Like many slaughter houses in different parts of the Federal Capital Territory, the Karu Abbatoir used to be an eyesore and an unhealthy meat shop. But the story has changed for the better. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
he Karu Abattoir is the main abattoir in the Federal Capital Territory. Work resumes there as early as 4.00 am when cows are prepared for slaughtering. It used to be a very difficult experience for both the animals and those slaughtering them because everything is done manually.
There were no proper checks on the health of the animals and even the environment was not suitable for the process. After slaughtering the cows, the meat is roasted above the fire made with used tyres to burn off the hairy skin of the animal.
Unknown to the butchers and their attendants, the practice of making fires with used tyres in order to roast meat did not only contaminate the meat but was dangerous to the health of those who inhaled the fumes.
Inside Abuja‘s investigation has however shown a gradual change in the narrative. The Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Capital Territory, has promised to build a new abattoir with modern facilities to make things easier and better.
But even before that promise is fulfilled, the management of the Karu Abattoir has embarked on reforms to uplift the standard of the existing facility.
A visit to the abattoir showed that it is now bustling with activities as over 140 staff dressed in uniforms are involved in the business of processing beef for public consumption. It is now fast gaining a reputation of neatness and good sanitary environment. Not only do they operate in a hygienically safe environment, veterinary doctors are readily on ground to check the health status of animal before and after they are slaughtered.
According to Ahmad Abdulkarim (Katar), Chairman of the Butcher’s Association, Karu, the slaughterhouse was able to achieve its present reputation of neatness because of the smooth working relationship that exists between them and the Department of Agriculture as well as the Veterinary Board and Abuja Environmental Protection Board.
He noted that as a routine, the slaughter house is sanitized and fumigated daily after work. This is done with disinfectants to rid the entire place of odour and germs.
Abdulkarim noted that although they are still roasting with tyres, they now mix it with firewood, awaiting when government will supply the machine that would enable them to roast with gas.
“We have 250 staff. We do division of labour here. At least, three people attend to one cow consisting of butchers, those that will offload the meat and those that will clean the intestine and roast the head.
“We kill more cows in the rainy season than in the dry season. During dry season, we buy cow feed while cows feed naturally from grasses during rainy season. So, cost of rearing cow is high in dry season. We kill 160 cows during rainy season because of illegal slaughter and its likes”, he said.
Abdulkarim, who expressed appreciation to the FCT for promising to provide the abattoir with modern machine for roasting goats and cow heads, lamented that they have lost many of their workers as result of inhaling smoke from burnt tyres which they used for roasting meat.
“The Permanent Secretary, Department of Agriculture has already answered our request of providing us with modern machine for roasting goats and cow heads. With the modern machine, we will be able to roast goats and cow heads with gas instead of roasting it with burning tyre because using tyres are not healthy. It causes cancer.
“The use of tyre has reduced because it really dealt with us. Presently, the Federal Government is building a new house that will contain modern butchering equipment for us,” he said.
Katar stated that veterinary doctors are always on ground during working hours to scrutinise animals before and after they have been slaughtered.
“We are in collaboration with FCT’s Agric Department. We have veterinary doctors that are always on ground to sanitize our animals before and after they are being slaughtered. Our meat don’t go to the market until its tested by these veterinary doctors. If they find any abnormalities with the meat, the meat will be burnt because it will be hazardous for human health if consumed. As such, we don’t sell such meat,” he said.
Attempt to speak with the veterinary doctors however failed because none was available since it was not a work hour.
Abdulkarim said that aside infrastructural development, the FCT Department of Agriculture also organise training for them to develop themselves on their business.
“The ministry also lectures us on things to do and what not to do. We are taught not to kill cow that are on injections until the injection expires from them because the chemical is hazardous to human health. Through their lecture, we have gained a lot because before now this abattoir was muddy and stinking. You dare not come around here especially during rainy season without rain boots and nose mask because there were maggots everywhere. But through the help of the Federal Government and training, we realized the need to renovate this place and keep it hygienic. We organize ourselves and do the little we can to keep the place safe because if environmental board locks up this place, we will not have a place to do our business. So, we started the work before calling on the government and we thank the Federal Government for responding to our request,” he said.
Amina shehu, a young lady that offloads meat from the abattoir with basin, said she has been working in the abattoir for years and enjoys what she does.
“I enjoy working here because here is not dirty. They wash here with chemical every day after work. I have been here working as an off loader for years now and I don’t have any problem with the bosses,” she said.
A young man, who simply identified himself as Sani, said it’s easy to work in Karu abattoir because there is division of labour and people are not allowed to encroach into other peoples’ work.
“I am a butcher and we use blue uniform. I work with the right people because they make the work easy because there is division of labour here. One person is not allowed to do all the jobs and you can lose your job if you try to do work that is not your own,” he said.
Kabir Husein was caught sleeping while dressed in black uniform. He said he is among those that roast cow head and goats. He confirmed that they mix tyre with fire wood to roast the meat but his boss has already told him that government will bring machine that will make their work easy.
Madam Chioma, a woman who owns a restaurant close to the market said, “buying meat from the abattoir is cheap and you get to buy fresh meat. The only problem is that you have to be there as early as 5am. Otherwise, you will not get it to buy in smaller quantity.”
Charity Musa said she likes Karu abattoir because the place is neat and their staff are not corrupt. “Karu abattoir is very okay by me. The staff are disciplined. It’s either you come there early to buy meat or forget it. Very early in the morning, they shade meat in smaller quantity for consumers to buy but if you miss that period, you can’t bribe the staff to sell meat for you. That to me is integrity,” she said.