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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 11:35 GMT
Dogs' dinners prove popular in Nigeria
By Senan Murray
BBC News website, Abuja

Man eating dog meat
Dogs are scarce in Abuja because many now eat dog meat openly
The famous reverse news headline "Man bites dog!" is old news to some restaurants in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

"Welcome to animal kingdom where man pikin dey show dog pepper," says Chibuzo Eze in Pidgin English, meaning: Welcome to place where the son of man is giving dogs a hard time.

Mr Eze then hungrily gets back to tugging his chunk of dog meat.

He is standing under a mango tree in "South Africa", the name of an open-air restaurant hidden behind the living quarters of a Western construction firm in Abuja.

"It is called South Africa because behind those high walls you'll find rich Europeans and outside here is Soweto, where we, ordinary masses, struggle with dog meat," Mr Eze explains with a smile playing on his face.

'Improves your sex life'

Mr Eze says he eats dog meat because "e dey protect person from all those nyama-nyama disease them" - it gives you immunity from different diseases.

DOG MEAT TERMINOLOGY
Dog meat served on a plate
404: A dog is also called 404 after the French-built Peugeot pick-up van, a tribute to a dog's ability to run fast
Headlights: A dish with the eyes of a dog as the most prominent component
Gear Box: Dog's liver, heart and kidneys (usually more expensive than ordinary meat)
Tyre: A dog's legs. Mr Umoh claims that eating a 'tyre' makes you a fast runner
Telephone: A dog's tail
Sentencing: The act of clubbing a dog to death rather than slaughtering it

A few yards away Bassey Umoh, South Africa's owner and chief chef, pokes at larger chunks of sizzling meat barbecuing on wire gauze over an open fire.

Mr Umoh, or Oga Bassey (oga is Pidgin English for boss) - as the "South Africans" fondly call him, says he has been selling dog meat since he completed a two-year apprenticeship in the business some 30 years ago.

He also eats the meat he sells.

"Eating dog meat gives you a special protection against the most potent juju (charm)," he claims, reeling off the benefits of dog meat.

"Dog meat also improves your sex life. And if you eat dog meat, you cannot be poisoned."

But not everyone is convinced by Oga Bassey's arguments.

"The very idea of eating dog meat is absolutely disgusting," says Mary Iroanya, an office worker in the capital.

"The talk about dog meat curing diseases and giving protection against charms and the rest is mere superstition.

"People who eat dog meat only use those excuses to convince themselves that what they are doing is okay."

Her colleague Adeola Osinuga is also less than convinced by such claims. "Besides, I cannot eat dog meat because dogs are like pets," she says.

Easy target

Oga Bassey, however, says his cuisine is in high demand although his business is not doing so well because dogs are becoming scarce now in Abuja.

"Everybody is eating dog meat openly now, that is why dogs are scarce," he says.

Many Abuja dog owners complain that their dogs have gone missing, probably ending up in the likes of Oga Bassey's big dog pepper soup pot.

Man pokes at sizzling barbeque on wire gauze over an open fire
Eaters of dog meat claim there are many benefits

Most Nigerians keep dogs not as pets, but as guard dogs.

And instead of keeping them in kennels, the dogs are usually left to wander about freely, making them an easy target for people to kidnap and sell to restaurant owners like Mr Umoh.

But Mr Umoh says he does not buy stolen dogs. He, however, admits that it is often difficult to tell whether some of the dogs sold to him have been stolen.

"We have heard of people stealing dogs to sell. Our policy here in 'South Africa' is that we do not deal in stolen merchandise. So, we normally quiz our customers to be sure they are selling their own dogs," he explains.

"Moreover, 'South Africa' is not the only dog-meat joint in Abuja," Mr Umoh adds.

Indeed, there are three popular dog meat joints in this district on the western edge of Abuja alone.

Also as a rule, there is always a dog-meat pepper soup joint in every army or police barracks in Abuja.

Dog meat is not any different from any other meat. The claim that it cures malaria is definitely not true
Dr Yakubu Nyandaiti
Nigeria's riot police seem to have a thing for dog meat too as a popular dog-meat joint called Obalende sits in the middle of their barracks in Nyanya, another Abuja suburb.

Another popular dog-meat spot is "Zimbabwe", an open-air joint next to a small river on the outskirts of Abuja.

Unlike "South Africa", "Zimbabwe" is, however, notorious for its gamblers, pick-pockets, prostitutes and bootlegged spirits.

Culture

Another dog-meat eater, Beke Nnkwo says he was introduced to the cuisine as a cure for malaria.

Oh la la! You don't know what you are missing
Beke Nnkwo
Dog-meat lover

"People who eat dog meat have no business with malaria," Mr Nnkwo says. "So, I was introduced to the meat as a cure for malaria and I can testify that it works."

Medical opinion, however, seems to differ.

"Dog meat, to the best of my knowledge, is not any different from any other meat. The claim that it cures malaria is definitely not true," says Dr Yakubu Nyandaiti a consultant at Nigeria's University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

"It cannot be true either that it boosts human immunity," he says.

For Mr Nnkwo, however, an Igbo from south-eastern Nigeria, eating dog meat is a question of culture.

"I hear they eat frogs in certain parts of the world. But I tell you, no matter how you cook or dress a frog, I can never eat it.

"But dog is different. So, eating dog meat is a question of culture for me."

Dog meat is also eaten in Plateau and Gombe states in the north and it is becoming quite popular in other parts of the country including Kaduna and Adamawa with Abuja as the newest entrant.

Asked how tasty the meat is, Mr Nnkwo beams and says: "Oh la la! You don't know what you are missing."






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