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Are Tiger nut drinks responsible for Nigeria’s ongoing Cholera outbreak?

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Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, has recently experienced a cholera outbreak, which has resulted in nearly 500 suspected cases and several deaths. Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by Vibrio cholerae, a primarily waterborne bacterium. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate access to clean water and poor sanitation.

On June 23, 2024, a TikTok user, @leeleeyancontentcreator, posted a video claiming that the Lagos State Ministry of Health had confirmed tiger nuts as the ‘root cause’ of the cholera outbreak. The video has garnered over 18,000 views, 378 shares, and 345 likes. The user urged viewers to discard any Tiger nut drinks they had. The transcribed message reads: 

“Where are my tiger nut drink lovers? E don happen again. Oh, please avoid tiger nut drinks for now. In fact, if you have tiger nuts in your fridge like me, I beg you to trash it ASAP. This is no joke. Please treat it as important. It has been confirmed by the Ministry of Health Lagos state that tiger nuts are the root cause of the recent Lagos cholera outbreak that has killed over a hundred people. 

“Record that Lagos is under the grip of a vicious cholera outbreak. The monster has swept across the 20 local governments of the state, with Ajeromi, Epe, Ikorodu, Alimosho, and Eti-osa having the highest cases as of Friday, 21st June 2024. Lagos has recorded 24 deaths, 35 confirmed cases, and 417 suspected cases of cholera. 

“Aside from Lagos, 30 other Nigerian states such as Oyo, Ogun, Cross River, and Kano are also experiencing an outbreak of the intestinal illness. In an exclusive report by Punch Newspaper, Dr Kemi Ogunyemi, the special advisor to the Lagos state governor on health, confirmed that tiger nut drinks are the primary cause of the outbreak in Lagos state…”

Are Tiger nut drinks responsible for Nigeria’s ongoing Cholera outbreak?
Screenshot of post and comments 

Claim 1: The Lagos State Government has confirmed tiger nuts as the root cause of the recent cholera outbreak in Lagos.


DUBAWA conducted a keyword search and found that this claim might have originated from an exclusive interview with Ms Ogunyemi, the special adviser to the Lagos State Government on health, published on June 22nd in Punch Newspaper

During the interview, Ms Ogunyemi  was quoted as saying: 

“…We carried out a survey and found that the common denominator, which was one of the deadly factors, was a tiger nut drink. People who came to the hospitals all identified that they had drunk tiger nut drink. We couldn’t just take their word for it, so we had to take that drink and test it to see what was in it. 

“We immediately sent people out to look for those selling it so we could take a sample. We found empty bottles with a name on them, but we discovered that it wasn’t even registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the regulatory body that ensures the safety of consumables.

“From our investigations, we realised that the beverages were not registered, so the producers hadn’t gone through the processes to ensure that what they were producing was safe for the public to consume. We traced it to that. Of course, cholera is also water-borne, so we took samples of the water to test it.”

Further search led to a response from the Director of Public Affairs at the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, published by Premium Times newspaper. Ogunbanwo clarified that Ms Ogunyemi’s comments were misinterpreted and that she did not provide any conclusions about the causes of the outbreak. He noted that multiple potential sources, including Tiger nut drinks, were under investigation.

Claim 2: The Cholera death toll in Nigeria had surpassed one hundred.

Are Tiger nut drinks responsible for Nigeria’s ongoing Cholera outbreak?


The video contained significant inaccuracies, particularly the misrepresentation of figures. The claimant asserted, without evidence or reference to any credible source, that the cholera death toll in Nigeria had surpassed one hundred. However, a check on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) verified that X handle, @NCDCgov, indicated otherwise as of June 25, 2024.

The NCDC post reads: “…As of 24th June 2024, a total of 1,528 suspected cases and 53 deaths have been recorded…”

Claim 3: Ajeromi, Epe, Ikorodu, Alimosho, and Eti-Osa have the highest cases.

Are Tiger nut drinks responsible for Nigeria’s ongoing Cholera outbreak?


The graphical representation of the Local Government Areas affected in Lagos traced to the verified X handle of the Lagos Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, as of June 20, 2024, shows Lagos Island, Kosofe, Lagos Mainland, and Eti-Osa as areas hit with high recorded cases. 

Are Tiger nut drinks responsible for Nigeria’s ongoing Cholera outbreak?
Graph showing LGAs affected in Lagos

Claim 4: There’s been an outbreak of cholera in Kano.

Are Tiger nut drinks responsible for Nigeria’s ongoing Cholera outbreak?


The claim that Kano recorded an outbreak was found to be false, as confirmed on June 26, 2024, to journalists via a press release by the Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Health, Kano, Ibrahim Abdullahi. 

Do Tiger nuts cause Cholera? 

To confirm whether Tiger nuts’ natural properties can be hazardous to human health, DUBAWA conducted a keyword search on the plant’s health implications. Studies (here and here) indicate that tiger nuts are known for their numerous health benefits, as they are rich in fiber, vitamins E and C, potassium, and magnesium. They also have antioxidant properties, support digestive health, help control blood sugar levels, and may improve heart health. 

While the fibrous nature of tiger nuts can cause bloating and gas, especially in individuals with digestive disorders, there is no evidence that their natural content can cause cholera.

Expert Analysis

Dr Olayinka Badmus, Deputy Project Director of Risk Communication and Community Engagement at USAID-funded Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria, analysed the supposed statement made by Dr Kemi Ogunyemi, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Health. 

In a WhatsApp chat with DUBAWA, Dr Badmus noted that while tiger nut drinks were implicated in some of the infected persons, they were not definitively stated as the sole cause of the outbreak. She emphasised that correlation does not necessarily imply causation and that the primary transmission route of cholera is through contaminated water or food. “There’s an urgent need to identify where water and sewage are interfacing in order to curtail this outbreak,” she said.

Dr Badmus also pointed out that the outbreak was not confined to one area. Cases were reported in Lagos Island, Eti-Osa, and Kosofe, suggesting multiple sources of contamination. This broader context indicates that the cholera outbreak is not solely linked to tiger nut drinks but may involve various contaminated sources.

Also speaking to DUBAWA, Dr Yahya Disu, Head of Corporate Communication, Risk Communication and Community Engagement at NCDC, reacted to the claim: 

“This is not true. With flooding, many water sources are contaminated. You cannot know which water sources are used for drinks, which are mostly sold on the streets. It is not only tiger nuts and zobo that fall into this category. It is better for one to take general precautions when consuming drinks sold in the streets, whose source you are not sure of.”

Expanding on this, Dr Polycarp Salam, US-CDC CSM Project Implementation Officer at AFENET, highlighted the importance of hygiene in preparing tiger nut drinks. He told DUBAWA that identifying tiger nut drinks as a common factor in cholera cases is likely due to contaminated water rather than the tiger nut itself. He maintained that tiger nut drinks prepared with clean, safe water in a hygienic environment are safe and healthy to consume. Dr Salam pointed out that this principle applies to other local or homemade drinks like zobo, which can be safe for consumption if prepared with boiled or treated water and clean equipment.


While tiger nut drinks have been identified as a common factor in some cholera cases, they are not definitively the major cause of the outbreak of cholera in Nigeria. Furthermore, the claim of over a hundred deaths is false, with only 53 deaths recorded in the country so far. Although the health benefits of tiger nuts are well-documented, they should be prepared with clean water and in hygienic environments to guard against contamination. 

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship, in partnership with Bridge Radio 98.7FM, Asaba, to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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