Hadejia in Jigawa State used to be known as a major fish market but the booming trade in toad has changed the narrative. ADAMU AMADU writes on how traders come from far and near to trade in this rather strange aquatic delicacy.
MANY Nigerian communities have their preferred delicacies. In Calabar and Ondo for instance, dog meat is seen not just as a delicacy but as traditional repast, the same way some food items are considered as taboos in many other communities.
Although one of Africa’s celebrated writers, Chukwuemeka Ike, wrote a novel entitled Toads for Supper, it is unlikely that most NBigerians would love to lace their plates with a dish-full of toads whether for lunch or dinner. Many would puke even at the thought of it as a menu. Toads are not attractive in the first place, not to talk of eating them.
But in Jigawa State, toad is now a big business, a booming one at that and it is attracting customers from far South Eastern and North Central areas of the country to Hadejia market where the commodity is available in large quantities.
Findings by Sunday Tribune in Hadejia, the headquarters of Hadejia Local Government Area of Jigawa State, revealed that customers often flood the market every Sunday, which is the town’s major market day and also set aside for toad business.
Hadejia derives its name from River Hadejia, which flows down to Lake Chad through Kamadugu Yobe and Maiduguri. It used to be a major international fish market, but not anymore. Toads have taken over. Hadejia’s toad market is the first and biggest of its kind in the Northern part of the country.
The trade in toad started few years ago, initially with people from Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Plateau states as the main participants, because they find it a delicacy. Not soon after many others saw the commercial opportunity in the huge availability of toads in Hadejia and started transporting them to their home states where there is a huge number of consumers waiting for them.
Later people from those areas were no longer waiting for the toads to come, they went after them in Hadejia thus turning it into the big business that it now is. Indigenes of Hadejia may not be eating the delicacy, but they are also now big players in the market, because they are the ‘producers’ who catch the toads in several ponds on their farms and smoke them in their houses, packaging them and preparing them for the market.
During a visit by Sunday Tribune to the market, it was discovered that a big-stick, which contains about 20 toads was sold for N1,000, while a small-size stick with 10 toads attracts N450. Traders at the market described the trade as very lucrative.
One Alhaji Haruna Shuaibu, a fish dealer, who is now into toad business, said he is making good sales due to continued rise in demand. Shuaibu explained that currently, demand has surpassed the supply, adding however that during the dry season business is always slow, because at that time of the year they become scarce.
“Toad trade is good; it has attracted many people due to its lucrative nature. Buyers are coming to the market from other states for it. They prefer the smoked or dried ones, but some buy the fresh ones,” he stated, adding that traders at the market often transport hundreds of sticks of toads to other parts of the country on a weekly basis.
Zakari Hadi, a toad farmer, told Sunday Tribune that he makes between N2,000 and N3, 000 daily from the business.
Also speaking, Malam Hadi Imamu described the method of catching the toads. At the ponds in his farm, he uses nets to trap and catch them, adding that the animals are always available in large quantities in many of the ponds dotting his farm.
He, however, explained to Sunday Tribune that toads are of different species and categorised into four classes in the Hausa language, namely: Kulu, Dansanda, Mai-Dogonkafa and Bududugi. Hadi added that only Bududugi is edible, while the former groups produce poison and are, therefore, harmful for consumption.
He noted that toad ‘hunting’ was hectic because it requires skills to enable one to identify the type of toad to catch.
“We catch toad in waters and sometimes we dig it out from the mud on the river bank. The toads are arranged on a stick and spread in the open for days to dry,” he said describing the process of packaging the meat.
Another trader, Mr Sam Akiboh, said that he comes to the market from Benue State to buy the delicacy. He noted that toads are in high demand at his base due to its good and delicious taste and cheaper prices. “I make about N20, 000 gains from the sales of toads weekly,” he said, smiling broadly.
Miss Phoebe John and Gabriel Tondo, who corroborated Akiboh’s statement on the business, said they also both make good money from the trade. They called on government to adopt proactive measures to encourage more people to take to toad farming and trading, saying it is a good means of alleviating poverty.