The Platform

Baba Mai Tio’s meat stand.

In Vwang, a rural village in central Nigeria, the community has struggled to have a new slaughterhouse built.

VWANG, Nigeria – From a distance, the Vwang village slaughterhouse in Plateau State, central Nigeria, might seem ordinary. Yet, a more discerning eye unveils its troubling reality: an epicenter for potential disease outbreaks amid inadequate facilities and oversight.

For years, despite the inherent health threats, Vwang residents have depended on this abattoir for their daily meat consumption. The promise of a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse in 2020 remains unfulfilled, a stark reminder of official negligence, which is a common theme throughout Nigeria.

To the frequent visitor or passerby, the rising column of thick smoke paired with the sharp smell of singed animal hide unmistakably signals the abattoir’s presence. It’s a bustling hub, even with its deteriorating infrastructure.

Every dawn, livestock, whether cows or goats meet their end on the slaughter slab. Their processing sidesteps essential hygienic protocols. Far from the modern standards expected of such facilities, the Vwang abattoir barely meets the basic requirements.

Nigerian butchers
Butchers at work.

Throughout the week, elder butcher Baba Mai Tio and his colleagues find themselves engrossed in processing animals amidst the squalor. The absence of a veterinary expert on-site to gauge the livestock’s health before slaughter is a grave concern.

Lamenting the status quo, Baba Mai Tio, with hands stained from his work, remarks, “Without the requisite facilities or equipment, we’re left with no choice but to process livestock as they arrive.” He acknowledges the dangers posed by the lack of standardized practices, expressing hope for the abattoir’s completion and a subsequent educational outreach. Yet, this hope dims with each passing year, as there’s been no progress on the project since 2021.

“We are aware that due to lack of standard facilities and equipment what we do is sometimes dangerous, but we have to do what we can do,” he adds. “[Once] the abattoir is completed, I am sure that several butchers will utilize the facility.”

An expert from the National Veterinary Research Institute in Vom underscores the significance of pre-slaughter care, which can span six to 12 hours, to ascertain meat quality.

However, in Vwang, this standard is glaringly absent. Post-slaughter, the meat is washed in a nearby stream, opening the door for potential contamination. The unchecked disposal of animal waste into this water exacerbates the pollution.

On occasion, locals reclaim this waste for agricultural purposes. “During festive periods like Christmas, we have a higher number of animals to slaughter, but on regular days like today, the number is lower,” shares Sunday Dung, another butcher, as he discards animal remnants into the adjacent foliage.

The guidelines on slaughtering small ruminants in developing countries explicitly advise against situating these establishments near marshy terrains due to the resultant sanitation challenges, including mosquito proliferation and waste stagnation. Moreover, proximity to water bodies, like rivers and lakes, is strongly discouraged, emphasizing the gravity of the situation in Vwang.


Though conspicuously falling short of prescribed standards, meat from unsanitary abattoirs is routinely served at local eateries.

Pam Ruth, a restaurateur in the local market, secures her meat supplies from these questionable sources. Each day, her establishment welcomes around 30 patrons.

“I typically wake up early to meet with the butchers right after they’ve returned from slaughtering, to obtain the best cuts,” she remarks, handing a plate adorned with beef to a customer. “For me, I just buy meat and cook and serve my customers,” she states, an air of nonchalance evident.

Dr. Habiba Momoh, presiding over the animal health department at the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology in Vom (FCAHPT), cautions that such unregulated practices spell health hazards for both consumers and butchers. Without oversight, meat from diseased, deceased, or even pregnant animals might find its way to the market.

Health advisories warn against slaughtering ailing animals, a potential source of inhaled anthrax spores in humans. In July, the state government identified two communities struck by potential anthrax outbreaks. Although specifics remain undisclosed, Gyang Bere, in charge of state press affairs, confirmed samples were dispatched for scrutiny. However, official results remain under wraps.

Abandoned Nigerian slaughterhouse
The abandoned slaughterhouse at Vwang.

In 2020, a sizable investment was set aside for a modern slaughterhouse to be monitored by designated officials.

Per GovSpend, a platform monitoring Nigerian federal expenditures, an initial sum was disbursed to Alushi Integrated Business Limited soon after the slaughterhouse was announced. However, two years on, progress remains stagnant. On probing locals during a recent visit, ignorance seemed pervasive regarding the project.

Drawing closer to a structure hidden behind verdant overgrowth, optimism resurfaced amongst the investigative team. Here was the supposed abattoir, identified by a deteriorating signpost.

By January 2021, BudgIT Nigeria reported the building’s abandonment. Fast forward to today, its exterior paints a rosy picture, juxtaposed against a desolate interior.

“It was an exciting initiative when we learned about it. However, we have not been carried along with the project, so we do not know exactly what is going on,” says one butcher, who opted to remain anonymous. “When the contractor is done, I am sure he will hand it over to the college, and then to the community.”

Herd of cattle in Nigeria

Tucked away and hidden from view lies the forsaken abattoir, notably distant from the river’s edge yet nestled between a bustling bus park and a local market — a stark departure from globally recognized standards.

According to these guidelines, “Slaughterhouses are best sited on the outskirts of a town or village, at a distance from built-up areas. This is to prevent possible inconvenience to dwelling places either by way of pollution from slaughter wastes or by way of nuisance from noise, stench or the presence of scavenging animals such as vultures, stray dogs, etc.”

Yet, Philip Chung, a resident, defends the central location, asserting its logistical merits. “Since it is in the middle of the market, it’s easier to get the meat to the consumers. If it is located far from here, it will be difficult to distribute it,” he argues.

The Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, the oversight body for the project, remains tight-lipped about the project’s suspension. Dr. Momoh demurred when pressed for details, suggesting he was in the dark. Without the provost present, I can’t speak on the project, he remarked.

The security personnel at the desolate site, however, painted a concerning picture, noting contractors had retrieved leftover construction materials a few months after completing the facility’s exterior. “I don’t know exactly what the issue is. I’ve not been paid my salary for several months.”

Nathaniel Manga, director of Alushi Integrated Business Limited, initially proposed a meeting to discuss the project’s intricacies but subsequently evaded the commitment and all subsequent outreach attempts.

Local butcher, Baba Mai Tio, is optimistic about the project’s potential, believing a functional facility would elevate their profession and instill best practices. “We will be glad to leave the old and unbefitting slab that we have been using for years to the new one if it is completed,” he said. “We can be sure that our animals are prepared in a very clean and hygienic place.”

Sunday Dung envisions a renaissance in the butchery realm, contingent on the government’s financial intervention. “If this building is working, we would also be proud of the work that we do and can do things the right way,” he articulated.

Pam Ruth, the local restaurateur, echoing the sentiments of many, sees the facility as a safeguard for the community’s well-being. “Our health is important, but many times we take things for granted by not looking at where our animals are killed and how the meat is processed,” she said. “But if they have pity on us and finish this work, we will be happy that the health of our people is guaranteed.”

This story is published under the GovSpend Media Fellowship, supported by BudgIT, ICIR, and the MacArthur Foundation.

Johnstone Kpilaakaa is a Nigerian journalist covering tech and social responses. He is currently a GovSpend Media Fellow at BugdIT, a pan-African civic tech organization.