Butchers stage 2-day warning strike
On November 3, 2021, history was made in Kwara State, but for the wrong reasons.
The state branch of the Nigeria Butchers Association threw the state into confusion as its members commenced a two-day warning strike over the escalating cost of cattle in the state.
The action affected over 10,000 direct and indirect members of the association and grounded many businesses in the state that relied on beef to function.
Aside the recent EndSARS riot which forced stoppage of slaughtering of cattle at most of the abattoirs, butchers in the state have never had course to stop work since they began operation many decades ago.
Although the association had struggled with issues of hygiene and contaminated meat in the past, none of those squabbles with the authorities resulted to strike.
The latest development shocked many residents and food sellers who operate restaurants as they lamented the negative effects it had on their businesses.
The development, which came on the heels of a continuous increase and scarcity in the price beef, saw many households in the state move to other alternatives like ponmo and fish.
A resident, Mama Abdulbasit, who operates a food canteen around the Mandate Estate, told Daily Trust on Sunday that there was no prior notice of the action from the butchers.
She added that they had to go for fish as an alterative to be able to sell other foodstuffs.
A meat seller at Mandate Market, popularly known as Alfa, said they could not get meat to buy from all the abattoirs in Ilorin while the strike lasted.
He said, “During the period, there was no meat to sell because all the abattoirs we visited did not slaughter cow. Even the ones we bought were so expensive that it was even difficult to recover the cost price. So what is the essence of selling?
Another seller, Abdulhakeem Idris, who operates a meat shop at Irewolede said, “The meat is too expensive. We are selling N2,500 per kilo, from N1,500. I am just praying to realise the cost price from the one we are selling now. People are seriously complaining; and we are just making efforts without profit.
“The bigger the cow, the greater the loss; and unlike us that sell in kilos, the situation is worse with those at the market,” he noted.
Speaking on the strike action, the chairman of the Kwara Butchers Association, Alhaji Sani Saliu, attributed the situation to the insecurity in the country and exorbitant prices of cattle, saying it has negatively impacted on meat business in the state.
He said the warning strike was to drive home a point that the butchers were also victims of the situation.
“When we tell people that we are increasingly facing a challenge in sourcing for cattle, they think we are just playing to the gallery, or the situation was not as we described. But it is worse than that. Many of our members have been forced out of business because of the situation.
“Getting back the money invested now is difficult, not to talk of making profits from cow business. It is becoming unbearable for us,” he added.
The general secretary of the association, Alhaji Oba Elegede, said the matter was multiple.
“The two-day warning strike was because we were incurring huge losses every day as a result of the skyrocketing prices of cattle. The market is not even there again because of the situation. How do you explain a situation where a cow of N100,000 is now N250,000?
“Because of insecurity, we cannot patronise markets in the far North, like Yobe and Maiduguri, where we used to get cheap cows. We only go to nearby cow markets in Kwara, Ilesha Baruba, Kaiama, Ajase, Share, Bode Saadu, Jebba and Igbeti.
“The last time some of our boys travelled to Niger State, two of them were kidnapped and we had to pay ransom to secure their lives,” he said.
He said the latest action was due to the hue and cry from “members that things are very expensive and there is the need for a reappraisal of our operations to arrive at a solution on how to survive, going forward.”
It was, however, learnt that the “appraisal meeting,” which was held recently, ended in a deadlock as members failed to reach a consensus.
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, Alhaji Elegede said, “Yes, we didn’t reach a conclusion or consensus on whether to carry out another two-day warning strike after that historic one.
“We discovered that there was foul play during the strike, and members complained that they were not carried along.
“But if any strike is going to take place now, it will be in the coming weeks. The main issue we want the government to address is insecurity. We also have family members and relatives who engage in the business, so, it is not that we just love to cause hardship despite the economic situation in the country. We want people to adapt to the present situation.
He attributed the recent border closure, as well as cow theft as part of the reasons for the situation.
On his part, a member of the management committee of the Saraki Abattoir, Akerebiata, Alhaji Isa Abubakar, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the rate of increase in cow meat is unbearable and had eaten deep into their capital.
He called on the government to come to their aide, adding, “Over 10,000 people are directly or indirectly involved in the business and value chain every day at the abattoirs. So our strike action for a month will impact negatively and compound the security situation on ground in the state because we can’t guarantee what they will be doing.”
A meat seller at the abattoir, Mrs Abdullateef Fatimah, said things might get worse going forward unless the government took drastic and proactive steps to resolve the meat crisis in the state and the country in general.
“We are told that a cow might cost as much as N1 million if nothing is done,” she said.
Proffering a solution to the issue, Elegede called on the state government to centralise abattoirs, if not at the state level, the local government areas.
“This will not only solve some of the problems, it will also make more money available to the state government. For instance, for every cow slaughtered at the abattoir, N500 is paid to the government. Also, they can, through this, carry out proper monitoring of the business to curb the sale of contaminated meat, which has been the major cause of food poisoning and deaths in our community,” he said.
He lamented that despite all their efforts and several letters to the government on this regard, nothing has been done.
The technical assistant on agriculture to the governor, AbdulQawiy Olododo, was yet to respond to a text message sent to him for comments up till the time of filling this report.
Also, several calls to the state director of veterinary, Dr Abdullateef Olugbon, were not answered.