Published: Thursday 31 October 1996

A mysterious ailment has gripped the nation and it is being blamed on 'killer beans'. A series of sudden and mysterious deaths has generated panic among people. It began early last month at Agege, a densely populated part of north Lagos, where about a dozen people succumbed to attacks of vomiting and severe diarrhoea. The disease spread to other parts of the country which is Africa's most populous nation with a population of more than 100 million people. The victims had been eating beans, which were probably contaminated.

Independent investigations have revealed that a dry brown bean with a strong odour of kerosene was responsible for the deaths. Kio Don Pedro, a toxicologist at the Lagos University, corroborated these findings by confirming that a type of legume, smelling of fuel was on sale in the markets.

The government has cautioned people against eating beans until further notice, so that a full investigation into the deaths could be completed. Some experts believe that vomiting and diarrhoea could be the initial signs of a cholera epidemic that has spread across western and central Africa in the past few months.

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