customers to relax as they await the processing of their chicken.
As at 9.45am on Sunday July 2, when our correspondent visited the poultry market in Karu, the area was already crowded with persons who came to buy live chickens. The place was filled up as people especially women, whose families were may be hosting gatherings, naming ceremonies and birthday anniversaries, bought the birds in large numbers.
Also, operators of local restaurants were met in the place as they were seen giving directives on how the meat should be pared into different sizes. The environment teems with all manners of ancillary service providers, including cart-pushing commercial water vendors who supply water in the jerry cans.
Our correspondent bought a chicken from one of the dealers at the rate of N1800 and waited as it was handed to the butchers for slaughter, and reports that the bird market teems with customers.
As one nursing mother, who obviously is popular among the bird dealers showed up, many of the dealers besieged her with patronizing greetings. She bought four birds and sat on the wooden bench to wait.
Asked while she bought the number of chicken, she said “I bought only four and not many. I prefer to buy many to let it be slaughtered in my presence before taking it home. I will later package it and put it in the refrigerator. This saves me the risk of buying imported frozen chicken from an unknown source, in which I am not sure of its wholesomeness.”
Many people interviewed stated that with the incessant impoundment of packaged frozen foods from smugglers by the officials of Nigerian Customs Service, so many reports of packaging fake meat is abound hence preference of the ‘point and kill.’
The Federal Ministry of Health stipulates that any meat being sold in the market must be endorsed by health workers before it would be displayed for public purchase and consumption; more so as the Nigerian Customs Service continues to constantly alert the public on contaminated and expired imported poultry products.
However, our correspondent’s visit to the in Karu poultry market showed that there was no health worker available in the place to disclose whether the birds being sold meet public health requirements.
A dealer in the place who spoke on condition of anonymity said “we buy the chicken from known poultry farms and we believe that the farms check the health status of the chicken because the farms are registered. But there is no health worker here, today.
One thing that remains a source of concern is whether or not the local poultry is certified and approved for public consumption, just as it has been established that their imported frozen counterpart are often unwholesome.
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