“This is the largest chicken market in Kaduna,” says Alhaji Bala Namaoni, the chairman of the Chicken Sellers Association of Kaduna State. “Our own chickens are different from those of other places in the state because we offer better chickens,” he said.
The market is an open place located under a tree not far from the road off Waff Road. Wooden boxes containing chickens are arranged at the entry point, with small parts created at the centre to enable customers gain entrance to where the chickens are slaughtered and prepared.
Inside the market on the left hand side is a black drum placed on fire. The drum is placed on three blocks which serve as its support and it contains hot water where slaughtered chickens are thrown into and the feathers are softened for easy removal. Beside the drum are heaps of feathers that have been removed from slaughtered chickens.
“This place looks more hygienic than other similar areas in the town,” says Mrs Chioma Ejiofor, a customer. “I come here every Sunday to get my chicken and I have found the place to be better than other places where they sell chickens in town,” she said.
Weekly Trust noticed that there is division of labour in the chicken market. Different works are handled by different people. The chicken sellers hand over the chickens to the people who slaughter and prepare the birds after first ensuring that the customer is satisfied. The cleaning is done mainly by small boys aged between 13 and 18 years. They are dressed in “T”-shirts stained with dirt caused by hours of getting the chickens cleaned.
“To remove the feathers, we charge N50 on each chicken,” says Mohammed Awwal, one of the butchers. “Some customers think the charge is too much, but part of the money we get goes to the association as our membership dues. We also share the money with the boys who remove the feathers. So, what finally comes to me on each chicken is not more than N20,” he said.
But while the service of chicken preparation is done in almost every other market where chickens are sold in Kaduna, what makes this place different? Mrs Chioma Ejiofor says she prefers the Waff road market because, apart from it being close to her house, it offers cheaper chickens.
“You can get a chicken for less than N1,000 here. If you buy a chicken worth N1,000 here and you compare it with another sold at that amount elsewhere, it may not look as big as the one bought from this place,” she said.
She also claimed that the market is not without the usual characteristics that obtains in other chicken market — dirty surroundings. The sight of blood and feathers on the floor between the point of removing the feathers and the butchers’ area is an eyesore.
“We make sure we remove the heaps of feathers every day before we close from work,” says Alhaji Bala. “We also wash the place and fumigate it to prevent the spread of diseases. It is also one of our policies that everybody who handles chicken here should wash his hands before and after cutting the chicken. This is a kind of preventive measure to ensure proper hygiene.”
Despite customers’ preference for this place, their major accusation is that the boys are fond of mixing up chickens, thereby giving the chicken that belongs to one person to another.
“There was a time I bought 10 big chickens, but when I got home, I realised that some of the chicken parts were small,” says Funmi Martin, another customer. “So, I began to suspect that there was a mix-up somewhere. The boys need to concentrate on what they are doing to avoid that kind of mix-up, but they are always in a hurry to get more chickens to prepare for cutting. I think that is where the problem comes from,” she said.
However, Alhaji Bala said there is no way his boys could mistakenly give one person’s chicken to another. “I have never had the experience since I started this job about 35 years ago. We are experienced people and this has made us to recognise chickens that are handed over to any customer other than the real owner even after the feathers are removed.
“And if anybody thinks that it is not the chicken he bought that has been handed to him after it is cut, the person he bought it from could go and look at it and confirm whether the allegation is true,” he said.
The chicken market was originally located in Kaduna Central market and was later relocated beside the Kaduna State Sports Council. In 1997, it was again relocated to its present place. It was also learnt that though the relocations sometimes destabilise their business, they also bring some good things to them.
“With the assistance of the state government and the World Bank,” says Alhaji Bala, “a building has been built for us where we can keep our birds, and once the place is launched, we are going to discard the wooden boxes and pack our chickens inside. Everything from then on will be done indoors,” he said.
The building is made up of two sections: poultry and slaughtering sections. At the poultry section, cages are arranged with the mobile phone numbers of each chicken seller. As for the slaughtering section, it has slabs built in a semi-circle with a washing basin at the edge. A window links the section to the poultry section, where birds will be given for preparation.
“When we start using this place, we will make sure that every customer enters through one point. At the doorstep, there will be a fumigated foot mat which everybody will step on before entering. After finishing, the customer will pass the chicken through the window, and when he finishes, he will go out through the exit. This will prevent the spread of diseases,” said Alhaji Bala.