The Lagos State Government at the weekend confiscated about 30 tonnes of cow hide, commonly referred to as ponmo, for allegedly being processed with poisonous substances.
The monetary value of the haul is believed to be at least N10 million..
Ponmo is a household delicacy especially in Southwest Nigeria, and is therefore in high demand.
The joint raid was carried out by officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, State Taskforce on Environment and Special Offences Enforcement Unit and officers of the Nigeria Police Force.
The skin hide processing factory isis locat at College Road in the Igando area of the state.
According to the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Oluwatoyin Suarau, the special operation which led to the arrest of operators of the factory was based on a tip off by concerned members of the public who became suspicious of activities in the factory where harmful smoke and offensive stench oozed out from during the processing and preservation.
Surau explained that the activity of the illegal ‘Ponmo’ processing factory poses health and environmental hazard to the public and to the processors themselves
He stated that bonfire made with Jamaica rubber, which was also confiscated, in the processing of the ‘Ponmo’ emits a thick toxin smoke which spread within the complex and adjoining neighbourhood adding that the smoke and the unhygienic way of processing the cow skin is harmful to human health.
“The factory and activities of the ‘Ponmo’ processors constitute a health risk not only to processors but residents of adjoining communities. The health effect of burning rubber alone are enormous let alone it use to process human food besides the source of the animal hides used for the ‘Ponmo’ needs to be ascertained to be sure it is fit for human consumption”, the Commissioner said.
He added that six persons connected with the poisonous ‘Ponmo’ were arrested in the raid stressing that they are now in police custody helping with on-going investigation and will be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
Suarau while stating that investigation into the source of the poisonous ‘Ponmo’ has since commenced noted that the Ministry of Agriculture has set up a monitoring and investigation committee headed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya to get the source of the poisonous ‘Ponmo’ and dislodge factories and illegal abattoirs where the they are being processed.
“This committee would work with relevant government agencies to fish out any other illegal ‘Ponmo’ processing factory and illegal abattoir whose activities poses great danger to the public”, he said.
The Commissioner appealed to relevant federal government agencies in charge of border patrol to step up activities to prevent entry of the poisonous foods and foods product into the country.
“We will not relent on our oars to ensure that only hygienic meat and meat products are available in our abattoirs and market for human consumption. I therefore used this medium to warn operators of illegal abattoirs and ‘Ponmo’ processing outlets to desist from their criminal activities or risk facing the full weight of the law”, he warned.
The Commissioner also called on members of the public to be vigilant and report any suspected activities and sales of unwholesome foods and food products to the nearest local government office or the Ministry of Agriculture. He also advised the public against purchase and consumption of foods which sources are doubtful or perceived to be harmful to human health and wellbeing.
Suarau while reiterating the commitment of the State government to food security noted that the zero tolerance against distribution of unwholesome foods and all forms of food poisoning in the State is still in full force stressing that government will always do the needful to ensure that only wholesome and healthy foods are available for consumption in the Lagos State.
“It is necessary and we will always monitor the whole process of food handling and distribution until it gets to the final consumers”, he noted.