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MEDIA pictures of people enthusiastically cutting parts of a decomposing whale on Bonny coastline in Rivers State were food for thought. Were they so desperately poor and hungry that it did not matter to them whether the carcass was unfit for human consumption?
“The residents ignored fears of suspected massive pollution of the Atlantic Ocean, which recently led to death of thousands of croaker fish in the Niger Delta region, “an April 26 report said, adding, “the whale, which was already decomposing, was butchered and shared by adamant residents, who reportedly believed it was a blessing from God to cushion the hardship caused by the COVID-19 lockdown in the state.”
According to the report, the whale “was massive and intimidating but by the time machetes, knives and electric saws worked on it, all that was left of the creature was a skeleton.”
Where were the health authorities when this was going on? If those who saw the decomposing whale as food did not care about the possible health risk, the health authorities were supposed to protect public health by preventing the consumption of the carcass.
The scramble for a piece of the whale reflected not only the poverty of the people but also poor public enlightenment. A resident of the area, Peter Awajis, was quoted as saying: “This is a natural occurrence that happens every year. Ask any native of Finima, Bonny local government area, Nembe, Brass, Bayelsa State and especially people in Oyorokoto, Andoni fishing ports of Rivers, they will tell you same thing.”
He added: “It is not new and can’t be linked to recent dead croakers in our waters. This wild whale is original manna from God to cater for the poor, especially in the season of Coronavirus.
“Last year same incident occurred in Nembe, Bayelsa State, and in less than three days before the Bayelsa Ministry of Health could mobilise to the scene, what was left was a mere carcass of the animal.”
If this is the thinking in the community, and beyond, then the health authorities need to do more to enlighten the people on public health. In addition, health officials should be quick to respond when such a case that could pose a threat to public health occurs.
Not every sea creature washed ashore is fit for human consumption. This point must be emphasised; and there must be prompt action by the authorities to prevent contrary action by those who are too poor to resist such a temptation. It is a cause for concern that such poor people live among us.