7 MAY 2016
Lagos — A first-time visitor to the nondescript market in Badagry would assume that mostly on sale, are mounds of smoked fish, a popular Nigerian delicacy. However, ‘Snake Market’ is as its name implies, where many throng to buy smoked snakes. The number of bags containing this most unusual commodity is large, too.
The market, located within Badagry’s main market, hosts the snake wing, which is only open to both traders and customers on Wednesday. Daily Trust found out that most of the sellers come all the way from Port Novo, in neighbouring Republic of Benin. Also, the market is only open to buyers between 5:00am and 10:00am on Wednesdays.
A major merchant, who simply identified himself as Sunday, explained that the sellers arrive the market as early as 2:00am, but wait till 5:00am when the snake section of the market is open to buyers. When Daily Trust visited, there were heaps of bags containing smoked snakes. Enquiring as a customer, this reporter requested to know how much a bag is sold. The seller said it all depended on the quantity to be bought.
“Do you want to buy retail, or wholesale?” asked the seller. “If you want retail, a full snake costs from N200, depending on the size. Half a snake is sold from N50 and above, as this also depends on the size,” she said. Some can go for as high as N800, it was learnt.
Sunday explained that the snakes are reared just like fish in many villages in Benin Republic. “The ones reared are not as harmful as the wild ones. Those who rear them are experts, and they remove the venom before smoking them,” he said.
It was gathered that snakes were much cheaper at the market in the past. The seller, who also gave her name as Abike, said prices rocketed in recent times as the economy worsened. She said: “To feed snakes now costs more money, because we rear them the same way we do fish. Not many people venture into snake-selling, because it is not easy to rear the reptiles. They do not give birth the way other animals or fishes do. Fishes lay eggs in millions, while snakes lay a few. Sometimes the owner may not be lucky with the eggs laid by his snakes.”
Abike told Daily Trust that while snakes do not die easily – the way chicken or fish do – feeding them is more expensive. “You have to go all out looking for food such as grasshoppers, ants, cockroaches, and frogs,” she said.
Who are her clientele, and why do they buy her unusual wares? Abike answered: “People buys snakes for different reasons. Naturally, some people, especially of Yoruba origin, like snake meat. They cook soups, or make it into a spicy, peppery delicacy to accompany alcohol drinks. Many people in the business are successful and even use proceeds from it to send their children abroad.”
Other popular ways of consuming snake meat include as pepper soup.
Abike says snake meat tastes delicious. “Some taste like chicken, while some taste like fish,” she smiled, adding that many eateries in Badagry, Ikotun and other places all have snake meat on their menu. “Those who use [snake meat] for pepper soup, request for fresh ones, provided on special request, and more expensive than the smoked or dried variety.”