One of the unstated rules in many Nigerian households is that every soup must be garnished with ponmo (cowhide).
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This ponmo, chopped in small, manageable pieces is enjoyed by many as meat or as support to meat to make the soup last longer.
Every Nigerian probably knows this cherished delicacy. If perhaps they don't meet it in their mother's soup pot, they will most likely do so in small restaurants called 'mama put.'
As a matter of fact, many Nigerians go to restaurants expecting that they will eat ponmo. The well-established restaurants now sell it too.
To this end, many lovers of cowhide were naturally taken aback when it was muted that its consumption would be banned.
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Muhammad Yakubu, the director-general of the Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST), Zaria, made the proposition.
The NILEST DG said:
“To the best of my knowledge, Nigerians are the only people in the world that overvalue skin as food, after all, Ponmo has no nutritional value.
“At one point, there was a motion before the two chambers of the national assembly, it was debated but I don’t know how the matter was thrown away."
He instantly kicked off a debate as some people questioned the rationale behind the ban.
Akinwumi Adesina also spoke about ponmo ban 2014
This is not the first time the Nigerian government is talking about the possibility of banning ponmo.
In 2014, the then minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, made comments in the same direction.
Speaking at the Third Joint Anniversary of the Animal Science Association of Nigeria, ASAN and Nigeria Institute of Animal Science held at the University of Ibadan, Adesina had called for a stronger check on the consumption of the delicacy to enable farmers to make more from their trade.
As it is now, so it was in 2014 because Nigerians kicked against it after Adesina's comments became public knowledge.
Pomo sellers, consumers dare the government
After Adesina called for a stronger check in the consumption of cowhide, many Nigerians spoke out against it in 2014.
Those who spoke included traders who deal in the popular delicacy and consumers as well.
Gozie Madu, a concerned Nigerian, spoke harshly against the proposition:
“What is this nation turning into? Pomo is the cheapest source of meat for the poor man. So banning it is like banning poor people from eating meat which is very bad and inhuman. It will not solve the numerous problems Nigerians are facing now.”
In the same vein, Mrs. Toyin Taiwo, a ponmo seller, had asked the federal government to rescind the idea after it was muted by the minister.
She said then:
“This is the only business I do and from it, I train my six children. My husband abandoned me and my children and ran away with another woman. He is not even bothered whether the children are feeding well or not. If it should banned, we will die of hunger and starvation."
Does Ponmo have nutritional value?
Apart from the fact that ponmo could be a strong foreign exchange earner for the country, one other reason often given by the government for the planned ban is that it has no nutritional value.
However, experts have slightly disagreed, as they contend that ponmo has nutritional value. A research published in 2013 by Akwetey W. Y., Eremong D. C. and Donkoh A. argues that ponmo contains protein.
Although, the research states clearly that the amount of protein obtainable in ponmo is dependent on how it is processed.
Health concerns on the consumption of ponmo
The methods of processing ponmo have given researchers a lot of concern. In many parts of Nigeria, ponmo is burned with discarded car tires, kerosene and other forms of fuel to remove hair.
In another research, Opeyemi Ayanda, Tolulope Ajayi and Olayemi Bilewu raised concerns about this method of processing cowhide.
"The substances employed in the burning of hides contain toxic contaminants which can impact the hides and make them unhealthy for humans’ consumption."
So what next on ponmo ban?
There can be no doubt that Nigerians like to eat ponmo. The government is desirous of banning it, but no serious steps have been taken so far.
Those who sell and consume cowhide will continue to do so even despite the health concerns raised by nutritional experts.
The claim that ponmo has no nutritional value is not entirely true, as experts say it contains protein.
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