Alarm recently raised by the Federal Capital Territory Administration [FCTA] about the presence of unhealthy donkey meat in its market has unsettled not a few residents of the capital city, as it is not easy for consumers to identify the unhealthy meat. FCTA said unhealthy donkey meat is coming into the capital territory from neighbouring states. Director of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Baba Shehu Lawan ordered AEPB’s Department of Monitoring and Enforcement to seize and destroy any fresh meat brought from outside for sale in FCT.
AEPB’s Head of Information & Outreach Programme Muktar Ibrahim said in a statement that “public health in the FCT is threatened by the activities of unscrupulous meat merchants who have consistently and secretly moved the unhealthy meat into the market.” He said “the rampant cases of unhealthy or donkey meat being brought in from other states has become totally unacceptable as there is no guarantee of the health status of such meat and unfortunately the jurisdiction of FCT inspection and regulatory agencies does not extend to other states.” He then announced a ban on the movement of fresh meat of any type from neighbouring states into the FCT.
The director said, “We don’t want any economic loss for anyone but there is no going back. The policy has already been approved by FCT Administration. What we want is to upgrade the meat value chain. As a budding world class city and capital of Africa’s most populous nation, Abuja attracts a lot of local and foreign dignitaries. Therefore it deserves nothing but the best in food quality.”
It is very unfortunate that unhealthy meat, whether of donkey or any other animal is being brought into the market and sold to unsuspecting consumers. We commend the FCT authourities for their action in this matter. Trouble is, consumers cannot tell unhealthy meat by merely looking at it. Health inspectors should therefore visit markets and certify meat. Those found to be unhealthy should be seized and destroyed and the sellers should be sanctioned in order to send a strong message to other culprits. Furthermore, such inspections should be done routinely. It is true also that the state of abattoirs in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. So even if the animal is healthy before it was killed, its meat could get contaminated through the way it is handled in the abattoirs. Efforts should be made to keep abattoirs clean at all times.
The Director mentioned that meat from outside Abuja has been banned as part of efforts to tackle the problem. That measure may not be the total solution. Animals slaughtered within the FCT’s abattoirs may not be enough to cater to the needs of residents. There could be scarcity of meat which will also lead to hike in price. It will also cause difficulties as some persons may have to travel long distances to purchase meat. In any case, a ban such as this one cannot be permanent, therefore there is a need to look for a more holistic and sustainable solution to the issue.
The practice of inspecting animals before they are slaughtered for human consumption should be revived. That way an animal that is unhealthy is disposed of before it gets to the market. The laws and regulations guiding the activities of meat sellers are there. All that is left is implementation, and we do not always have to wait for an epidemic before we implement laws that would make life better for all citizens. All states across the country should take note as well and pay special attention to meat sold in their markets. They do not have to wait for an alarm or crisis.
Furthermore, citizens should be adequately sensitised on the presence of unhealthy donkey meat and the dangers of consuming such. They should also be told how to identify such meat and steps to take afterwards. All stakeholders should work together to tackle this issue.