From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said, on Sunday, that it has impounded large quantities of animal hides and skins popularly known as “Ponmo” suspected to have been pre-treated with industrial chemicals that are toxic and injurious to human health.
NAFDAC explained that the hides and skins were supposed to be used for something else other than human consumption, but the importers repurposed it for human consumption.
The Agency said the unnamed chemical used to pre-treat the products could cause liver, kidney and heart damage, increase risk of plastic anemia, central nervous system toxicity, cancer, amongst several others, to anyone who consumes the Ponmo.
NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, in a statement released on Sunday, confirmed that seven merchants have been arrested in Lagos by her officials in connection with the product importation and are being interrogated.
She said the essence of the announcement was to alert the public, particularly Ponmo consumers about the activities of the unscrupulous businessmen and traders who sells industrial animal hides as food articles.
She confirmed that lots of complaints were
received from Nigerians on sale and distribution of the imported hides and skins meant for use in leather industries, which had already been processed with industrial chemicals, and then sold for human consumption as animal skin products, otherwise called “Ponmo”.
Prof. Adeyeye explained: “Our Investigation and Enforcement officials swiftly carried out intelligence gathering on locations where the products were being warehoused. Monitoring was extended to some buyers who patronize the sellers and custodians of the warehouse.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that some of the hides and skins were imported illegally and sometimes diverted to some merchants of death who re-process and sell them as consumable Ponmo to the public.
“We conducted investigative raids on some identified locations in Lagos State where market women and men were found clustered for purchase of leftovers from the warehouses.”
She disclosed that 120 tons of the products were intercepted at six different locations, and seven suspects who were alleged to be involved in the acts are currently under investigation.
The NAFDAC boss further explained that samples of the products have been sent to the laboratory for further testing so as to ascertain the product’s quality and level of unwholesomess
According to her, the intervention would help the Agency deal with the interaction and the dangers associated with the consumption of these products. “The street value of the product currently intercepted is estimated to be around N25.330m only”, she said.
Prof Adeyeye however, alerted Nigerians on the existence of these merchants of death and their nefarious activities, and warned Nigerians to exercise caution when buying animal hides, popularly known as Ponmo.