Snake delicacies refresh our skin

The ancient city of Badagry is known for its tourist attraction and historic sites. The city has so many landmarks and so many cultural artifacts that people troop to the place at least to see the first storey building in Nigeria, missionary cemetery, relics of slave chains and the slave port.

But then again, some Nigerian ladies travel all the way to Badagry to make their hair. The popular ‘one million braids’ is one unique style that has drawn ladies from far and near to the city of Badagry.
However, Badagry is yet very popular for another trade… snakes! Yes, there is a market in the heart of the city that is meant for buying and selling of snakes.
Popularly known as Snake Market, and as incredible as it may sound to so many people, the market is busy, if not busier than every other market where normal everyday stuff is traded.
Perhaps because it operates every nine days, it could account for the reason the market is so busy as thousands of people from Nigeria and neighbouring countries come to trade in nothing else but snakes.
From Benin Republic with love
The snake sellers in particular are mostly non-Nigerians. Most of them are from neighbouring Benin Republic and also Togo and because they find a huge market for their crawling wares, they readily and eagerly look forward to every nine days to come and make some money.
Hubert Boni, a Beninese who has been in the business for over 10 years, said he rears snakes and brings his stock to Badagry to sell every week.
“In my community in Benin, we don’t even eat snakes. Snakes crawl freely in our compounds. So, when I realised that there was a huge market for them here, I decided to make it my business and since then, I have received a lot of patronage from people from Nigeria in particular,” he said.
Roobert Ake is another Beninese who comes all the way from Cotonou to sell snakes in the market in Badagry. Ake said he took over the business from his late mother who was into it for more than 15 years.
“My mother taught us this business. She is Nigerian though we are not conversant with her family in Nigeria, we don’t know them. We make an average of N20, 000 as profit on this business every market day. We have a snake farm in Cotonou and we bring them down for people who know the worth here in Nigeria,” he said.
Brisk business for buyers
Taiwo Osueke is one of the people who travel all the way from her Igando, Lagos base to Badagry to source and buy snakes.
Osueke, who runs a restaurant, said she leaves her house as early as 4am in order to get to Badagry around 6.30am so as to get a good buy.
“The market is filled with so many people and as such, I  have to come very early. I buy different species of snakes from these men from Benin Republic. The prices differ. It all depends on the size of the snake. If the snake is small, I could get it for as cheap as N500 each but if it is the large sized one, I buy if for N1,500,” she said.
Osueke said her restaurant has become so popular and she doesn’t mind the stess she undergoes in order to get her stock.
“Most of my customers would rather go for snake meat than beef or fish. I use snakes to make soups to serve food and I also use some to make pepper soup. It all depends on what my customer wants,” she said.

Same could be said for Basirat Akinlade who said she has been selling snake pepper soup for more than 12 years.
Based in Meiran, Lagos State, Akinlade said she got into the business when she realised how lucrative it is.
“I used to sell ponmo (Cow hide), assorted meat  before selling cow tail. But then, I realised that everybody was doing that business. It was just too common. So I decided to do snake business. I started selling snake pepper soup and people started coming to patronise me.
“The business is more lucrative than what I was doing before. We are just few in the business and we can’t even cater for the number of people that eat it. Many people do not have the heart to carry a snake, let alone killing it and cooking it. That has just left the business to be run by few people. That is why I enjoy it because I make a lot of money from it.
“For it to be edible, it takes a lot of processes. But I love doing it and it is my job so I don’t mind the process involved. I am known everywhere when it comes to snake business. The business has taken me to Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Oshogbo, Port Harcourt and so many other places. I am invited to parties. People request for snake pepper soup and meat specially,” she said.
Akinlade who deals in roasted and fresh snakes, said she also brings in live snakes but only on request.
“I bring live snakes for those that request them. They are more expensive than the dead ones. Some people who order for snakes may decide to use them as pets, I wouldn’t know why they would ask for live snakes but I do buy them for some people,” she said.
For these snake merchants and others, there is nothing like having phobia for snakes. They are not among the set of people who cringe or get repulsed at the sight of these reptiles.
Akinlade said, “Snake hasn’t bitten me before. I am not scared of snakes. There is no animal that is not scared of human beings. If I am processing it and the scale pierces my body, I just remove it. Some people will tell you that the scale is poisonous but it is not true; it is all based on superstition, there is nothing like that.”
Another buyer, Joseph Ganiat, who lives in Badagry said he doesn’t believe in any cultural or religious stigma associated with snakes.
“I have not seen snakes in my dream before. I don’t have any reason to be scared of snakes. They even know that when I see them, I would just kill them. The one that is very popular is meno meno. People love to eat that one a lot. Cobra tastes like stock fish. I ‘rush’ the snake any time I see it and it is tasty.”
In her own remarks, Akinlade added, “I don’t know if God cursed snake but it doesn’t matter. Christians and Muslims eat snakes. There is no way I will see a snake and run away. In fact, no snake can even come here. Since the bones are usually thrown away and they perceive the smell, they would crawl away. Snake meat is not unusual. It is something I do all the time. My dream is that this business will take me outside the shores of this country where I will be going to supply snakes to people abroad.”

While agreeing that so many people are scared of snakes, Akinlade says she uses it to her advantage sometimes.
“At times, when I alight from a bus, I will just bring out two of the snakes from my sack and I would pretend as if I am a snake charmer and the conductor will just tell me to please go with my money,” she said jocularly.
‘Snake meat freshens our skin’
Cow tail, goat meat, turkey, fish and even snails are among the popular meat that take most guys and ladies to joints to sit out and have a good time while drinking some bottles of their choice drinks. Snake meat hasn’t always been part of the menu.
But at the moment, snake meat is gradually taking the centre stage as some Nigerians are having a good time while ‘downing’ plates of snake pepper soup over drinks. To most of them, there is nothing as refreshing and tasty as snake meat.
Our correspondent visited a snake pepper soup joint at Ejo Village, Meiran, Lagos  and saw so many men – young and old – devouring plates of pepper soup as if their entire lives depended on it. According to most of them, snake meat freshens their skin and cures their ailments.
A fashion designer who gave his name as Obama said he enjoys snake meat more than any other meat.
He said, “Other meat including fish or cow meat is something you can eat every other day. But snake is not something you can see every day to eat. I am not scared of snake. If you don’t try to harm it, it will not bite you. Snake is good. If you eat it all the time, it will freshen your body and your face will be shining. I can eat snake about three times in a week. My wife and children eat snake. Even my colleagues also eat snake. If you eat fresh snake, I am not sure you would want to eat any other thing. If you use it to cook soup and eat it with fufu or amala, then it is out of this world. Snake is just too sweet and I enjoy it a lot. I don’t feel uncomfortable eating it. Is it not meat?”
As for Segun Oladimeji, who is also based in Lagos, there is nothing like snake meat as he also claimed it freshens his skin.
“ I come here every day to eat snake meat. The fresh one is just perfect. I have been eating snake meat for six years and I come to Ejo village in all these years to eat snake. I discovered this place one day when I came from Lagos Island to see a friend of mine. Just as I got to his house, he said he would love to entertain me. He suggested we go to a drinking joint. He brought me here and ordered snake pepper soup. Since that day, I have remained hooked to snake meat. Snake is not a bad animal. It is good for the body. It freshens my skin. I can attest to that. Anytime I can’t make it here physically, my wife comes to get it for me,” he said.
‘Snake is like every other meat’
Another snake eater, Sesan Deinde, who spoke to our correspondent, said there is no day he doesn’t eat snake meat regardless of the general perception about it.
 Deinde believes that snake meat is like every other meat and should not be perceived differently or seen as something repulsive.
“If I don’t eat it, I don’t know what will happen to me. It is true snake is dangerous but that is only when it is alive. When it has been killed, it is like any other meat. Some people may say they don’t eat rat but I tell you, if rat is prepared very well, you will still see people rushing to eat it. So snake is edible and highly nutritious. For me, it even cures certain sicknesses in my body. My grandfather used to eat snake.
“I used to call snake panla. It tastes just like stockfish. I eat both fresh and dried snake. Fresh snake is different from the dry one. If my wife sees me eating snake, she snatches it from my hand and eats it before her own is brought. She also cooks snake for me at home. All other meat is rubbish; snake is the perfect meat to eat. You know it is different but it is something everybody can eat. Some people said it is not in their culture to eat snake. But for me and my family, there is no culture like that. We eat our snake and nothing has happened or will happen to us. We enjoy it a lot. I am not aware that it is associated with evil; some people just sit down to form what is not true about snake. In the Old Testament in the bible, some things were cursed and said it should not be eaten. But when Jesus came, He said everything is good. That is why I am eating it,” he said.

Another lover of snake meat, Rotimi Akeredolu, agreed that where he comes from, eating snake is not popular but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying it anytime he comes across it.
 “Oh, there is no doubt about it, I love eating snake. I wouldn’t say snake is part of popular meat in Yoruba land but some people eat it occasionally. Those who enjoy it so much do not hesitate to settle down for a meal of their delicious meat at any given joint where it is being sold.
Akeredolu said he started eating snakes when he was very young and has not stopped and may likely not stop eating the meat.
“We used to kill it in our farm, take it home, cook it and eat it. It is true that it is not popular in this part of the country as a staple; that is why you will not go to any party and be served a plate of snake. But really, people misinterpret it. Some people think it is a taboo to serve snake meat or even eat it. They may even think you want to poison them. But that is not true. I am used to eating snake. It is not strange to me.
“Anybody who says he or she doesn’t eat snake would not have had anything to do with the farm. But I am a son of a big farmer and we used to kill and eat snakes. If my father weren’t a farmer, I may not have been used to snake. I may not have had the opportunity of eating it. The first time I ate a snake was in 1969, I was in Modern 1. My father had employed one man, Mr. Ayeni, to be in charge of his farm. Ayeni had seen a snake entering a hole but he called me and deceived me that we should kill a rabbit which he saw had entered the hole. I did not waste time at all and I began to dig. I would dig and use my hand to scoop out the sand. I never knew there was a snake inside. However, it was just God that saved my life. As I was about to dip my hand inside the hole with the aim of dragging the rabbit which I erroneously believed was there, lo and behold, the black cobra emerged and I was scared because that was not what I expected to see. As it struggled to escape, we were able to overpower it. We took it home and cooked it and we ate it. That was my first time. I eat all edible snakes. There are some that are not edible. Snake may not be my favourite meat but that doesn’t take away the fact that I love and enjoy eating it.

 From a nutritionist’s perspective
A Lagos-based nutritionist, Mr. Okunola Oladimeji, said there is nothing wrong in eating snakes. To him as well, snake is like every other meat but even healthier.
“Snake belongs to the class of reptiles. I am very sure that snake is a very good source of calcium and protein. There is nothing dangerous about consuming snakes. It is just that there is this belief that snake is evil and that makes a lot of people not to eat it. I don’t eat it but I have a lot of friends who eat it and they enjoy it. I have eaten it before in any case and I know there is nothing wrong with it. I would simply advise that if it is convenient for you and you find it okay, you can continue eating it. It is a healthy meat to eat,” he said.

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