By Maria Famakinwa
Vero, (not real name) a 21-year-old girl ventured into liquor business three years ago after failure to pass her WAEC at the second attempt. The lady who started the business with N5000 beside her father’s house around Democracy Park, Akure, described the business as lucrative.
Vero who also added prepared cow skin (Ponmo sauce) pepper soup with it to attract more customers revealed to this writer that she was making cool money from the business as men were seen at her kiosk, drinking and having a swell time while she daily smiles to the bank.
With the emergence of N50 and N100 spirits and gin in sachets, it has attracted many teenagers. Alcoholic drinks in sachets are the most common commodities on the street today, anyone who wants to start petty trading on the street starts with gin in sachets.
Investigation by The Hope revealed that motorparks and garages are now choked with sellers of liquor. The growing influx of sellers, manufacturers and consumers of the products suggests that it is a booming business in Nigeria despite its health implications. To get more facts, this writer visited another seller, Mrs Opeyemi Ojo, adjacent Total Petrol station one early morning. While she was still attending to customers who were mostly unruly, one of them asked the writer the brand she wanted as he offered to buy for her. The writer refused but asked him some questions on the liquor.
The man who had become tipsy gave his name as ‘Bullet’ and sat beside the writer with a sachet of a gin. When asked why some men take liquor, said in Yoruba ‘mokole'(libido booster) “It is consumed by sexually active men to boost their sexual prowess. The one in my hand is the seventh sachet, I have taken and I can still take more if I so wish.” He left after a friend dragged him away that he should not take more liquor.
There are types of sachet liquor as displayed on the canter. When asked the seller, Opeyemi, how much is required to start the business, she said from N5000 and above. On how much a sachet cost, she said from N20 to N50.
As the conversation continued, two teenagers came to buy two sachets, cut it and drank. The writer asked Opeyemi why she sells to teenagers. In response said, ” I mostly sell to motorists, okada riders and passers-by but atimes sell to teenagers when they come because if I refuse to sell to them, they will buy from others. Besides, there is nothing wrong selling sachet gin of N20 to teenagers especially now that there is hamattan everyone needs it.”
When told that liquor is dangerous to health, she disagreed and said, “It is like the food we eat, even there are some food that when we eat will upset our stomachs, the same goes for gin. Though, some may condemn it, that does not rule out the fact that it also help our bodies to function optimally. This will make it the second carton, I have sold this morning and I would have sold up to three cartons if I had been here earlier. You can take one and taste to testify to its effectiveness,” the writer thanked her and left.
The same scenario played out at Oando Petrol station junction opposite Cathedral where a young lady who simply gave her name as Evelyn was selling liquor. Covering her body with wrapper against the cold weather, this writer in order to gain her attention bought a sachet of Seaman for N50. Evelyn wares was a brimming tray of long strips of sachets and small bottles of gin.
When asked who were her customers and how many cartons she has sold as at 7.34am said that she had sold two cartons and just opened the third one and that motorists and Okada riders patronise her. It was surprising to see two students on their way to school bought three sachets. Few seconds after, another student also requested for a sachet. This writer asked her that she never mentioned students as part of those patronising her and that it was wrong selling liquor to underage children.
She became angry and said,” Some of these underage buying liquor are most times sent by adults. Besides, given the cold weather now, some of these children need gin to warm their bodies. Even if you feel that it is bad for children to take liquor, it is not my business to correct them if their parents cannot talk to them, I am to sell my market to whoever shows interest. These small bottles and sachet drinks are the fastest selling products today. Both old and young buy. So, a reasonable trader will stock them. As a single mother of four, this is what I do to sustain my family and it is not possible to send buyers away.”
One of the customers who have been busy sipping a sachet but listening to our conversation cuts in and said,” If liquor gin is bad as many thought, why did government not close down companies producing them? For your information, liquor sells more than foodstuffs, it serves as body cleanser, cures backache, fights malaria, prevents toothache and serves as source of livelihood to many families. With it, I can go many rounds and still retain my power. That is why it is experiencing a huge patronage rate across the country. You can as well start the business to understand what I am saying.
The story was not different with Judith who was dozing off when this writer visited her around By-Pass as she complained that she was tired because she woke up 4.30am to get to her shop so as not to lose customers. She admitted making good profit to feed her family. The woman whose entire stock were alcoholic drinks also revealed that some teenagers do partronise her but was not sure if they were sent.
When asked if her husband supported her business, she answered in the affirmative and hinted that she also supported her family from the profit she made. “The salary of my husband as a police officer is not enough to keep the home. In fact, I prefer it to any government work because its affordability has led to an increase in the consumption rate.”
Asked if she would want any of her children to venture into the business rejected it immediately and said, “The fact that I make huge profit from the business does not mean that any of my children will sell gin because of insults associated with the business and the way society look down on women selling liquor. Men make advances at you and you cannot fight them so as not to lose customers. Aside waking up very early which affect your health.”
One of her customers who gave his name as Baba Ibadan, said,” These small bottles and sachet drinks are the fastest selling products today. Both old and young buy them. “Gin is good for energy sustainability, fight dysentery. If it is dangerous to people’s well being, no one will be buying it, but consumption on a daily basis has been on the rise. I wonder why some people are against gin when it is not poisonous. I know of a medical practitioner who cannot do without liquor. Gin makes my day and gingers me to work. It arouses men’s sexual urge and helps couples who desire multiple births.”
The Hope spoke with Secretary, S.O Road Transport, Akure, Mr Abiodun Adeyinminu, on steps taken to rid motor parks of liquor sellers. He explained that the union does not have the power to send them away because they have been there for long but maintained that none of their drivers must be found buying or taking gin. Otherwise, such would be sanctioned.
His words,” It is a law in our union that none of our drivers must drink or smoke and if we noticed any of them smelling alcohol, such will be dismissed because our State Chairman detests it that he banned a driver who was in the habit of taken alcohol. It is risky for drivers to take alcohol so as not to endanger theirs lives and that of the passengers.”
This writer immediately pointed out to him a woman selling alcohol close to the park but he said, “Though, the shop is closer to the park but you cannot see any of our driver there. Those buying from the woman are not our members. Our members can only take non alcoholic drinks, if we perceive alcoholic odour from any driver, such is gone.
The Hope spoke with Ondo State Federal Road Safety Corps Public Relations Officer, Mrs Oluwadamilola Jayeola, to get her reactions, she revealed that the incident of drivers driving under the influence of alcohol had been reduced in recent times due to series of education and sensitisation embarked upon by the commission with drivers.
On steps taken to rid motor parks of liquor sellers said,”We have already concluded plan to flush them out of motor parks as soon as the State Governor is sworn in for the second term.”
While explaining the health implications of consuming liquor, Dr Bola Arohunmolase, Primary Care Board, Akoko North-East Local Government, warned that health implications of consuming liquor ranges from physical damage to body system which has direct impact on the liver and cardiovascular system. He said,”The liver is involved in the detoxification of alcohol in the body and if the liver is stressed, it causes liver cell damage. The liver gets shrink which prevents the liver cell to carry out some of its primary function. It can also lead to liver cancer. On the cardiovascular system, the excessive alcohol convert to excessive fat in the body that lead to hypertension, ulceration among others. It can also lead to mental health and domestic violence. When a driver is drunk, can as well lead to accident.”
On the way out, the medical Doctor who made it known that we are in a secular society which make it impossible to ban sales of liquor advice government to continue educating the masses on the danger of consuming liquor and also increase taxes on liquor producers to discourage consumption. He also called on parents and guardians to be alive to their responsibilities and be mindful of what their children are doing. “In a situation whereby school students are taking liquor on their way to school, how will they behave when they get to school?. They are the type who will get to higher institutions and join cult. Parents must work more on their children.”