"Fura da Nono" is one of the most cherished local food drinks in Northern Nigeria, yet, one hardly passes through the ever -busy streets of Lagos without catching a glimpse of women hawking the local drink, which comes chilled in bottles.
Inside the scorching sun of Lagos, a middle aged woman, one afternoon, stood before a white plastic container filled with chilled Fura da Nono, at the top of her voice, she called out for customers. Her effort was not in vain as some passers-by stopped to buy the drink.
To Inna Ibrahim, as the woman identified herself, the scorching sun was a cue for a good market, because the demand for the drink is always high.
Lagos being a humid state in most months of the year, the weather always provides a ready-made market for soft drinks, thus, allowing a brisk business for Fura hawkers.
In many of parts of the North, "Fura da Nono" or just "Fura" as some people prefer to call the local drink which is prepared from milk derived from cows (yoghurt) mixed with parboiled, mashed millet grains and spiced with ginger, pepper and sugar, is usually served in a small metal container or even a calabash. But the availability of small containers with firm covers has brought about a revolution that is a departure from the way it is served, especially in emerging mega cities like Lagos.
Although many Fulani women who hawk Fura in small calabashes or metal bowls can still be found at strategic places in and around Lagos, the bottled (recycled table water or mineral drinks bottles) Fura appears to be available in many places.
The local cuisine which originated from the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group, is today found in many areas of Nigeria and even beyond, where for instance in Lagos, one comes across different ethnic groups engaged in trading the local soft drink, this is because, as our correspondent gathered, the business brings in money due to the acceptability of the drink.
"In Lagos, any food item that is acceptable to the people, such as Fura da Nono, it is likely to attract brisk business , that is why you see people of different ethnic backgrounds engaged in selling Fura da Nono, we have people from Benin Republic, Ghana, Cameroon and Togo who are residents in Lagos and are enjoying high patronage and sales from this business," said Ladidi Abdul Azizi, a Ghanaian, who also sells the drink.
According to Halimatu Sadiya Isma'il, a Hausa woman who sells the drink, the number of people in Lagos that sell Fura, is quite large, adding, "in Obalende area alone, I know more than 40 women who sell this drink. Ee are not even talking about areas like Agege, Mile 12, Ketu, Sabo and the rest of them, honestly speaking, we are many."
The benefits derived from the business, she said, are many; such as giving their children the opportunity to go to good school and one always has the chance of sending money back home.
Depending on the market, the hawkers revealed that they make about N5,000 daily, especially when the weather is hot.
But despite the array of assorted soft drinks, one wonders why many opt for Fura da Nono, Segun Abayomi explains: "Actually it was curiosity that pushed me initially to taste the drink. I used to see these women selling it, one day said let me taste it and to my surprise it tasted good, that was how I started buying Fura."
Elizabeth James on her part said she likes Fura and nono because she got use to it when she was staying at Agege with her uncle. "I buy it whenever I can afford to and my younger ones always ask me to come with some whenever I am going out."
She added "the sugar in Fura is regulated, but the sugar content in most of these soft drinks comes in high quantity and the nutritional value is okay."
The nutritional value of the drink cannot be quantified, especially if properly handled. Doctor Bupwatda Pokop, a Public Health practitioner said, "Fura da nono has carbohydrate, protein and quite a number of other useful ingredients that are of benefit to health. I think it is safe to say that the drink is better than the assorted drinks we have, especially when the milk is properly boiled before packaging and apart from that Fura does not contained any preservative."
The price of a bottle of Fura has risen over time; a bottle now goes for a N100 in Lagos, according to Maryam Musa, another Fura seller reminiscing that "when the business first came to Lagos, with N10 you can have your Fura, but because of the rise in prices of food items, especially, the ingredients we use, a bottle usually goes for N100."
On the whole, the business of selling Fura, as our correspondent also gathered, does not require a huge capital to start as with of N5,000 one can venture into the business.
But is the business devoid of any challenges? Maryam replies: "Our greatest concern is the way we are sometimes being maltreated by the law enforcement agents when we are doing our business. I want to appeal to the authorities to consider our plight and allow us to contribute our own quota to the state. We chose to do this business because we want to remain productive citizens not a burden to the society."