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PAGE 3 YOUTHVILLE REFLECTIONS YOUTHVILLE COVER Hides & Skin: Do Nigerians prefer delicacies to leather works? Text by Eseohe Ebhota @sleek_diva88, Victoria Bamas @sinach360, Ibrahim…



Hides & Skin: Do Nigerians prefer delicacies to leather works?

Text by Eseohe Ebhota @sleek_diva88, Victoria Bamas @sinach360, Ibrahim Kabiru Sule @Ikabirsule, Latifat Opoola @LatifatOpoola, Simon E. Sunday @SimonEchewofun, Abuja & Rakiya A. Muhammad, Sokoto

She stays near the blazing fire keenly watching the red-hot protruding pot. At first sight, one would have taken the scene for a pre-festive cooking but on a closer gaze, stretched rolls of cow skin bulge as they drown in the steaming water.

Mama Bolaji as she is fondly called is one great supplier of the cow skin delicacy at the Nasarawa state Mararaba Market situated some few kilometers from Abuja city. Known as ‘Pomo’ in western local parlance and ‘Ganda’ in Hausa, this material has been something to contend with as it struggles to survive ownership.

The skin of animals like cows, sheep and goats, which are needed for the production of goods like shoes, bags and belts, are being eaten increasingly. While many Nigerians savour the delicacy and could lay claim to it at any time, leather workers and shoe makers have coveted Pomo as their primary raw materials.

In a chat with YOUTHVILLE, the seller said she has numerous customers comprising various tribes who patronise her just to have that piece in their meal as a substitute or complement to meat and fish in their dish.

One Abdul Kouna who was seen taking some pieces of the preferred ‘delicacy’ said it became his favourite as it contain less fat and is healthier than consuming meat. “Pomo is not anyhow thing here. This piece that will hardly weigh a kilogram is up to N300,” he said.

Last year the consumption of cattle skin, commonly known as ‘Pomo’ in the west, ‘Ganda,’ in the north and ‘Azu-anu’ in Eastern Nigeria has been proven to be destroying the hides and skin industry where Nigeria earns at least $3billion annually in foreign exchange.

These days when pastoral animals, especially cows, are slaughtered in Nigeria, their skins are rarely sent to the leather industry for use as raw materials rather, the skin ends up in the market place, where it is converted ‘Pomo’.

Nigeria’s hides and skin production, mainly undertaken in Kano State, is said to be the largest in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region, with a total population of over 245 million people and an economic growth of 6 percent – 7 percent annually.

In September 2014 at the 3rd joint anniversary of Animal Science Association of Nigeria (ASAN) and Nigeria Institute of Animal Science held at the University of Ibadan the then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina called for competent regulations that would check the consumption and sale of the Pomo so that livestock farmers would stand good chances of making high dollar return if the hides and skins are tanned into leather.

Pomo eaters in Abuja don’t know they’ve eaten their shoes

“I can’t do without it. Pomo is very cheap and affordable, and my family likes it very much”, a housewife in the Life Camp Area of Abuja, Mrs. Grace told YOUTHVILLE. When asked if she knew whether it was her shoe or bag she was eating, she exclaimed and asked “How possible is it?”

Pomo, Ganda eating it was learnt defies social status as it gradually crawled its way into the meal menus at homes and restaurants. Not even the best garnished fish, red meat or chicken can fight it back.

Comfort John, a hairdresser in Kubwa declared her love for Ganda when she said, “I love Pomo so much that I ensure that in every soup I cook, it must be there whether there are other types of meat or not”.

And a Kubwa meat seller identified as Ahmed said he makes good sales from N7, 000 by selling the cow skin for Pomo but said that could decline to N3,000 sometimes.

And in Kuje, Mama Chinaza, a low income earner and housewife said she cannot afford to take buy fish or meat on a daily basis. “Pomo makes my soup look rich and I also enjoy taking it especially with vegetable soup,” she confessed.

Hadiza who sells Masa, another local delicacy in Kuje also told our reporter she includes pomo in the soup she serves to with Masa.

But for Suleiman Jimoh, a health worker in the Abuja town, Pomo is no more a stint for him. Jimoh said he stopped it last year when he read in the newspapers that the sellers use mortuary embalming fluids to fatten Pomo.

“Some of the animals killed and used for Pomo may have skin diseases and boiling them ordinarily may not kill the bacteria. Others may have been ill and undergoing injections which the herders kill them impatiently, leaving the buyers vulnerable to chemicals in the animal skin,” he said.

Are shoemakers threatened by Pomo?

For those who are into the shoe business, they do not feel threatened about the ‘mad rush’ for Pomo as some said it is not yet a threat to their shoemaking. Isa Adamu, a cobbler in Kubwa said he doesn’t feel his business is threatened saying “I don’t see how selling Pomo can be a threat to what I am doing because we do not buy them from the same place.” Isa said he gets his treated leather materials from either Lagos or Jos and sometimes from where the cows are killed.

Sokoto is different, as youths run the leather business

A business which hitherto was popular among the elderly entrepreneurs in Sokoto is now being taken over by the more active youths. They are able to afford all necessities of life, thereby making them self reliant and contented in the business.

Sokoto has three key hides and skin processing, packaging and transporting points where the youth tycoons eke a living from the transactions. Nasiru Italy, Alhaji Dan Asulo and Tudun Wada, the leatherworks haven have been booming over the years. The business runs into three stages, purchase, processing/loading and the transportation which combined provides meaningful employment to the youths.

One of them, Chika Abdullahi said his work entails sorting out the best of the purchased products brought in from Kwanni town of Niger Republic. “Before, the skin had to be dried before we transport it to Kano but now we use enough salt to preserve it and transport it to Lebanese tannery companies in there for processing.”

Chika revealed that on the average, he makes N20,000 weekly but could make N10,000 during a lo market. But then, he is 100perent comfortable as he had built his own house, got married and expects to go for pilgrimage.

Abdullah said demand is lowering in the rainy season saying “This is because during rainy season, animals tend to develop skin diseases which in turn renders their skin valueless to be processed for sale.

“Over 500 youths are eking living from this business, and our masters take care of our needs which go beyond our financial stands,” Chika said.

Mujtaba Dodo 37 also started at the early stage of his life. He is married with two wives and five children. He said on a weekly basis, he gets N20, 000 or more. “I have no regret joining the business,” he asserted.

Speaking further on the processing of the skin, Mujtaba stressed: “A lot of salt has to be applied to the skin which can last up to 14 days without developing any problem, and then loaded on waiting trucks to Kano for sale.

“Companies don’t value our commodities around this time of the year but we still continue since it is a temporary setback,” he said.

Abdullahi and Mujtaba on behalf of other youths called on the Sokoto state government to grant loan to the youths in hides and skin business for them to be independent. “We need the loan so that we can stand on our feet, and can also create opportunities for other youths who are still without any source of income,” they said.

Do you know these about Pomo?

A “tannery” is the term for a place where the skins are processed. Tanning is the process of treating skins and hides of animals to produce leather, which is more durable and less susceptible to decomposition.

The Wikipedia article on preparatory steps prior to tanning hides and skin are:

1. Skinning 2. Curing and 3. Beam-house operations (They include, soaking, liming, removal of extraneous tissues (unhairing, scudding, and fleshing), deliming, bating & purring, drenching, and pickling.

There is also a tribe called POMO. The Pomo people are an indigenous people of California. The historic Pomo territory in Northern California was large, bordered by the Pacific Coast to the west, extending inland to Clear Lake, and mainly between Cleone and Duncans Point.

In 2014, there were reports that in Sokoto Mahuta Central Abattoir only, no fewer than 150 cows, 50 camels and hundreds of goats, sheep, ram, among others, are slaughtered on a daily basis.

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