Dog, the saying goes, is man’s best friend. It is also the most favourite delicacy of some people in Abuja where there is a booming market for its sale writes Chidi Nwachukwu
People come from far and near to buy our meat. Some of them are even upper class who will park their big cars and sit down to enjoy the meat; and after eating, they would still buy some more and take home to their families,” Patrick tells LEADERSHIP Weekend as he deftly and expertly cuts the dressed dog on a brown table he uses as slab.
All around him similar actions go on as butchers, traders and their customers haggle with exchange of friendly banters over their merchandise – dog meat. Welcome to Ushafa in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, one of the markets where the sale of dog meat thrives in Abuja.
While many a people may hold up their nose in disgust over the scene described above, some others cannot wait to have a bite of their favourite delicacy: dog meat.
However, much has yet known about the budding dog meat business that appears to have insidiously spread across the Federal Capital Territory, especially in Abuja. One may be surprised to find out the calibre of people who subscribe to the eating of the meat, especially as there are all kinds of myths and opinions surrounding its consumption.
One patron, who seems to have enjoyed the meat more than the others, claims it boosts his libido. Another patron says he prefers the meat above every other one because it keeps him from falling ill. Yet another patron claims that it is part of his native tradition to eat the meat. There are indeed a lot of stories about the consumption of the special meat, but the consumers sure know how best to enjoy their favourite meat.
LEADERSHIP Weekend sighted workers of the corporate world who had taken time away from work, breezing into the meat spot for a quick eat, and rushing back to work, thereafter.
Patrick claims his customer base has swollen from about 50 persons per day to almost 200, in just five months. He adds that those who enjoy their first bite of the meat usually come back for more, and even sometimes bring their friends to have a taste of it.
Dog meat, its consumers maintain, is tastier than even the widely-consumed beef and mutton.
There are several ways of preparing the meat. While some preferred to roast it on the barbecue, others enjoy making pepper soup out of it. There are yet some people who enjoy including it in their regular food such as jollof rice, porridge beans, and all the native soups.
Ekaette, an indigene of Akwa-Ibom State, says her customers prefer it cooked and served with hot chilli soup known in the Nigerian parlance as pepper soup. She claims that she prepares hers with assorted spices such as fresh pepper, garlic, onion, curry leaves and other spicy leaves, her co-trader, Patrick, sells his roasted to the delight of his customers who relish the meat because of its religious connotation.
Getting dogs for slaughter, according to Patrick, is not an easy task as there are usually no commercial dog-breeding centres around.
He claims that most of the dogs they slaughter on daily basis are procured from around the environment and that sometimes, dog peddlers from Zaria in Kaduna State and other neighbouring states bring dogs to them which they buy at fairly good prices.
He adds that the cost of buying a dog from around his vicinity (Ushafa in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory) ranges from N10,000 through N15,000, whereas the dog peddlers from Zaria could sell theirs for as low as N2,500 per dog.
He explains further that he usually makes only a little profit when he buys at exorbitant rates, but would rather continue to trade with such little profit than quit the business, since that is the only trade he knows to sustain himself and his family.
He adds that his profit range is between N3,500 to N5,000 per day, but with a caveat: the turnout of customers.
He explains, “Some days I make much more than N5,000 because of the high turnout rate of patrons. If I have many customers I slaughter more dogs and this means more profit.”
Another dog meat dealer who simply gives his name as Michael, says he has been in the business for almost five years, and that it thrives in most parts of his home state of Kaduna adding that he usually gets dogs from hunters who came from Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and other northern states.
He adds that it is easier to get live dogs from the Niger Republic, which borders Borno State at Damasak town, since there are many forests in the country where dogs breed on their own.
He notes that in the Niger Republic, the dog buyer only needs to visit the traditional ruler of the region where he intends to scout for the dogs, and pay him homage; and that once the dog buyer has made his intention known to the ruler, he is immediately granted permission to scout for as many dogs as he wants, without paying a dime for it.
Michael adds that the boys who usually supply them with dogs travel to Damasak in Borno State and cross into the Niger Republic through the border to hunt for dogs; and that once they have gathered as many dogs as they can find, they haul them all the way from Niger in trailers to Borno State, from where they start distributing animals to those who have subscribed for them.
He adds that sometimes, the dogs are hauled to Lagos, Calabar and Uyo, to be supplied to the buyers in those regions.
Now, Ushaffa Bridge is the junction connecting Ushafa, a local settlement in the Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, with the remaining part of Bwari. It is a beehive of activities. It is, according to local settlers, the headquarters of the dog slaughtering business in the FCT.
Both sellers and buyers of dog meat have attested to the fact that almost all the other sellers of dog meat in Abuja, usually get their daily supply of the meat from Ushaffa Bridge. Meat sellers who are unable to purchase dogs for slaughter usually came to Ushaffa Bridge to buy the already slaughtered ones.
Philemon, another dog meat dealer who is an indigene of Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State, says he has so far, fared very well in the business. He adds that he usually makes enough gain from his trade, and that one dog bought at the rate of N7,000 could yield as much a profit of N8,000.
He says he prefers to slaughter his dog when the day is far spent, so that his customers who are returning from work, and who usually buy the meat in bulk, can have some good quantity to buy.
He also explains that contrary to the widespread opinion and myth that dog’s genitals are not edible, they are indeed the parts he enjoys eating the most.
He adds that no part of the dog meat is thrown away after slaughtering, as all parts are consumable, including the innards. He says some people even opt for the special preparation of the entrails such as the liver and the intestines, which they pay additional money for.
When asked whether there are any side effects to eating the meat of a rabid dog, Philemon said that there are no side effects to such a meat as he himself, has been eating it for as long as he cannot remember. He adds that if eating the meat from a rabid dog could have any side effect on the eater, that he would have been long dead.
However, Ushafa is not the only place the business is run. Other places include Dutse, at the Police Signboard; Kado, just around the Fish Market; Mabushi, in the village settlement off the junction; Gishiri, opposite Nicon Junction and several other remote locations in Abuja.
The regular consumers of dog meat usually enjoy eating it with their favourite alcoholic beverages such as palm wine, burukutu (a drink made from fermented sorghum or guinea corn), pitto (a blend from Plateau State of Nigeria, made by condensing the steam generated from heating Burukutu), and Ogogoro (gin produced from the South-southern part of Nigeria).
Others prefer to enjoy the meat with their regular brands of lager beer or stout.
Michael, who was met at exactly the time he was about slaughtering a dog, took time to explain to LEADERSHIP Weekend how he killed his dog, and went on to kill it right there at the spot.
He killed the dog by hitting it hard on the head with a large club so that it cringed and stretched, and then he quickly cut the throat of the dying dog to allow blood to gush out. Meanwhile, he had set a large fire using an old tyre and three big stones, for the roasting of the animal, which he did as soon as he was done with the slaughtering.
He said in the past, he used to strangle the dog before slaughtering it, but that he decided to change his style of killing the animal following one frightening experience he had sometime last year while killing a certain dog.
He said he had strangled the dog and assumed it to be dead; and that as soon as he grabbed the neck of the dog to put the knife to it, it jerked up, bit him hard on his left wrist, and broke into a wild race.
He added that all efforts made to catch the dog again did not yield any result. He further said that his new style of killing was to hasten the death of the dog, rather than watch it suffer in pains while it is being strangled.
Philemon, while giving a perspective to the economic side of the business, avers that dog meat business is a very viable one that is capable of generating so much money for its dealers.
He adds that the business could be converted into a global one since there are foreigners living in Nigeria who enjoy eating the meat and buying it in large quantities. He adds that these foreigners sometimes request that the meat be prepared and packaged for their folks overseas.
Philemon claimed that a certain Chinese man came to request for a specially prepared, and well dried and packaged dog meat that he would send over to his folks in China.
Philemon added that the Chinese man claimed that the Nigerian methods of preparing the meat were far better than his own Chinese methods of preparing it. He added that sometimes after they had slaughtered the meat, certain customers who wanted the meat in large quantities, came and bought it off. He said when such happened, they would quickly rush to the market to buy another live dog that would be killed and prepared for other customers who would come later.
Many of the consumers of dog meat, however, claim to have become addicted to eating it. One Mary, a business woman in Bwari Area Council of the FCT, claims she doesn’t get on well with her daily business unless she has had her daily dose of the meat.
Another consumer, Godwin Abasima, says he enjoys eating the meat because it boosts his libido. He adds that he also takes some home to his wife each time he came out to buy the meat.
However, Dr. (Mrs.) Deborah Buba, a veterinary doctor at the University of Jos, does not totally condemn the eating of dog meat saying that there are no known health implications attached to its consumption.
She, however, suggests that dogs should be better reared as pets rather than as food animals.
She says dog meat is rich in protein since it falls into the class of foods that contain Amino Acids, a major ingredient of all protein-rich foods.
But Dr. Alex Ameh, an Abuja-based zoologist, says dogs do not fall into the class of animals recommended for meat. He does not concur with all the myths associated with the consumption of dog meat.
Ameh simply dismisses the tradition of dog eating as inhuman, since according to him, dogs are man’s best friends.