10 million cylinders for a failed cooking gas revolution

Last week, the federal government announced what amounted to a counter-offensive for its failed cooking gas revolution. 

Ibe Kachikwu, a former group managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Nigeria’s immediate past minister of state for petroleum resources, announced the cooking gas revolution in the dying days of 2015.

The minister vowed to drive  kerosene out of Nigerian kitchens and to replace it with cooking gas.  

Kachikwu’s cooking gas revolution was to commence with the flooding of Nigerian kitchens with free gas cookers and cylinders.

It was designed to kill two birds with one stone.

It was to lure Nigerians away from kerosene consumption and save the billions of naira NNPC was wasting on subsidy in a desperate bid to keep the pump price of kerosene at N50 per liter. 

Perhaps the greatest target of the revolution was the desire to end the catastrophic advance of the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic Ocean which is inadvertently accelerated by the use of firewood as domestic cooking fuel in Nigeria’s impoverished rural communities and urban slums.

Kachikwu’s cooking gas revolution was a calamitous failure. He left office on May, 29, 2019 without delivering even one gas cooker or cylinder in a Nigerian kitchen.

Instead, the kerosene he vowed to drive out of Nigerian kitchens ended up driving cooking gas out of some Nigerian kitchens as an odd combination of rising crude oil price, depreciating naira and the imposition of 7.5 per cent value added tax (VAT) on imported cooking gas priced the clean energy source out of the reach of many Nigerians.   

Last week the federal government announced the implicit counter offensive for the cooking gas revolution through Musa Ibrahim, managing director of Nigeria LPG who was addressing an audience at a sensitization gathering in Bauchi.

Ibrahim announced plans by government to inject 10 million cooking gas cylinders into the market. No dateline was given for the planned massive injection. Ibrahim was equally silent on the price of the cylinders to be supplied.

The key factors in the announcement that would have excited consumers were conspicuoulsly absent. No one knows when the cylinders will be delivered.

The price of gas cylinder is one of the factors responsible for Nigeria’s abysmally low annual consumption of cooking gas which stood at a shameful 1 million metric tons in 2020. 

The price of an empty 12.5kg gas cylinder stands menacingly at N18,000. In the last six months the cost of refilling the empty cylinder had sailed perilously close to N10,000 in some communities.

A belated intervention by the federal government managed to push the price of the 12.5 kg of cooking gas to N7,500 at big retail outlets in Lagos. Smaller retailers still sell it at N8,000.    

There could not have been a better venue for the sensitization gathering by Nigeria LPG. Bauchi state is one of the states with very low forest reserve and high consumption of fire wood as domestic cooking fuel.

The federal government needs more converts from there into its gas revolution if the journey of the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic Ocean must be halted. It can also stem the spewing of millions of tons of carbon from firewood into the atmosphere which is one of the sources of the climate change devastating the planet.

The second part of the failed cooking gas revolution may be what the federal government is toiling to revive with the planned injection of 10 million cylinders into the market. Two years ago NNPC announced plans to make gas distributors the sole owners of empty cooking gas cylinders. 

The plan to pump 10 million cylinders into the market might be part of that change of ownership.

Under that noble plan, NNPC was to ensure that consumers get a different gas cylinder at the retailers shop each time they refill. The plan was absolutely necessary because the current situation where consumers own cylinders, amounts to a ticking time bomb that could explode and set Nigeria’s abysmal gas consumption rate several years backward.

The life span of a standard gas cylinder is 15 years. But with consumers owning gas cylinders and the price of new ones heading for the stars, there are gas cylinders in some Nigerian kitchens that are 30 years old.

They constitute the greatest threat to gas consumption in Nigeria. The abysmal rate of gas consumption in Nigeria is partially blamed on the unfounded fear of some consumers that gas would explode, kill people and destroy homes.

If the federal government fails to get expired cylinders out of Nigerian kitchens, scores of them could explode simultaneously at a given time and give Nigeria an immeasurable public relations catastrophe.

The federal government should fast-track the gas cylinder ownership policy and ensure that no gas cylinder older than 15 years remains in Nigerian kitchens.

The move to drive kerosene and firewood out of Nigerian kitchens is a Herculean task because Nigeria has a penchant for importing what it has in abundance and exporting what it lacks.

The importation of cooking gas with a weak naira when associated gas worth N300 billion is flared annually in Nigerian oil fields is at the root of the escalating cost of cooking gas.

The gas revolution can only succeed if the price of gas in Nigeria is as low as what obtains in neighbouring, impoverished Benin Republic, which imports all the gas it consumes.

Few in Nigeria can afford gas even at N4,000 per 12.5kg cylinder. 

The federal government has set for itself the ambitious target of raising gas consumption from a paltry 1 million to 6 million metric tons per annum by 2027.

Nigeria’s annual per capita consumption of cooking gas stands at a dismal 2.6kg. Senegal, a poorer country in all ramifications chalks up an impressive 9kg.

Gas remains the cleanest domestic cooking fuel. However, it is no longer affordable in Nigeria. The ambitious consumption target set by the federal government can only be attained if the price of a 12.5kg cylinder of cooking gas drops below N4,000.