Mr. Olufemi Aluko, of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) , Ile-Ife, says Nigeria is losing out in the pack of countries competing for the 75 billion dollar global leather industry because of ponmo consumption. Aluko blamed the situation on the country’s neglect of the leather products industry in favour of oil production and consumption of its hides and skin as ponmo.
The don cited global industry report as confirming the situation urged the nation’s policy drivers to refocus on the sector as it holds great potential for export earning and employment. As we strive to diversify the nation’s economy I advised the Federal Government to create sound, supportive and transparent policies that will revive leather goods industries in Nigeria.
Aluko said, “Nigerian leather goods businesses must develop procedures to ensure developed markets where products are compliant with environmental and social responsibility requirements as well as international standards.’’ The lecturer explained that the formal leather goods industry had declined almost to extinction which could only be revived by transparent business policies.
According to him, the formal leather goods sector must be revived particularly to supply the domestic, regional and international markets.
He said that considerable hard work would be required by the public and private sectors in coordination for the sector to make considerable further progress but this is necessary as we refocus our economy and use of our abundant hides and skins for leather products rather than for consumption as `ponmo’. The lecturer added that economic growth and employment benefits from the sector were potentially considerable.
“Nigeria is, globally, perhaps the most important exporter of light leather. “ The leather tanning sector has made remarkable progress in recent years as it has progressed from export of raw and wet blue leather to finished leather.’’
In spite of the fact that `Ponmo,’ a delicacy made from hides and skin has been popularised mostly by the people of the South West, it has no nutritional value, Miss Yemisi Olowookere, a Nutritionist at Garki Hospital General Hospital, Abuja, said. “Its continous consumption has continue to generate concerns on its adverse effect on the tanning and leather industry in the country,’’ Olowookere said .
Olowookere said that Ponmo only appeals to the taste buds when properly prepared and has no nutritional benefits. According to her, Ponmo, is basically cow skin that has been processed to look similar to beef which is sold in the markets and an important ingredient in the preparation of several stews in various cultures. “Most Nigerians love Ponmo so much that some believe a good day meal is incomplete without It; Ponmo is a regular sight at parties and several public outings, served in different forms. “It would be quite shocking for some people to know that Ponmo contains little or next to nothing in terms of nutritional value,’’ Olowookere said.
She said the classification of Ponmo was based on their mode of preparation and colour, adding that some are white, cream and brown.
Olowookere raised concerns over some of the health status of some of the animals killed which must have been ill and undergoing treatments.
He noted that rearers sometimes ignore such situation and will go ahead to kill them, leaving the buyers vulnerable to chemicals in the animal skin. “Some of the animals because of the ailments, they are usually given injection with contains chemicals. “People don’t allow these chemicals to complete its cycle and be removed from the body; they sometimes go ahead to kill these animals. “So, if you consume the ponmo, the tendency is that you are consuming the chemicals directly because the skin part of the animal retains most of the harmful substances,’’ Olowokere said.
She warned Nigerians to be careful of consuming` ponmo’ as the cow skins are usually not prepared in the best conditions. Olowookere said before the ponmo was brought to the market, a lot of different unhygienic substances such as trash, wood, charcoal, rubber tyres and so on, are thrown into the furnace to sustain the blazing heat. She, however advised that it was best to eat fish rather than ponmo.
In Aba, Abia the Chairman of the Leather Product Manufacturers Association, Abia state, Mr Okechukwu Williams, identified the sourcing of quality leather, importation of leather products, funding and infrastructure as their biggest challenges. “Being in the leather value chain, we work with leather as the key material for our production but we cannot access leather from Kano tanneries because they prefer to export their leather. “This is because they enjoy the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) which gives them more benefit than selling to us. “We use mostly imported leather here. A large quantity of this imported leather is left over brought to us. At the end of the day, its quality affects the quality of our work,” he said.
Williams said that the large quantity of leather which they use cannot be quantified stressing that with 16, 658 members in the workforce, the quantity is very high. He said that the quality of leather they get from abroad is not as good as the quality of Nigerian –made leather which is not synthetic as the foreign products from China. He, however, said that the federal government was reviewing the EEG granted these tanneries and expressed hope that from the review, the new policy will give them access to Nigerian leather.
In Imo, there are no state Tanneries or leather industries. The only shoe industry in the state was closed down in 2014, since then no leather products have been produced in the state.