By Chris Anucha
Threaten suit against govt, doctors
Omagwa Bush Meat Centre, Omagwa, is a very popular market in Rivers State and beyond. It is a classless market where the high and low, poor, rich, educated, uneducated, doctors, engineers, lawyers, oil company workers, bankers, civil servants, people who drive exotic cars, and those who also drive rickety ones, are united by bush meat.
The rich ones among them sometimes buy the complete game, take same home for preparation and consumption, while those who can’t afford it, settle for roasted or cooked ones (barbecue), prepared either, by retailers who sell at the market or nearby restaurants/bars.
Bush meat business is a thriving one in the state as it is the mainstay of the dealers.
Investigations revealed that Omagwa Bush market, which has existed for many years, serves as a depot for hunters from neighbouring towns like Elele, Ubima, Etche, Awara, even Umuagwo and Egbema in Imo State.
But suddenly, an American-Liberian, Sawyer Patrick, flew into the country and brought along with him a deadly virus called Ebola, which has killed some Nigerians, including the senior female consultant physician, who treated him.
Unfortunately, among the prescribed preventive measures by doctors is abstinence from the consumption and contact with animals like monkeys, bats and other bush animals. The reason, according to them, is the likelihood of contracting the deadly virus through consumption or contact with them.
As wise and important as the medical advice seemed, there are some groups of persons who are aggrieved over the preventive measure. They are the hunters and bush meat sellers at Omagwa. According to them, the age-long business has crashed as result of the medical advice.
Indeed, they are said to be warming up to sue the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Federal Government over what they regarded as, ‘misinformation about Ebola virus’. This was confirmed to this reporter by the chairman of the association and others.
As far as the hunters and bush meat sellers are concerned, there is nothing like Ebola virus in Nigeria. And they told the reporter that if it exists, eating or touching bush meat, which they have enjoyed over the years, without problems, should not be held responsible. Rather, they advised the doctors and the Federal Government to look elsewhere, perhaps, the white man they accused of having intimate relationship with animals, including having sexual intercourse with some of them like dogs, horses, chimpanzees.
Some of them, who spoke to Saturday Sun, disclosed that since the death of Patrick Sawyer in Lagos, coupled with the medical advice, customers have started shunning the Omagwa Bush Meat Centre. This reporter was told how some of them looked the other way, and increased their speed each time they were passing there as if mere looking in the direction of the market would make them to contract the virus. The implication, however, is that both the hunters and their primary buyers are recording little or no sale. Also, those who prepared bush meat in their bars/restaurants that week operated at a loss, as they and their family members ended up eating the meat.
When Saturday Sun visited the market recently, it was discovered that people have started patronizing them once again, but not as much as they did, before the outbreak of the virus.
Elder Crowder Wali is the Chairman, Omagwa Bush Meat Sellers Association. According to him, he inherited the business from his father, who ventured into it before the Nigerian civil war and died some years ago. Wali assured that bush meat was safe for consumption, adding that since they have been consuming it, no case of sickness or death has been recorded. Wali claimed that he had never tasted beef or any other meat since he was born. He said his favourite had been bush meat. The chairman, who is also the Managing Director of Rollers Restaurant, where bush meat is prepared in commercial quantity, said he was hearing of Ebola fever for the first time. He insisted that his customers had been coming to the market to buy bush meat, adding that nobody had died after eating it.
“I’m surprised to hear that bush meat causes Ebola fever, we have been eating it. They should stop misinforming the people, we are really angry, they are destroying our business. If they don’t desist from this, we are going to sue the Nigerian Medical Association and the government,” he said.
He narrated how the medical advice has affected their business adversely, but added that some people who could not do without it, have started coming to the market to buy, after a prolonged recess.
“Government should warn those, who have been spreading the information that Ebola virus could be contracted through bush meat to desist from it in the interest of the survival of our business,” Wali said.