The Donkey Dealers Association of Nigeria is demanding one billion naira compensation from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) as the NCS hands over seized meat bags to the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS).
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the NAQS has since destroyed some 414 sacks of meat, valued at N200 million impounded by the Kebbi State Command of the NCS on May 19.
On June 14, the Comptroller of the NCS Command in Kebbi, Dr Ben Oramalugo, handed over the 414 dried meat sacks to the Kebbi State Command of the NAQS, raising fresh concerns on the objective of the NCS in its persistent seizures of dried donkey meat in Kebbi.
The command had on May 19, seized a truckload of dried meat being conveyed to Ochanja Market at Onitsha in Anambra, alleging that the meat was being shipped for export to China and other countries.
However, the seizures have sparked an uproar among hundreds of businessmen involved in the business, who question how dried meat cargo seized by customs operatives on the Koko-Zuru highway could be said to be heading overseas.
The traders had similarly, disclosed that their goods were confiscated because of their inability to raise about N1.5 million demanded by customs operatives on the highway, to allow the vehicle conveying the goods passage to Onitsha.
The National President of the Donkey Dealers Association, Mr Ikechukwu Aniude, who reacted to the latest development on the meat saga in a telephone interview with NAN in Abuja on Tuesday, described the meat seizures as unacceptable and blatant destruction of lives and livelihoods.
He said that turning over the dried meat sacks to the NAQS one month after the seizure had raised more questions on the activities and real intentions of the customs command in Kebbi in seizing donkey meat all the time.
According to him, the Kebbi NCS command should be compelled to make restitution and also be directed to desist forthwith from impounding truckloads of dried meat on highways in the country.
“We are demanding an immediate compensation of one billion naira to members of our association whose livelihoods have been ruined for engaging in donkey business to find their daily bread.
“We also demand a probe of the activities of the NCS Command in Kebbi State because this is the only state in Nigeria where donkey meat is being impounded on highways.
“The reasons being given by the comptroller of the customs command in Kebbi are not tenable because no law forbids eating of donkey meat or dealing in businesses in the donkey value-chain.
“Seizing our goods and destroying them on flimsy excuses that donkey meat is being exported to China and other countries is the height of man’s inhumanity to man.’’
Aniude pleaded with the Federal Government to discourage those he described as overzealous security operatives from destroying legitimate means of livelihoods of hard working Nigerian citizens.
The association president stated that members of the association had lost goods valued at about N400 million since March 8 last year, when the Kebbi Command of the NCS started its relentl
ess campaign of seizing truckloads of dried meat on highways in the state.
Aniude wondered why the Kebbi NCS command would descend so heavily on donkey dealers, in spite of ongoing efforts in the National Assembly to deliberate on the legality or otherwise of dealing in donkey business.
It will be recalled that Oramalugo after handing over the seized dried meat to the NAQS, defended the seizures, saying that handing over to the NAQS was in “the spirit of inter-agency cooperation.
“If you could recall, the process of seizures started from Maje border and ended in Kamba axis in May in the state,’’ customs chief stated, without explaining the possibility of exporting dried meat by the traders.
Findings, however, show that donkey business has been thriving in Nigeria for more than half a century with millions of homes, making their meals with donkey meat from day to day, due to its affordability.
The meat is consumed largely in Nigeria’s Southwest, Southeast, South-South and parts of Northern Nigeria, especially the Zuru areas of the Northwest and in many communities in North Central Nigeria.
Unofficial estimates put the number of donkeys in Nigeria at about 1.5 million at present, with the country also having about 20.7 million heads of cows nationwide.