Chapter 15: Cultural practices and alcohol policy in Nigeria: The facts, the myths and the truth by Innocent A. Nwosu


Alcohol drinks have been the oldest and the most widely used intoxicating substance since prehistoric times. As European explorers and empires expanded their territories across the world between 1500s – 1900s, they noticed indigenous alcoholic drinks in all places except Australasia, Oceania and North America roughly north of the US-Mexico border (Room, 2013). It has also been noted that alcohol has been widely consumed since prehistoric times by man as a component of the standard diet, for hygiene and medical reasons, for its relaxant and euphoric
effects, for recreational purpose, for artistic inspiration, as aphrodisiacs and other purposes. At times, drinks are used for religious and mystical purposes (Ng‘en Dimelu et al, 2011).
Before the colonial era in Nigeria, alcoholic drinks were produced locally either by tapping it from the palm tree (palm wine) or fermented it from cereals such as guinea corn (sekete or burukutu) or distilling palm wine to produce spirit (local gin — kaikai or ogogoro). At that time, drinking of alcoholic beverages was restricted to adult males. However, on few occasions adult females may be permitted to drink a little. Alcoholic drinks are taken by men for pleasure essentially at the end of the day’s labour. Nursing mothers are allowed to drink palm wine to enhance the production of breast milk for proper lactation of their babies.
In most traditional societies in Nigeria, there were unwritten laws prohibiting alcohol use by females and children. Under these laws, for a female or child to take alcohol, it must be under the watchful eyes of an adult male. The guided consumption of alcohol beverage by females and children are usually to drive away
cold or for other medical reasons such as treatment of measles in children.