By Dickson S. Adama (Jos), Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Mohammed Ibrahim Yaba (Kaduna), Ibraheem Hamza Muhammad (Lafia), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), Ojoma Akor, Simon Echewofun Sunday, Olayemi John-Mensah, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja)
survey by Daily Trust Saturday has shown that tea sellers, popularly called mai shayi, often add additives as they brew the commodity for consumers. This was reported in some states by people who patronise the sellers, including hawkers.
The director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, in an interview with a news agency recently, warned that patronising tea vendors was risky as they used additives in brewing tea, a situation that could endanger the kidney and other vital organs of the body.
Our correspondents independently verified this claim across selected states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), through observations, patronage and interactions at tea brewing spots and found proves that some form of drugs, energy drinks and other local additives are mixed with tea.
How tea vendors operate in FCT, others
Mallam Musa operates a tea spot and fast food joint at Nyanya in Abuja, where he runs two sessions. After the early morning prayers he begins to set the fire, clean the spot and get ready for his customers, who are mostly male seeking breakfast before going for the day’s work.
From 4pm he begins another session, with the peak being 7pm to 9pm. By the side of his table lay four benches crisscrossed to form a square, facing the ‘mixing’ table.
Our reporter could see used packs of Lipton tea brand and noodles in the waste bin, some metres away from the ever warm pot on hot charcoal.
One of the customers during the evening session, who appeared to be in his late 30s, demanded a cup of coffee mixed with black tea, saying after labouring in the sun, such mixture would help to prevent fever.
At another time, a bus conductor, who gave his name Jimoh Bello, told our reporter that at the tea spot, it is believed that when mixed with cough syrup, the tea helps one to sleep better at night. “There are times you may have sleepless nights, but if you try tea with syrup you can sleep better; but I don’t do that always,” he said.
But Mallam Musa said the only thing he added in his large bowl of boiling water was ginger because of its health benefits. “I don’t add anything in the water. And when mixing the tea, I ask the buyer the brand he wants. If he chooses to mix any other thing, then that is not within my control.”
Our correspondent who went round to monitor some tea shops in Jos, the Plateau State capital, observed that what the tea sellers included in the tea pots were normal and without any form of drug whatsoever. The dustbins were also closely scrutinised and no sachet of any drug was found.
However, it was also found that most tea sellers in the state include ginger in their tea pot, according to popular demand because of its medicinal value in tackling sicknesses like fever and pile.
One of the tea sellers said they often have two pots: while one contains ginger, the other is plain hot water with which they mix sugar, milk, coffee and other tea brands.
A customer at a tea shop in Unguwar Rogo community of Jos North, Abdullahi Ibrahim, said that for the past 10 years he had been taking early morning and evening tea. “I have never seen tea sellers include paracetamol or even drugs in their tea.”
But when he visited Kano once and went to a tea joint, he found three pots, and he was told that one of them contained a substance that could make one ‘high’ or intoxicated.
A tea seller in the same area, Dahiru Adam, said for about 20 years that he had been selling tea, he had never put anything people don’t want. But he admitted adding ginger and a form of ground pepper in water meant for making tea. He said it was because people liked it and requested for it.
Other sellers and those who patronise hawkers have, however, expressed fear that vendors who do not have permanent spots mix their tea with sex enhancement drugs.
On where to find such vendors, our reporter was directed to the Ungwan Soja area at Mararaba, Nasarawa State, near Abuja. There, a hawker said their form of tea was medicinal and not for food like what the conventional vendors sell.
“Because a lot of people consume too much sugar, they tend to have issues with their immune system. That is why we hawk tea in small kettles, mixed with herbs. What we are doing is traditional medicine and not drug abuse,” Aminu explained in Hausa.
A tea seller at the British-American Junction in Jos, Isaiah Kwaji, said it’s only places where people smoke and take drugs and other substances that such thing is common. He said he did not put drugs in his tea, apart from the usual components.
In Makurdi, the Benue State capital, nothing else, apart from the empty bottle of ‘Piscof’ found at a tea spot monitored in the High Level area suggested that the Hausa tea seller brewed his beverages with any suspicious substance.
Piscof is said to be a cough syrup, which falls in the category referred to by some young people as codeine diet, usually consumed to ‘feel high’ instead of the purpose of its formation. But it could not be ascertained who used the content between the man who sat close to the empty bottle and the tea seller as both persons tactically exonerated themselves.
Ali Maishai, the tea vendor, insisted that he and his colleagues did not add anything to their tea, other than water, milk, Lipton or Nescafe. But a regular customer, identified as Jamgbinde, at another spot around Wurukum roundabout in Makurdi, alleged that a number of tea sellers had, in time past, been arrested for adding substances to their tea, such as cannabis and tramadol.
For Alhaji Hassan Adamu, whose spot is also located at the High Level vicinity of Makurdi, there are days he sells three crates of eggs – two in the morning and one in the evening and 25 loaves of bread a day.
He said the patronage was higher in the morning hours when compared to the evening. He said that apart from tea stock, nothing else is added to the preparation of the beverage for his customers.
“Here (Makurdi), it is water only, no mixing. If you go to the North you would see ‘shayi’ red. They will put Nescafe or Lipton and boil it very well before making the tea,’’ he said.
Another mai shayi, Abdul, denied adding any substance in preparing tea for his customers in his over 10 years of engaging in the business at the Balewa Crescent in Makurdi.
Also, Abdullahi Abubakar, a regular patroniser of tea sellers, said he had never noticed strange substances in his beverage, apart from sugar, stressing that nothing else is added to his tea.
Martha Kwarkar, who was spotted in one of the tea joints at High Level, said she first learnt that substances were added to tea through the alarm raised by the NAFDAC.
Also, a van driver in Kaduna, who gave his name as Bello, said he patronised tea shops a lot as he is not always at home to cook. He revealed that the tea sellers won’t do that for every customer, but admitted that there were ‘special orders.’
According to him, the special local tea prepared may be mixed with drugs like ‘Alabukun’ or tramadol, sold on request at motor parks. “The usual tea sellers that make such combination prepare it only for long journey heavy truck drivers on request. Those mixing their tea with drugs are not the ordinary mai shayi you see around selling tea and bread or frying eggs and Indomie (noodles),” Bello said.
He further revealed that the ‘special tea’ is usually sold in wheelbarrows at motor parks such as Maraban Jos, Mando and others in Kaduna. They are also found in Sokoto, Jega and Gwandu towns in Kebbi, as well as Kano, Minna, Lagos, and even Abuja.
It was learnt that in Kaduna, a cup of the special tea, mixed with substances, is sold in wheelbarrows at N100, on customers’ request.
In another disclosure, Ibrahim Danmalam in Tudun Wada town of Kaduna said patronisers often go with their drugs and mix their tea themselves. “I have never heard any complaint from any of the customers. But I know people go with their drugs and mix it after being served a cup of tea. The tea seller may not necessarily be aware of such practices,” he said.
In Lafia town of Nasarawa State, there was no trace of packs of drugs around the vicinity over five tea spots that were monitored. It was observed that tea sellers have started using gas stoves, but the traditional means of boiling water with firewood still exists.
Isa, a mai shayi, denied using additives. “When people ask for tea, they order for Lipton or Nescafe, milk and Bournvita, with a teaspoon full of sugar or more and for the cup to be filled with hot water or not,” he said.
But our correspondent observed that the vendors, who move about with big kettles, include ginger in their tea water, which they sell with bread. There is a category of hawkers with smaller kettles, often from Niger Republic, who are famous for selling herbs, mostly aphrodisiacs. Patronisers say a small cup could range from N100 to N300 in the state, but that is not an ordinary tea and bread situation.
“Some mai shayi deal in hard drugs substances for customers like long distance drivers who smuggle vehicles. Others are heavy-duty vehicle drivers, labourers who do hard jobs, like digging, tricycle and motorcycle riders,” another tea vendor in Lafia said.
In Kano State, the three categories of tea vendors were also identified. Our survey shows that mobile tea vendors don’t mix their tea as they use only local tea leaves, and they are mostly from Niger Republic.
At some tea spots within the municipal, it was observed that some customers come with additives and ask the vendors to mix their tea with them. Some of these additives seen include sachet energy drinks like ‘Kukuima’ and ‘Passion’. The tea sellers also have two pots – one containing normal tea while the other contains concoction of herbs, which they tagged as ‘Gadagi’ and serves as an energizer.
Ali Karami, a customer, said these tea vendors served people according to their demand, adding that the additives are stronger than Paracetamol. “You will see people, especially those commercial transport operators, coming here with their energy drink that would be mixed in their tea,’’ he said.
There are other tea centres termed as modern tea joints in Kano, with high patronage. It was observed that they thrive more at night as patronisers come with drugs they mix in the tea.
Patronisers prone to liver, kidney failure, others – Medics
In separate reactions, medical experts have warned that the use of addictive substances such as Panadol, Tramadol, marijuana, energy drinks, sexual enhancer and others, has negative after-effects on the human system.
The chief consultant physician at Gwarinpa General Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Ndubuisi Onuoha, said that addition of such substance to tea or any food intake was dangerous to health and should not be encouraged, either by vendors or consumers.
Onuoha said consuming such substances would cause damage to major organs of the body.
The immediate past chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr Albert Alkali, said the addition of such substances in the name of seeking immediate self-satisfaction had brought about the rising cases of kidney and liver problems.
“You can buy your tea and take it at home and not necessarily buy from vendors so that you are sure of what you are consuming into your system,” the medical practitioner cautioned.
Also, a consultant physician and nephrologist, Dr Kwaifa Salihu said the effect of additives such as Panadol, Tramadol and any other substance added to tea could have multiple side effects.
He said that Paracetamol, for example, when taken in a large quantity, could affect the liver, while other medications like Tramadol, Ibuprofen, Butazolidine, Indometacine, also affect the kidney and can cause acute kidney failure directly.
“In a situation where they don’t lead to failure, they can cause inflammation of the kidney. The tea itself can be a Chinese tea of a brand associated with kidney disease, which can cause a condition we term Chinese herbal tea naprapathies,” he noted.
Additive tea dangerous – NAFDAC
In the interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the NAFDAC boss mentioned the dangers of taking tea mixed with additives and drugs.
Prof Adeyeye mentioned the dangers of intoxicating drugs such as Tramadol, Vieteling, marijuana and others, adding that people could lose their lives after taking tea mixed with such drugs. “There are some medicines you cannot take if you have a cardiovascular problem,” she warned.
She, however, called on Nigerians to desist from harmful medicines in the name of power enhancement.