On Sunday, September 18, Nigeria’s social media space was buzzing following the federal government’s disclosure that it is proposing legislation to ban the consumption of animal skin, locally known as ponmo.
Muhammad Yakubu, director-general, Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST), Zaria, made this known in Abuja on Sunday, September 18.
He said the legislation was necessary to revive the comatose leather industry in the country.
Ponmo consumption in Nigeria: What you should know
Ponmo has over the years become a favourite local delicacy in Nigeria. Its relatively cheap price also makes it more endearing to the Nigerian masses.
In many low-income homes, ponmo is a substitute for meat.
This is how Google Arts and Culture describes it: “Cow skin, locally called “ponmo”, is a favourite beef part enjoyed as a side dish, snack and condiment in south-western Nigeria.
“It is inexpensive and, perhaps for this reason, very common in restaurants and eateries.
Buyers look out for either soft or thick ponmo for their crunchiness.”
Though many Nigerians enjoy it, there are some crucial reasons why the habit of consuming ponmo should stop.
Health concerns top the list of reasons why Nigerians should stop eating ponmo.
The concern is not much about the ponmo itself but the harmful practices perpetrated by those making and selling it.
In 2014, the former DG of NILEST, Isuwa Adamu, said eating ponmo is dangerous some of the animals killed and used for it actually have skin diseases.
“Some of these skin diseases are such that boiling them ordinarily, may not kill the bacteria,’’ Adamu was quoted as saying.
According to him, some of the animals killed had been ill and undergoing injections but the rearers went ahead to kill them, leaving the buyers/consumers vulnerable to chemicals in the animal skin.
Adamu added that the skin of animals harbour so many harmful waste materials that the body secretes and boiling only could not remove some of those wastes.
Also, NAFDAC Director General, Mojisola Adeyeye, warned Nigerians against indiscriminate ponmo consumption.
According to her, some of the animal hides are sometimes pre-treated with industrial chemicals, which are not of food grade and are toxic and injurious to human health.
The NAFDAC boss said health hazards inherent in the consumption of such animal hides include risk of liver, kidney and heart damage, increased risk of Aplastic anaemia, central nervous system toxicity, cancer and more.
Also, Laboratory tests on ponmo samples have revealed that cowhides roasted with tyres and plastic are unsafe for human consumption and pose severe health risks, according to a report by The Punch.
Nigeria’s economy is currently not in very good shape and every means should be explored to revive it.
The current NILEST DG, Yakubu, said there’s a need to stop the practice of eating ponmo to revive the comatose leather industry in the country, save the industry and boost the nation’s economy.
Even NAFDAC confirmed that most of these animal hides used for ponmo are meant for industrial use.
They are meant for industrial use by leather industries for the manufacturing of items such as shoes, bags, belts and others.
A study carried out by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) reportedly projected that the Nigerian Leather Industry has the potential to generate over 1 billion dollars by 2025.
According to a report by ThisDay, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also recently confirmed that by optimizing the leather value chain, the sector has the capacity to provide employment opportunities, improve Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, and boost economic growth.
Low nutritional value
Yakubu, the DG of NILEST, also said Nigerians should stop eating ponmo because it has no nutritional value.
However, in a report by The Punch, a dietitian, Oluwakemi Olanrewaju, said it provides the body with important nutrients.
She said ponmon “contains a lot of collagen which is the most abundant protein in our bodies.”
However, the dietitian admitted that “ponmo has low nutritional value when compared to other protein sources because it doesn’t contain all essential amino acids..”
Thus, since ponmo has low nutritional value, why not leave it for use in the leather industry which is projected to rake in over 1 billion dollars by 2025?