The Donkey Skin Processors Marketers and Export Association (DSPMEA), has refuted claims by a United Kingdom-based group, the Donkey Sanctuary, that the Nigerian donkey specie is going into extinction.
The association however, said the Nigerian donkey market value chain can generate about $2 billion annually for the country.
To ensure growth of the sector, the body said it has concluded plans to visit Nigeria between May 13 and 15 to seek support for a bill to prohibit the killing and export of donkeys or their derivatives as reported in one of Nigerian dailies on May 7.
In a statement issued on Monday by its National Vice President Ifeanyi Dike, the DSPMEA said that the claim that donkey population is going into extinction was false.
He added that the association in collaboration with the Earthwheel Logistics Ltd, a private company, has established a multi-billion naira investment used in breeding, processing, marketing and the export of donkeys and donkey derivatives in some parts of the country.
"We have set up donkey ranches in Bauchi and Jigawa states and other parts of the north, and we have established another mini ranch in Ufuma in Anambra state, where modern facilities have been put in place to enhance the breeding of donkeys, which in the long run will multiply the donkey population in the country in their millions.
"This initiative to produce more donkeys and use their derivatives for export in order to earn foreign exchange for Nigeria is in line with the diversification agenda of the Federal Government in the agriculture sector", he said.
The statement also noted that the Donkey producers and processors, with about 5,000 members in the country, are also collaborating with the Nigerian Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) for a structured framework to breed donkeys to preserve local stock and to tackle the menace of smuggling.
"We understand the need to grow our local donkey stock and that is why we are working with the Federal Government on modalities to regulate the breeding, processing, marketing and exporting of donkeys and donkey products which will benefit the government as well as create the needed jobs and stop smuggling our donkeys," he added.
He said further that the donkey business value chain has created over 5,000 jobs ranging from the people who are breeding to those who are slaughtering and those who are selling even as he called on government to take cognizance of this value chain and avoid any imposition of ban on the business to avoid people being thrown out of jobs in this era of high unemployment.
He pointed out that donkeys are very traditional to the Nigerian people as people use them in varied ways including for food, stressing that is the reason the entire Nigerian people must be educated and enlightened on how to grow the donkeys which is exactly what the investors are trying to do.
"Donkeys are traditionally used as a symbol of authority, gift and weddings in parts of the South East and South South and also the project did not exclude local breeding.
"We have a project of village breeding where the association and Earthwheel Logistics Limited are distributing donkeys to villagers for them to breed so that these donkeys will not go into extinction because in the next five years we want the population of donkeys to be more than cows in Nigeria. So the corporate bodies and individuals are investing in local headers to achieve this purpose," he said.
He explained that Earthwheel Logistics has concluded VB arrangement with a foreign partner, who will assist in teaching the latest technology on donkey breeding and enhance the capacity of the breeders.
Mr. Dike charged all stakeholders to eschew any fear of extinction and brace the challenge to exploit the opportunity to create more wealth for Nigeria using the resources provided by donkeys.
"We understand the fears in certain quarters about donkeys going into extinction, but these fears are misplaced and even the bill to prohibit the export of donkeys may not have gone through some empirical processes. This business has the potential to generate about $2 billion to Nigeria annually.
"We therefore believe we are all on the same page to grow and preserve our donkey stock but we must maximize the advantage of having such a resource and organize the business to add value to the country's economy as it is being done in Pakistan, Egypt and other places instead of this morbid fear of extinction," he said.