The Lagos State Government on Sunday shut down and dislodged the cow skin (popularly known as ponmo) processing section of the Oko-Oba abattoir and Lairage Complex in Agege.
This is contained in a statement signed by Mr Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, Asst. Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
According to the statement, Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Toyin Suarau, led a team from the ministry in the company of men from the Lagos State Task Force to shut down the cow skin section of the abattoir.
Suarau said “closure of the ponmo section and dislodgment of the processors became necessary because of the health hazards inherent in the unhealthy processing of ponmo.
“The ponmo processors use heaps of burning tyres, thereby, emitting thick toxic smoke into the air endangering residents of the adjoining neighbourhood.
“This bonfire emits a thick toxic smoke which spreads from within the complex to adjoining neighbourhoods, endangering the lives including those of the processors themselves.’’
The commissioner emphasised that the toxic smoke and unhygienic way of processing the cow skin was harmful to human health.
“I wish to make it clear that the use of tyres for cow skin processing was reported to the State government sometime ago and was dealt with.
“The return to this unhygienic method of processing in the complex leaves much to be desired and this is why the state government has closed the ponmo section of the complex,” he said.
He noted that the health effects of burning tyres alone were enormous let alone using them to process human food.
According to the commissioner, burning tyres release a toxic soup with hundreds of the different toxic pollutants and small particles.
He said such pollutants settle deep in the lungs while airborne emissions from open tire fires presented serious impact to health and the environment.
Suarau said that the state government would not condone any act of illegality and harmful health practices in any of the abattoirs in the State.
“To this end, the state government has deployed a number of veterinary officers, animal workers to abattoirs to ensure that set standard for animal slaughtering and processing are adhere to.
“The state government would continue to monitor abattoirs and slaughter slabs and would not hesitate to close down abattoirs and slaughter slabs that were unhygienic.
“Also, slaughter slabs and abattoirs which are not compliant with the relevant laws governing meat slaughtering in the state, will be closed down.
“The issue of animal slaughtering and processing calls for serious attention because the animals must be inspected before and after slaughtering according to the meat inspection law,” he said.
Suarau reiterated the state government’s commitment to restructure the Oko-oba abattoir, improve operations in the complex and develop the red meat value chain.
He also said that plan was under way to fence the abattoir, remove slums, shanties and markets in and around the complex and ensure solid waste management.
The commissioner gave assurance that the ministry would continue to train butchers, dislodge illegal abattoirs, seize stray animals and monitor the transportation of meat to and from abattoirs and slaughter slabs in the State.
“Currently, the State government and stakeholders in the abattoir are collaborating to harness the Eko Large Ruminant Animal Project.
“This is to enhance the integration of cognate sub projects such as feed milling, animal slaughtering and processing and distribution and marketing of processed beef.’’
The commissioner re-affirmed the commitment of government to bring development into the red meat value chain.
He noted that there was a growing recognition that the planned reform was desirable to meet the State’s mega city status.
“This will ensure that we move from the traditional way of animal slaughtering to a mechanised system and ensure full utilisation of the abattoir in an efficient, effective and healthy way.
“This reform is focusing on food security, facility and environmental hygiene and processing protection,’’ Suarau said.