James Ojo Adakole
Before now, Mrs Agbejule Damilola’s love for cow skin, known in local parlance as ponmo, was so much that without its presence in a particular meal, such meal was incomplete. “Ponmo is something I cannot do without. If it is not in my soup especially vegetable soup, then that soup is not complete yet,” she told Sunday Sun.
However, since the Lagos State Government raised an alarm over the circulation of poisonous ponmo in some markets in the state, her fondness for the delicacy has dwindled drastically for fear of eating a contaminated meal.
“Since I heard the news from Lagos State Government that we should be careful with consumption of ponmo, I have not eaten it because I am afraid. I hope everyone got the information because some people are still ignorant,” she added. Like Mrs Agbejule, swathes of Lagosians who are consumers of ponmo are living in fear of eating the product since the recent controversies over the alleged circulation of poisonous cow skin in the state came into the news.
“The very first day I heard of the news, my strong interest in ponmo which has spanned over many years vanished. The sight of it even irritates me now. I cannot risk my life and that of my family just because I love ponmo. I don’t think I will taste it again in my life. Nothing is more worrisome than contemplating if what you are eating is poisonous or not,” Mrs. Sandra Charles, another resident of Lagos State told Sunday Sun.
The same story applies to Mr Ayomide Balogun, who stated that since he got wind of the news of the warning by the government, he has banned the consumption of ponmo in his family.
“These days, you really have to be careful about any information you come across, whether true or false, you know. The line between truth and false is now blurred so you need to use your discretion. And that was what I did when the whole controversy about poisonous ponmo in circulation started. We haven’t tasted ponmo in my family since the information broke out.”
While people, who are hitherto consumers of cow skin in Lagos State have refrained from eating ponmo, Sunday Sun findings revealed that the product is still being patronized by others, who believe such information holds no water.
“I don’t believe in that kind of information,” says Mrs. Elizabeth. “Therefore, there is no way such news could have affected my love for cow skin. I wasn’t really bothered when the news was circulated because this is not the first time I would hear such news. How sure are they that the cow skins are poisonous? I don’t believe ponmo kills.
If it kills, why haven’t they banned its sale in the market? So, the whole fuss is not worth it. It is only going to reduce patronage of ponmo sellers in the market, which is very unfortunate.
These ponmo sellers have children to feed and have bills to pay, among others. How are they going to survive? Therefore, government should have a way of putting a lasting solution to this issue because it is becoming worrisome,” she told Sunday Sun.
Also speakin, Mrs. Owoeye Jide, who has wealth of experience of how cow skins are produced said there was nothing to panic about, noting that the alleged poisonous ponmo in circulation were those imported into the country, not the local ones sold in the market.
“There is nothing like that poisonous ponmo as being speculated in some quarters. I don’t believe in such news. Last week, I still bought ponmo and people are still buying. So, the problem could be as result as some of the imported cow skins, not those that are locally produced here,” she said.
Some of the local ponmo sellers who spoke with Sunday Sun revealed that the news of poisonous ponmo in the market has reduced patronage. They however, expressed optimism that with concerted moves by the state government those behind the sale of poisonous ponmo would be brought to book.
“Well, it is normal for such things to happen. People get scared when they hear of such news, so that is why I am not really worried that patronage of ponmo dropped a little for me. I heard some arrests have been made and with that, I believe everything will be okay again,” a ponmo seller who craved anonymity told Sunday Sun.
Meanwhile, Mrs Kolawole Aina, who has been in the ponmo selling business for 25 years stated that there was need to ensure that local cow skin sellers follow the time-tested process of production before bringing it to the market. She lamented that in most cases, the traditional method of producing ponmo has been circumvented, stressing that people now prefer to use preservatives and chemicals, which according to her, pose health hazards.
“I have been in this business for 25 years now. Traditionally, when we buy the raw cow skin, we soak it in water overnight and then roast it the next day before cooking it and then sell consequently. The problem with some people selling ponmo these days is that most of them don’t follow the proper process in the production of cow skin anymore. Normally, after killing a cow, it is expected that such cow skin be sun-dried and boiled before making them available for public consumption.
But these days, most people don’t do that again. Some people simply prefer to use preservatives, which is not always good. So, the controversy surrounding the circulation of poisonous ponmo was caused by the chemicals used to treat the cow skin.”
On whether such development had affected her business, Aina said: “Of course it has. Sometimes, we count losses when such things happen because there would be apathy for eating ponmo among the people.”