Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Badagry Market Where Snake Meat Is ‘Hot’ Delicacy

Badagry market where snake meat is ‘hot’ delicacy
A first-time visitor to the nondescript market in Badagry would assume that mostly on sale, are mounds of smoked fish, a popular Nigerian delicacy. However, ‘Snake Market’ is as its name implies, where many throngs to buy smoked snakes. The number of bags containing this most unusual commodity is large, too. 

The market, located within Badagry’s main market, hosts the snake wing, which is only open to both traders and customers on Wednesday. Daily Trust found out that most of the sellers come all the way from Port Novo, in the neighbouring Republic of Benin. Also, the market is only open to buyers between 5:00am and 10:00am on Wednesdays. 

A major merchant, who simply identified himself as Sunday, explained that the sellers arrive the market as early as 2:00am, but wait till 5:00am when the snake section of the market is open to buyers. When Daily Trust visited, there were heaps of bags containing smoked snakes. Enquiring as a customer, this reporter requested to know how much a bag is sold. The seller said it all depended on the quantity to be bought. 

“Do you want to buy retail or wholesale?” asked the seller. “If you want retail, a full snake costs from N200, depending on the size. Half a snake is sold from N50 and above, as this also depends on the size,” she said. Some can go for as high as N800, it was learnt.
Sunday explained that the snakes are reared just like fish in many villages in Benin Republic. “The ones reared are not as harmful as the wild ones. Those who rear them are experts, and they remove the venom before smoking them,” he said. 

It was gathered that snakes were much cheaper at the market in the past. The seller, who also gave her name as Abike, said prices rocketed in recent times as the economy worsened. She said: “To feed snakes now costs more money because we rear them the same way we do fish. Not many people venture into snake-selling because it is not easy to rear the reptiles. They do not give birth the way other animals or fishes do. Fishes lay eggs in millions, while snakes lay a few. Sometimes the owner may not be lucky with the eggs laid by his snakes.”

Abike said that while snakes do not die easily - the way chicken or fish do - feeding them is more expensive. “You have to go all out looking for food such as grasshoppers, ants, cockroaches, and frogs,” she said. 
Who are her clientele, and why do they buy her unusual wares? Abike answered: “People buys snakes for different reasons. Naturally, some people, especially of Yoruba origin, like snake meat. They cook soups or make it into a spicy, peppery delicacy to accompany alcohol drinks. Many people in the business are successful and even use proceeds from it to send their children abroad.”
Other popular ways of consuming snake meat include as pepper soup. 

Abike says snake meat tastes delicious. “Some taste like chicken, while some taste like fish,” she smiled, adding that many eateries in Badagry, Ikotun and other places all have snake meat on their menu. “Those who use [snake meat] for pepper soup, request for fresh ones, provided on special request, and more expensive than the smoked or dried variety.”
A customer who gave his name as Perry Hutoun, claimed to have come all the way from the Republic of Benin, said the meat is in high demand. He said: “My customers specially request for the meat. Many people like it, especially because of the way it is dried. There is no fat. I have those I supply to, many of the rich and powerful people.”

We also gathered that customers - mostly women who own restaurants - all rush to buy bags of smoked snakes. 
“They bring the snakes from the Republic of Benin,” says Bati, who has been selling at the Badagry market. She revealed that most of their customers often come from states across South-West part of the country. “People really love snake meat. They come from far and wide to eat!” she added.

A buyer who requested for anonymity disclosed that she is from Ebonyi State. She said: “In my village, we worship snakes, and during our yearly festival, snakes in their hundreds come out from our village shrine to dance. But as a Christian and a strong believer, I no longer participate in those traditions, so I now eat snake to show them that what I eat can never be my god.” She added that she no longer visits the village during the festival.

Chinyere, another buyer, buys to cook her favourite dish, egusi, and vegetable soup. She explained to Daily Trust that while the snakes are reared and slaughtered to be cooked, most times those who seek charms from native doctors utilise other inedible parts. “The head of a snake, according to one of the sellers, is even costlier than the entire body due to its popularity with native doctor charms and amulets,” she said, adding: “The head is especially potent for any charm, according to them.” 
Abike Adegun, however, exclusively sells to native doctors and herbalists who use it to prepare one medicine or the other. She said: “I sell at big markets like Mushin, Agege, Jankara and Obalende areas of Lagos. I even customers who travel to Italy with the meat. But I don’t know what they do with it there. A particular ethnic group in Nigeria do that more than anyone else.”

The sellers tend to gather expertise on-the-job, as Abike said they can tell different varieties of the snakes apart with ease. She added that it is because those who use it for medicine or charms always request for a particular type. “I learned the trade from my late mother over 20 years ago, so I have good knowledge of all the types of snakes in Nigeria now. Some are used by those seeking to bear children, while some use it to do charms for employment, and others use it for dangerous drugs,” she said. 
Abike, smiling, disclosed that at times some patrons mistake snakes for fish, especially when the head is severed, “But we take time to explain to them.”

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