by crossriverwatch admin
Calabar, the Cross River State capital, and home to the Efik, South – South Nigeria is famous for its delicious cuisines. The average Efik woman and man have excellent cooking skills that can turn any combination of ingredients to a mouth watering dish.
The plethora of canteens that dot every nook and cranny of the city serve delicious meals like afang soup, ekpang kwukwo, afia efere, edikang ikong, banga soup, fisher man soup and the likes which keep people asking for more after the first taste.
Perhaps that account for the high demand of house maids and house helps from this part of the world in places like Lagos, Portharcourt, Abuja, Onitsha and even outside the country.
What most people who relish the delicious meals served them in canteens and restaurants do not know or have not bothered to put a thought to is the state of the Calabar Watt Market, the central market in the city where the ingredients used in the preparation of these delicacies are bought from.
The Watt market which is located in the center of town, like most major streets and roads in the city, has an exotic name, “Watt”, the nomenclature being that of a Scottish merchant who operated cinema houses and shops around the vicinity that the market presently occupies.
To the north, the market is bounded by African Club house, to the south by the Anglican Church, and to the west by the Catholic church headquarters in the state while to the east, is a conglomeration of streets also bearing exotic names like Queen Duke Street, , Kings Street, Bedwell, and White House.
The market which is a nexus of activities stretching from the obnoxious to the sublime daily hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors of both buyers and sellers from other parts of the state and neighboring places like Ikot Ekpene, Uyo, Oron in Akwa Ibom State and Mamfe, Duala and Ekork in the Cameroons.
Essentially, a large portion of the market is dedicated to selling of edibles and a huge number of women throng the place to procure ingredients with which to prepare domestic meals for their families and those to serve in canteens and fast food joints.
However, the much touted spick and span environment for which Calabar is noted for severely contrasts with the putrid and pugnacious environment within the precinct of the market, which to say the least is nauseating.
On each of the several entrances to the market, one is confronted by dark liquid, coming from a combination of liquids dripping from rotten vegetables and filthy water flowing from the inner recesses of the market through the many drains that run zigzag rings round the shops. Both combine to emit an acrid stench that assaults the smell organs as you enter the market.
The entire expanse of the market is bare and covered in mud, except for a tiny portion where meat sellers congregate every day to dispense portions of meat to buyers which is covered in rough concrete floor.
Even this section which lay claim to being paved with concrete floor is an eye sore as the place is covered in dark slimy cattle blood which for years has dropped from the stables to the floor and has been trampled underfoot eventually turning it to another coat for the floor.
Underneath the table where the butchers lodge their stuff like rags, papers for wrapping meat have become home to rats and other rodents that upon feeding on meat remnants for year have taken on giant sizes like rabbits.
The meat butchers who slaughter their cattle at the Calabar abattoir located at Bakoko, 8 miles and the Amphibious Brigade Mammy Market, Akim bring in the meat in filthy vans to the adjoining streets from where wheel barrows left unwashed for several weeks or some human carriers, then hang them on their bare backs and cart them to the filthy slabs in the market for onward sale to the public.
Navigating round the market is a tiny labyrinth of footpaths hardly spacious enough for two persons going in opposite direction to go through without breathing on each other’s faces or brushing through the persons sweating body.
These tiny footpaths, particularly in areas where foodstuff is sold are covered in black puddles of mud which is essentially composed of discarded decomposed and rotten food products.
The market stalls which are constructed from an amalgam of antiquated roofing sheets and creaky planks stand precariously shoulder to shoulder in disproportionate order round the market. From within the squeaky bowels of this makeshift sheds infested with rodents and insects, thousands of women perch on wooden stools to sell their wares spread on dirty darkened tables while some are spread on the floor right on top of the footpath or some inches away.
Some of the items are constantly covered with the filth that spread from the foot paths, yet buyers pick them to prepare meals with for their families or in the restaurants.
Rain, which is a regular decimal in Calabar regularly droning the city in heavy torrents compound the situation in the market as the women and their products are often drenched while the tiny footpaths through which to navigate the market are covered in ankle deep filth.
During such down pours, when pressed by nature, fearful of getting drenched by going to queue in the single toilet that serve the market, the women shaded by their wares and table, strip and empty their bowels on the tiny footpaths or into plastic bowls which add to the volume of filth and stench in the market.
When children are pressed, their mothers simply shove them to the front of their stalls to empty their bowels while close by are wares spread on the decrepit tables. “How we have managed to live without any major outbreak of epidemic like cholera in this land is simply a miracle. Why not with people spitting mucus everywhere and children defecating close to food stuff sold to people, I am amazed” Clara Ibanga , a civil servant in Calabar told crossriverwatch.
The market which is always packed full with people especially on Saturdays, stocks everything to meet every need; you only have to mention it to get it. “This is Efak Satan (Satan Unit) and I can tell you with all amount of confidence that any part of the human body you require is available here, the occultists and those with voodoo intentions always
come here to get what items they need for their nefarious businesses like preparing love portions, amulets to acquire political power etc.” Edem Ita, a Journalist with a local tabloid said.
Some lazy or busy wives, bachelors, and spinsters can readily have any ingredient they require for their cuisine prepared and packaged for them to take home and simply empty into the pot to cook the meal of their choice. “Pepper, affang, water leaves, edikang ikong and even periwinkle are cut and washed to your requirement to take home and cook, we can also tell you what time to add what and get the right taste”. Ma Esara Essien told crossriverwatch.
The plan by the Cross River State government to build what they call “Calabar Modern Market”, at Bakoko some 12 kilometers away from the present Watt Market is not making any head way.
Mr Gerald Ada, Special Adviser to Senator Liyel Imoke on Investment Promotion says the market is to be built through public private partnership. The project which has been on the drawing board since 2011 is yet to make any progress as the topography and land composition in the new site is difficult to navigate and marshy which will require a lot of sand filling and preliminary construction work before any significant work is done there and obviously no bank or investor seem willing to venture into such drain pipe.
Now that the rains are back in full swing, residents of the city will continue to wear rain boots or wade through filth to buy food stuff and other daily needs from the filth infested Watt Market in Calabar.
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