On Illegal Abattoirs In Lagos
THE two-week ultimatum given by the Lagos State Government to operators of illegal abattoirs and slaughter slabs to shut them down or risk severe sanctions is necessary to protect members of the public from avoidable health hazards. Unhygienic and filthy environment prone to rats’ proliferation like slaughter slabs is, for instance, one sure avenue for the spread of the currently raging Lassa fever. Meat products may also get contaminated and sold to members of the public, thereby exposing them to serious health risks.
The state’s Ministry of Agriculture, which issued the order, said the measure was to guarantee wholesomeness in meat processing from the animal markets to the abattoir and onward transportation to the market. The government, has significantly taken over or sanitised the handling and distribution by introducing the Eko Refrigerated Meat Van Scheme.
But this has not stopped the open and unhygienic transportation of meat on tricycles and motorcycles in many parts of the state. Indeed, such products are still largely exposed to flies and similar elements in the open markets where they could be contaminated. Government, therefore, will continue to close down illegal abattoirs and slaughter slabs, which are not hygienic and not compliant with the relevant laws governing meat slaughtering in the state.
For the avoidance of doubt, the authorised abattoirs, according to the ministry, are Abattoir and Lairage Complex in Agege; Achakpo mechanised Abattoir in Ajegunle; Ologe mechanised Abattoir in Badagry (under construction); Matori Slaughter Slab; Itire Slaughter Slab; Ikorodu Slaughter Slab; Badagry Slaughter Slab and Epe Slaughter Slab. Any abattoir not included in this list is therefore illegal, unauthorised and should be closed down forthwith.
The Lagos State government deserves commendation for showing such an unwavering interest in public health matters. For quite a while, indeed, Lagos has been in the forefront of fostering a healthy and habitable environment within a densely populated metropolis. The introduction of Eko Meat Van in 2008 was remarkable even though butchers who were opposed to it vowed never to comply with the government directive to distribute their product using the approved vans. Their grouse was that there were not enough of such vans, which made them expensive to hire since the vans were contracted to private operators. This also explains why meat is still transported and exposed in unhygienic manner in different parts of Lagos. But the government should not relent. Efforts should be made to increase the number of the meat vans in order to make them easily accessible and affordable.
As the state ministry of agriculture rightly noted, the danger with unrecognised abattoirs is that animals slaughtered there are not inspected by veterinary professionals to determine the ones that may have diseases and therefore not fit for consumption. To ensure public health, all approved abattoirs and slaughter slabs have veterinary officers deployed to them whose job is to inspect and certify the meat hygienic for human consumption.
Commendably, operators of illegal abattoirs located within military cantonments and barracks where veterinary officers are denied access have also been identified and all efforts should be made to shut them down. Nobody is above the law. Government should invoke all of its powers and ensure that order prevails no matter whose ox is gored.
One thing, however, is to have an approved abattoir; it is another is to ensure that the facilities are kept clean and hygienic by the users.
A lot has been said about the disgusting state of many of Lagos abattoirs, whether approved or not, for example. The Oko-Oba Abattoir and Lairage, which reportedly is the largest in the West African sub-region is notorious for operating in the most unhygienic condition.
At this particular abattoir, the sight of unhealthy practices in the way the animals that are slaughtered, with butchers taking sickly animals to the slaughter line without minding their health condition is cause for concern. In an attempt to correct the lapses, the state government, not too long ago, shut down the Oko-Oba Abattoir over non-compliance with the relevant laws governing meat slaughtering and packaging.
With the renewed zeal, Lagos State should address all aspects of abattoir operations. Focus should not be placed only on having authorised abattoirs but compliance with the clear rules in place for hygiene and decency.
A healthy citizenry is a wealthy one and the least a government can do is to ensure just that.
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