Again, Customs seizes ₦200m dried donkey meat, livelihoods threatened

There are about 1.5 million donkeys and about 20.7 million heads of cows in Nigeria at present, according to unofficial records.

The Kebbi State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has again impounded a truckload of dried donkey meat, valued at ₦200 million while being conveyed to Onitsha in Anambra.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the dry meat cargo was being conveyed to the popular Ochanja Market in Onitsha when customs operatives impounded the cargo on the Koko-Zuru highway in Kebbi.

The recurring seizures of truckloads of dry meat in some states of the federation is said to be threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Nigerians engaged in the trade nationwide.

It was learnt that the customs operatives, who impounded the latest meat cargo refused to listen to pleas of the traders when the traders could not meet the financial demands of the operatives to release the goods.

The National President of the Donkey Dealers Association of Nigeria, Ikechukwu Aniude, who confirmed the development in Abuja on Sunday, told NAN that the customs operatives seized the meat cargo on May 19.

He said that the customs operatives were led by an officer, whose name he gave simply as Mr Sanusi, recalling that a similar seizure was made by the customs command in Kebbi on March 8 last year.

Aniude lamented what he described as the endless clampdown on traders dealing in donkey business, saying that the business was providing daily bread to more than three million Nigerian households.

He recalled that the traders had similarly, lost goods valued at more than ₦200 million last year when their meat cargo was impounded by the same Kebbi State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service.

“More cows are slaughtered in Nigeria daily, compared to the number of donkeys being slaughtered from day-to-day in our country.

“Seizing goods belonging to donkey dealers by the Kebbi State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service is the height of man’s inhumanity to man at a time like now in Nigeria.

“The operatives of the command failed to realise that our business has been giving daily bread to a cross-section of Nigerians north and south for more than half a century.

“We plead with the Federal Government to please step in and end the unwarranted onslaught on donkey traders by the Kebbi State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service in particular,’’ Aniude said.

On July 25 last year, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, held a public hearing on the issue of people engaging in slaughtering of donkeys as a business, especially exporting the skin of the animal to China.

But some analysts have criticized what they described as the unwarranted clampdown, arguing that there was nothing wrong in people engaging in donkey trading to make their living.

A spokesman for the Donkey Dealers Association, Ifeanyi Dike, told the Senate hearing last July that regulating the slaughtering of donkeys or cows was not a solution to the “morbid fear of extinction of the animals as expressed by some people’’.

He argued that banning the business would affect millions of families across the country and also give rise to smuggling syndicates that would engage in activities that would undermine Nigeria’s economy.

“More cows are slaughtered nationwide from day to day yet, cows have not gone into extinction over the years.

“So how can donkeys with the same gestation period as cows go into extinction in our country?

“We donkey dealers have invested heavily in the business over the years and we are encouraging ranching for the breeding and production of up to 10 million donkeys within the next 10 years,’’ Dike stated.

He noted that people doing the business should be supported by government to engage in scientific ways of ensuring the breeding of more donkeys in Nigeria, rather than for overzealous security operatives to be clamping down on people trying to find their daily bread.

There are about 1.5 million donkeys and about 20.7 million herds of cows in Nigeria at present, according to unofficial records.

Donkey meat has served as an affordable delicacy in most homes over the years, especially in Eastern, South South and South Western Nigeria, where the dry meat is used to make soups and other meals.

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