From Itunu Ajayi, Abuja
‘Give us our daily bread’ is a common saying in Christendom and bread is the primary staple food on the menu of most homes in Nigeria. Unlike in most countries of the world, the quality of bread one eats in Nigeria depends largely on its price, which is a function of the environment it was prepared from and other ingredients added besides flour, fat and water.
It is usual to see truck pushers, wood heavers and other artisans munching away a loaf as they go about their business, which makes it a lucrative venture for those in the business of baking bread.
However, majority of bread found on the streets of cities and villages in the country are produced from doubtful environments unwholesome for human consumption.
One of such places is Divine Grace Bakery in Dutse-Alhaji, one of the satellite towns surrounding the seat of power in Abuja. The bakery is located in a residential area inaccessible with a vehicle and surrounded by filth. Beside the bakery is a toilet and an enclosure where wastewater is stagnated, breeding mosquitoes.
Ironically, most of the people in the area do not really care about the hygienic state of the bakery. According to them, they do not have the means to buy the so-called hygienic ones. They have found solace in the hotness of the bread when it is freshly baked and relish the taste so much that paying attention to the environment is an extra burden that is not worth the while.
A resident, Alero Julius, notes that the environment of the bakery is not different from the filthy state of the satellite town.
“The whole town is an eyesore. I moved in here few months ago when the trouble in Mpape started. The only good thing about Dutse is the major road passing through the area because it leads to Bwari where there are lots of government establishments including the Nigerian Law School, JAMB office and a federal government college.”
Another resident, Adakole Godswill, said the composition of the black race is largely made up of men with strong immunity and as such, dirt or food prepared in unhygienic environment is not capable of causing death. “Have you ever seen anyone killed by dirty environment in Nigeria? I think God knew beforehand that we would have bad leaders, so He decided to give us so much immunity against sickness and filthy surroundings.
“The issue is not about bakery alone. I am from Benue State but I have never seen environments as dirty as the towns and villages around the federal capital. If there were jobs where I came from, I would not be here, but what can man do. Honestly, if dirt kills, majority of Abuja dwellers would have been dead today, leaving behind the big men residing in Asokoro and Maitama.”
Akpan James went comical when he said “man no die, man no rotten, my sister nothing dey happen, we dey chop am, we dey fat inside.”
“Anybody seeing the filth around here would be worried about the outbreak of epidemic, but it is as if God, who is the father of the defenseless, has been good to us. However, we should not outstretch His love. I just retired from civil service and I will be leaving for home soon, at least to breathe fresh air. The whole environment is polluted and the fresh air the president promised Nigerians is nowhere visible in Abuja.
For Solomon Adesina, it is better for one not to see the environment where food items are being prepared in Nigeria. “I don’t know the source of the bread I buy but I have made up my mind concerning bread long ago not to buy any bread not sliced and packaged from the bakery.
“Sliced bread are baked with electric oven and sliced electronically not by hand. Through that, some level of hygiene is employed. Though it might not be 100 percent, it is at least better than the bread being carried around on the back of motorcycles that are not covered. And remember, you don’t get to wash bread before eating, which makes matters worse.”