Waste generation in Nigerian slaughter houses poses a serious threat to the environment because of poor handling practices and its adverse environmental effects. In a typical Nigerian abattoir, the surrounding land is often marshy due to improper channeling of wastewater arising from the dressing of slaughtered animals and washings at the lairage. Pollution also occurs when solid wastes such as bones, pieces of flesh and dung are left unattended in open spaces. When precipitation takes place, these wastes leave the land in a polluted state while part of it gets washed into nearby streams. Most Nigerian abattoirs are situated close to surface water bodies in order to have access to water supply needed for slaughtered animal processing and to provide a sink for the run-off from meat processing activities.
Transporting meat from abattoirs in passenger’s vehicles and motorcycles is another common practice in most parts of the country and this exposes meat to disease vectors such as flies and dust. Inspection of animals by relevant agents in most abattoirs to ascertain the health of these animals is rarely done and even when healthy animals are taken to such abattoirs for slaughter, they end up being contaminated.
The unhygienic condition of abattoirs across the country remains worrisome. Despite the fact that government has made several attempts to curb the unwholesome activities of some butchers in the country, the scale of illegal abattoirs continue at an alarming rate.
Yet maintenance of public hygiene is a primary duty of any government, be it federal, state, or local. According to Ghandi, ‘proper sanitation is better than independence’. Adequate sanitation, together with good hygiene and safe water, are fundamental to good health and to social and economic development of any society.
Cheerfully, Lagos State is making remarkable efforts towards ensuring a healthy and hygienic abattoir condition. The special status of Lagos as the commercial nerve Centre of Nigeria and indeed West Africa with a population of about 24 million people equates to a significant demand for food consumption specifically in the area of wholesome meat production. Over the years, the state has upgraded abattoirs to suit its mega city status. Some of the upgraded abattoirs include Matori abattoir, Achakpo, Ikorodu, Ibile Ilaje and a host of others under rehabilitation process.
At present, Lagos State government has embarked on the rehabilitation of Oko Oba abattoir in Agege which involves construction of transit camp; a housing facility comprising of 100 units of self-contained rooms to accommodate cattle merchants on transit and construction of head, hide and stripe processing facility to curb unhygienic processing of meat products. Also included in the facility is a general cleaning service established to be responsible for the general and day to day removal of all kinds of waste generated in the whole Abattoir complex.
Similarly, Lagos State has introduced a unique bio gas method of waste disposal. The biogas method is effective in disposing waste through technological advancement of generating energy at the same time. Bio gas is the only source of fuel that can supply both electricity and cooking need. Biogas can power electric generating plants as well as cooking devices. The waste generated is also a form of refined organic fertilizer. Bio gas can eliminate the use of fuel wood by the rural farmers. Above all, biogas is cheaper than all forms of conventional energy and it improves agricultural productivity and sustains the environment.
Lagos State government has also commenced training for butchers with the aim of exposing them to international standard of operation in the industry towards improving the hygiene status of all the government approved abattoirs and slaughter slabs in the State and ensure wholesomeness in the meat that is locally consumed.
Currently, the State government and other stakeholders are putting heads together to fully harness the Eko Large Ruminant Animal Project to enhance the integration of cognate sub project such as feed milling operation. This is aimed at ensuring timely availability of quality compounded animal feeds in the desired quantity, animal slaughtering and processing, and the distribution and marketing of processed beef.
On the whole, it is heartwarming to note that Lagos State is deploying modern technology to tackle the problem of poor environmental sanitation in the abattoirs. And this is the way to go by it for a mega city with large population of people with multi-ethnic and multi-religion background, who are all desperate to earn a living.
A 2008 report estimates that Lagos generates about 9,000 metric tonnes of waste daily. A recent report has, however, puts the waste generates daily in the state at 10,000 metric tonnes, almost three times higher than what the whole of Ghana generates daily. If Lagos is to achieve the vision of the current administration to achieve a safe and secure mega city that would be an investor’s delight, all available means must be deployed to ensure that the metropolis does not become a breeding ground for all manners of environmental risks.
Olokodana is of the Public Relations Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Alausa, Ikeja.