Abubakar Ya’u digs sand from vast, sweeping dunes and loads heavy hessian sacks of the fine, golden bounty onto the backs of donkeys which carry it to market.
Rampant demand for the beasts of burden in China, where their skins are believed to have medicinal properties, has caused prices to soar — creating a dilemma for Ya’u and his fellow excavators in Kano, northern Nigeria.
“Two years ago we were buying donkeys strong enough for our trade for between 15,000 and 18,000 naira (between $42 and $50) — but now to get a good donkey you will require 70,000 to 75,000,” he said, wearing dusty sandals, jeans and a T-shirt.
“The reason for this is the huge purchase of donkeys which are transported to the south where their meat is consumed and their skin exported,” he explained.
“To us, it is a calamity because as a sand digger if you lose your donkey, you can hardly raise the money to replace it.”
Fellow sand digger Abdurrahman Garba, who has been in the business for 30 years, added that export bans by some of Nigeria’s neighbours had made the situation worse.
– ‘Alarming rate’ –
“Now that Niger has banned donkey exports to save its stock, the Chinese have turned to our stock — depleting them at an alarming rate,” said Garba, 40.
Botswana, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Gambia all impose restrictions on the trade, while Zimbabwean authorities blocked a private donkey slaughterhouse under construction and Ethiopia closed its only functioning abattoir.
Garba admitted that the temptation to sell the animals for short-term gain could be overwhelming.
“I was offered 95,000 naira for my biggest donkey but I fought hard to resist the temptation to sell it because I knew I will not be able to replace it,” he said. “We blame the Chinese for this disturbing situation.”
The animals are increasingly being transported, sometimes covertly, from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria to the southeast where they are then typically slaughtered.
Donkeys are relatively cheaper in the Muslim-majority north as they are typically not slaughtered for their meat, tempering demand.
But the north-south trade route for donkeys was already well established as consumption has traditionally been relatively high in the south where some communities have long eaten the animals.
At a market in Ughelli, Delta State — the centre of the Nigerian donkey trade — hundreds of donkeys are crammed into pens under the burning sun as they await their fate. Some are skeletally thin, all are quiet.
New animal pens are being made every month as the demand for donkey hides and meat is met with an steadily growing supply from the north.
From Delta state on Nigeria’s southern coast, hides are shipped to China where they are stewed to render the coveted gelatin known as “Ejiao” in Chinese.
The buyers, who believe that soluble Ejiao gum is an effective remedy for troubles ranging from colds to aging, comprise a market thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
“The medicine is popularly referred to as a blood tonic and helps to fortify the body, particularly in conditions like anaemia,” said Oliver Emekpor, a butcher handling donkey meat at the Ughelli market.
“It comes in blocks of dried pieces which are melted down into a brew of herbal mixture to drink and sells for up to $390 (330 euros) per kilo.”
Nothing is wasted. To maximise profits, donkey dealers often sell the remaining meat to unwary consumers as beef, a practice described by a local trade association as “criminal”.
Hooves are used to make shoes and donkey bones are used to manufacture plates.
– ‘Scarcity of donkeys’ –
Simon Pope, a campaigner at the Donkey Sanctuary, a British animal welfare charity, said that the scale of the donkey trade is almost impossible to estimate.
“Each donkey hide produces one kilogram of Ejiao and there is a huge uncertainty about how many hides are being used annually,” he said.
Yemi Adebayo, an official at Nigeria’s trade ministry, acknowledged that donkey hide sales to China are booming, but refused to confirm if any deal had been struck to facilitate shipments.
“Different countries either support or oppose the trade in different ways,” he said, but the status of the activity in Nigeria remained unclear.
Dong-E E-Jiao is China’s market leader for the manufacture and sale of Ejiao, controlling 70 percent of the market. The firm posted pre-tax profits of $295 million (250 million euros) in 2016 and handled roughly 700,000 donkey hides in 2014 alone.
Donkey numbers in China have nearly halved from 11 million in the 1990s to six million in 2013, according to official statistics.
China produces 5,000 tons of Ejiao each year, requiring some four million hides, according to the China Daily.
“The strong players will get stronger amid the scarcity of donkeys and decreasing supply of donkey hide,” wrote BOCOM International financial services in a research note for investors.
The Donkey Sanctuary’s investigation into the trade, “Under the Skin,” revealed that the explosion in demand had led to a surge in donkey thefts in Africa, Asia and South America.
“Donkeys may soon go extinct if they continue to be killed,” said Garba, the veteran sand digger. “Once they are finished, our trade will suffer.”
BREAKING: Scores feared dead, many injured as PDP, APC supporters clash in Bayelsa
A staff of the Bayelsa State-owned radio broadcasting corporation, Radio Bayelsa and driver of the outside broadcasting van identified as Simon Onu was hit by flying bullet and died on the spot while trying to maneuver his vehicle from the troubled spot.
Five others identified as supporters of the PDP mobilised from Yenagoa, the capital city were reported killed in the bloody shooting. A policeman was reportedly shot in the leg, while another mobile police was also shot in the stomach.
The governorship campaign rally of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was slated to hold in the area was disrupted and party faithfuls chased out of the area.
DAILY POST Bayelsa State’¢ correspondent with other journalists who attended the event were held hostage in the Nembe forest for several hours until the military came to their rescue.
Governor Seriake Dickson, who was billed to attend the rally in company of the candidate of the party, Senator Douye Diri, however, condemned the bloody attack.
DAILY POST learnt that trouble started when some supporters of one of the political parties started defacing posters and flags of the rival political party at the King Koko Square venue of the rally.
Serious shooting by armed men reportedly rocked the King Koko Square venue of the campaign as party supporters waiting for the dignitaries to arrive took to their heels.
The attackers, it was also learned opened fire on the protocol bus of the Bayelsa State Government House along the junction between Bassambiri and Ogbolomabiri communities.
Some journalists, including James Akam of the DAILY POST and Mike Taiyese of the Daily Asset Newspapers, covering the rally were also caught in the cross fire as many others sustained different degree of injuries.
Confirming the shootings, the incident, spokesperson of the Nembe Chiefs Council, Chief Nengi James, said there was a clash between rival supporters of the PDP and APC in Nembe resulting in injuries.
He said: “I can confirm that supporters of the PDP and APC clashed in Nembe with some persons sustaining various degree of injuries, but however, no death has been recorded.”
Also, a prominent indigene of the area and former senator representing Bayelsa East senatorial district, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amangi, has condemned in its entirety the act of provocation and violence released on the community by supporters of the People Democratic Party (PDP).
In his statement Chief Senator Nimi Barigha-Amangi noted that the approved venue for the PDP rally was King Koko Square and instead of going about their normal business of the day, went about chanting war songs around the community terrorising and molesting passers by.
Chief Barigha-Amange said that this was uncalled for, because other patties did use the same venue for their rallies which was very peaceful and rancour free.
He, however, warned that no individual should hide under any political platform to breach the already existing peace and harmonious relationship amongst the people in Nembe.
He called on the various security agencies in the area to redouble their efforts in stopping troublemakers from further terrorising the peace-loving people of Nembe in name of politics as no group would be allowed to over run the Nembe community.
The Police Public Relations officer, Asinim Bustwart, was yet to respond as at press time.
Nigeria vs Benin Republic: Super Eagles begin 2021 AFCON qualifier with win
The Super Eagles had to fight from a goal down, as the Squirrels opened scoring at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
Stephane Sessegnon latched on a defensive error to make it 1-0.
Victor Osimhen made it 1-1 from the penalty spot, shortly before half time.
Samuel Kalu grabbed the winner, with a fine solo goal.
Nigeria will now take on Lesotho on Sunday in their next Sunday.
Nyako vs EFCC: What happened in court on Wednesday
Maikyau made the oral application, on Wednesday, before Justice Okon Abang.
Nyako is the 1st defendant, his son, Sen. Abdulaziz Nyako, is the 2nd defendant while Zulkifik Abba is the 3rd defendant in the case.
The EFCC had charged the former governor, along with others, with N40 billion fraud.
They were arraigned on a 37-count charge bordering on money laundering allegedly perpetrated while Nyako was Adamawa governor.
Also arraigned along with them was Abubakar Aliyu and firms allegedly used to perpetrate the fraud which were joined as the 5th to the 9th defendants were Blue Opal Ltd, Pagoda Fortunes Ltd, Tower Assets Management Ltd and Crust Energy Ltd.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had indicated his interest to close his case, having taken the evidence of Kobis Arithimni, who was Secretary to Adamawa State Government during Nyako’s administration, via video link in the last sitting.
DAILY POST reports that Justice Abang had, on Oct. 30, granted EFCC’s prayer to take Arithimni via video link.
Arithimni, who presently resides in the United Kingdom (UK), gave his testimony on Nov. 5.
However, Maikyau, who opposed to the closure of the case, on Wednesday, told the court that since the prosecution was unable to call all its witnesses on its list, the prosecution is under obligation, upon request by the defendant, to present such witnesses for purpose of cross examination by the defence.
“I stand to make the application on behalf of the 3rd defendant that the prosecution be directed by this honourable court to make available witnesses number 12, 26 and 27,” NAN quoted him as saying.
The lawyer, who noted that these witnesses were yet to be called by the EFCC, said the call became necessary in the spirit of fair hearing.
He acknowledged that though the prosecution is not bound to call all the witnesses listed by it, Maikyau said the 3rd defendant wanted to take advantage of the principle of law that has been made available to the defence which is only consistent to the principle of fair hearing.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Jacobs, who opposed the oral application, sought for more time to respond to the prayer and the earlier request by the 2nd defendant, Abdulaziz Nyako, to travel abroad.
Justice Abang adjourned until Nov. 19 to hear the prosecution’s reply.
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