Lagos — The condition of the Lagos ever-busy abattoir complex in Oko-Oba, Agege, pose health challenges to residents.
An abattoir ought to be neat and hygienic, but the Lagos State Abattoir Complex at Oko-Oba, Agege is far from being neat. If you move very close to this abattoir, what you will notice is an unimaginable filth and a permanently overbearing stench which envelopes not just the premises but also the immediate neighbourhood of the abattoir.
Meanwhile, if you are standing in front of the abattoir, one will not believe this is the place where more than 80 per cent of the meat being consumed in the state comes from. There are different kinds of pointers that announce arrival at the state abattoir. One of such pointers is the beehive of human activities going on around. Also there are various groups of traders, cattle traders, foodstuff s, water merchants, labourers (men and women), intermediaries, butchers and others going in and out of the abattoir.
Investigations show that about 4,000 cattle are slaughtered at this abattoir daily and butchers moved them to various markets in the metropolis. The high number of cattle being slaughtered here 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.
The smell emanating from the abattoir is a nasty odour that spread through the air around the place. The rotten smell that is synonymous with this abattoir invades the atmosphere as early as 5 a.m. and last till the evening, only to repeat itself the following day, seven days a week.
Passengers that pass through the main gate of the abattoir used to complain about the offensive odour in the atmosphere. Once they inhaled the odour unexpectedly, they will cover their nose in disgust and fear for their health. A co-passenger with this reporter berated the state government for not finding lasting solution to the offensive smell.
Most of the residents of Oko-Oba Housing Estate that share land with the abattoir and other residents in the adjourning streets are the worst hit. Most of them could not open their windows because there was no fresh air in their environment. What they have been living with was a polluted air and extremely dirty environment. It was gathered that lots of them created conducive air within their flats by using various kinds of deodorant and air-fresheners.
The smell from the abattoir, according to Mrs. Bolatito Aina, one among the residents at Okobaba Housing Estate, was as a result of the the blood and other wastes of the slaughtered cows being evacuated from the abattoir through these gutters (she points at the gutter) that cause the smell.
According to her, "Since a lot of blood and wastes come from thousands of cattle they slaughtered here every day, we have been suffering in silence. The odour from the abattoir is not good for human being to continue inhaling it every day; our life span will continue to be reducing for this odour we in- hale."
In addition to the wastes from the slaughtered cows, Mrs. Aina also complained that there was a dumpsite of cow bones and dung. "This dumpsite is so filthy particularly whenever it rain. On the other side was a grazing site for the hundreds of cattle the traders bring to this place every day. Around our estate on the other side were men and women that cooked reddish cow blood for the purpose of selling it to poultry farmers that mixed it with animal feeds. All sorts of things are going on around here that affects the environment negatively,' she noted.
Weekly Trust observation of the interior of the abattoir did not show any significant difference. A large part of inside the abattoir is as unhygienic as the outside. Cow dung dotted the ground indiscriminately. Activities of butchers on the slaughter slab were also crude and a dirty affair. The meat got from the slaughtered cattle did not fare any better. Some were carried on head by laborers from one point to another.
Mr. Akiode Badmus , a banker who live in one of the block of flats beside the abattoir said. "We have been living in 'hell' of odour here for years. I don't know what the state government has done or trying to do to reduce the smell. The abattoir smells all the time," Akiode said adding, "There is no free time for us in this estate. Every day of the week including weekends. If you ask me, I suggest the state government move the abattoir away from here. This type of abattoir should be moved to a virgin land where people are not living nearby."
Akiode also argued that continuous inhale of the foul odour from the abattoir could cause health problems to the residents around there over time. " I have been inside the abattoir on several occasion ; the place is very dirty in every facet of its operations. I wish the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment do something to stem the odour at the abattoir to save our children because the younger residents are the worst hit. They could not stand the bad odour for long because sometimes, some of the children vomit because of the smell from inside the abattoir.
In a bid to ensure the consumption of wholesome meat by residents, the Lagos State Government on Wednesday inaugurated a 17-man taskforce to ensure strict adherence to meat hygiene laws at the Lagos Abattoir and Lairage, Oko-Oba, Agege.
At the occasion, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mr. Gbolahan Lawal, said the setting up of the taskforce became imperative because of the way and manner in which meat handlers and butchers were conducting themselves at the abattoir despite series of sensitization campaigns organised by the government for them.
He said, "The taskforce is expected to complement the efforts of the management of the abattoir and animal market in enforcing state laws on environmental matters, meat hygiene and handling within the abattoir complex."
Lawal lamented that the mechanized slaughtering facility at the abattoir was not been utilized by the butchers, adding that the ministry had instructed the management firm, Harmony Abattoir Management Services Limited, to begin the phasing out of the use of slaughter slabs.
The taskforce, which was charged with the responsibility of bringing sanity to the abattoir, had its membership drawn from various stakeholders in the meat supply chain. It is chaired by Mr. Olaitan Muaz, a retired police officer, while other members include butchers, cattle herdsmen, animal marketers, the abattoir management firm and five officials of the ministry.
In an interview with our reporter on reaction of the residents against the offending odour that emanates from the state abattoir on daily basis, Lawal explained that the state government is on it.