Another year, another struggle for Ponmo lovers. It looks like the long-standing beef between the federal government and Ponmo won’t end anytime soon, and this time, it looks like the government has finally caught on to a good reason. 

On June 12, 2023, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development released a statement advising Nigerians against consuming ponmo, bushmeat, and other smoked meat due to the recent outbreak of anthrax within the West-African sub-region. Although the disease isn’t contagious as it’s zoonotic, you can only get infected by consuming contaminated animal products. Common symptoms of an anthrax infection include cough, fever, and muscle aches, which, if not treated early, can escalate to pneumonia, lung problems, difficulty breathing, and death. 

However, thankfully, anthrax is a bacterial disease, meaning it’ll respond to treatment with antibiotics and supportive therapy. Also, the disease can be prevented and controlled in animals with vaccinations.  

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This news has created another health scare (depending on how you see it) among Nigerians. And information being spread across media platforms is that Ponmo could be the easiest route to getting the bacteria infection. Government health regulatory officials have specifically warned Nigerians not to eat one of their favourite additions to meals, especially local meals. 

With the way other sources of the disease like bushmeat and smoked meat are being disregarded in this conversation, it makes us wonder, “What has Ponmo done to the Nigerian government?” 

This isn’t the first time the government has advised or tried to discourage Nigerians from eating Ponmo. And trust us to tell you various ways the government might have shown that there’s a long standing beef with Ponmo. 

Let’s take a look at some of these instances. 

The proposed ban

In 2022, the Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST) proposed a ban on the consumption of Ponmo. There were two main reasons behind this:

  • Nigerians obsession with cowskin was negatively affecting the country’s leather industry
  • And that it no nutritional value

NILEST is still waiting for legislative backing from the Senate to effect this ban.

NAFDAC’s alarms over imported cowskin

In February 2022, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) released a general warning to the public when it intercepted 120 tonnes of imported industrial cowskin and animal hides being sold as consumable products—Ponmo. This imported cowskin was already pre-treated with toxic industrial chemicals for leather production. And they were being sold to the public for consumption, putting innocent buyers at risk of liver, heart, and kidney damage. 

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Lagos state shuts down ponmo sections of markets

In August 2016, a Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Task Force team shut down the ponmo processing sections of the Oko-Oba abattoir and Lairage Complex in Agege. This was due to the health hazards from the unhealthy methods of ponmo processing. The processing methods usually involve burning tyres, which emit toxic smoke into the environment, ultimately harming human health. 

While you might say the government should focus on more important matters to address than attempting to limit the enjoyment and delectable addition that Ponmo brings to many Nigerians’ meals, there are valid reasons why we should consider reducing our consumption of it.

It can be dangerous for your health

As mentioned earlier by the NILEST, cowskin itself has no nutritional value, and the methods involved in its production can put your health at risk. 

For instance, the cows from which hides are gotten may have been infected or ill; also, the hides are pre-treated with toxic chemicals that can cause aplastic anaemia, cancer, and central nervous system toxicity. 

It’s having an economic impact

You don’t need a prophet to tell you that our economy needs all the help it can get. Typically, animal hides are used in the leather industries to produce shoes, bags, and belts, among other things, but in Nigeria, our situation is different. A study by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group showed that our leather industry has the potential to generate $1 billion by 2025. However, due to the widespread consumption of Ponmo, the country loses about ₦585 billion in annual revenue to imported ones.  


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