Unease as Nigerians resort to firewood, kerosene for cooking




PAUL OKAH writes that despite the health hazards Nigerians, particularly residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have resorted to the use of firewood, kerosene, and other sources of energy for cooking.  

In the olden days, the choice of firewood as source of energy was never a concern as Nigerians and indeed Africans relied on wood for cooking their meals, regardless of the occupation or class in society.

However, with the turn of the 20th Century, many homes embraced the use of gas for cooking despite warnings by experts over the health hazards associated with its use.

These days, the situation seems to have changed as the rising cost of living, especially the increase in price of cooking gas, is forcing citizens, especially the low-income earners, to return to the use of wood, sawdust, kerosene stove and other sources for cooking of their daily meals.  

Lamentations 

The increase in the cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), popularly known as cooking gas or simply gas, has become a source of worry to residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Checks by this reporter show that a 5kg of cooking gas is now sold for N3, 500, while 12.5kg is N8, 750, depending on the location in the FCT, which represents an increment of over 20 per cent in the last two months as 5kg of cooking gas was sold for N2, 250, while 12.5kg was sold for N5, 625 in August.

In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, an attendant at AA Tibbo Oil and Gas in Jahi, located opposite Mabushi Ultramodern Market, who gave his name simply as Michael, expressed concerns that the cost of cooking gas has been on the increase since June.

He said: “I am greatly bothered by the way the price of cooking gas has been on the increase since the second quarter of this year. For instance, last two weeks, I took delivery of 1.5 tonnes of gas at N942, 000. However, just thirty minutes ago, I took delivery of the same quantity at N1.42 million. We have been selling N650 per kg since last two weeks. However, with this another increase, we now sell at N700. I know there will be another increase.

 “From experience, the price will continue to rise till December. When we can anticipate a drop in the price of gas should be next year. I am particularly worried because the cost of living is rising on a daily basis. Many people no longer fill their cylinders as they used to. Those who usually fill 12.5kg now come in to fill 5kg with the same cylinder. The situation is really something to worry about, but it is not our fault as a gas station.”

While retailers have expressed anxiety, cooking gas users in the FCT noted that the “everyday increase” in the price of gas as well as the rise in the cost of living is taking its toll on the different classes of people, especially as salaries of civil servants are not being increased.

A teacher in Kado Kuchi, a settlement in the FCT, Mrs. Aisha Yusuf, said the continuous rise in price of cooking gas has forced Nigerians to resort to using firewood, charcoal, sawdust and other unrefined energy sources, which are not good for the health.

“I am presently making use of charcoal to cook, as I stopped making use of my gas cylinder since August when the price started increasing. Many of my neighbours use firewood, sawdust, since kerosene is also sold at N400 per litre. However, these alternate sources are now becoming scarce and costly due to the frequent demand by low income earners. For instance, I used to buy a bag of charcoal at N1500, but it increased to N3, 500 just last week when I went to buy. I had to buy half bag at N1, 750. 

“This is a difficult time to be a Nigerian. I don’t even know what to say, but the truth is that the economy is not favourable to anyone. When those working are complaining, what then can you say about those that are unemployed and low income earners? The price of cooking gas has forced many people to embrace other sources of energy, which are not healthy for our health. But what do you expect us to do? The government must intervene to help the situation.”

Marketers’ concenrs

Interestingly, the National Association of LPG Marketers expressed worry over the supply shortage leading to the persistent increase in the price of the commodity, warning that 12.5kg of cooking gas could rise to N10, 000 before December, if nothing was done to address the crisis.

 In a recent statement by the organisation’s Team Lead, Adeola Yusuf, the executive secretary of the National Association of LPG Marketers, Mr. Bassey Essien, disclosed this during the weekly e-discourse organised by a leading Pan-African Forum, Platforms Africa.

He said, “Today, the price has risen to N7, 500 and N8, 000. The skyrocketing price of gas is our fear and what we are trying to avoid. Early in the year, a 20-metric ton of gas was selling for below N5m, but today, the same tonnage sells for N10.2 million. As long as there is that supply shortage, the available quantity and the dynamics of supply-demand will keep pushing the price higher.”

Essien said the association was concerned that more Nigerians were being forced to return to coal, sawdust, kerosene, and other dirty fuel as “the price of the cooking gas has suddenly gone up.”

He, however, said the association was interfacing with the government, stakeholders, producers and importers to see how the situation could be addressed.

Essien added: “We are also meeting with the marketers vide moral suasion not to capitalise on the situation to inflict more pains on citizens by increasing the cost of gas in their locations though they are equally expending huge cost to have cooking gas at their locations.”

Minister’s warnings 

On October 6, during the 2021 Nigeria Clean Cooking Forum held in Abuja, the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, said more than 90,000 Nigerian women and children die annually from firewood smoke as over 70% of Nigeria’s population relies solely on fuel wood in meeting their energy needs for cooking and heating.

She noted that deforestation equivalent of 5.4Mt of CO2 (GFW) result from unsustainable wood harvesting, thereby reducing carbon uptake by forests. According to her, the Ministry has supported the implementation of programmes on clean cooking to help the nation reduce its GHG emissions and also boost green growth. 

 “If current policies are allowed to continue, by 2030, 60% or more of all households in Nigeria will still be cooking with traditional biomass. Dependency on biomass for cooking and or heating purposes increases pressure on local natural resources. It poses threat to the health and safety of end-users, mainly women often accompanied by their children. 

 “Nigeria’s residential sector contributes over 50% of national total emissions of Green House Gases. The use of cleaner, more modern cookstoves and fuels can dramatically reduce exposure to harmful smoke thereby improving the health of rural women, creating wealth, provide myriad economic opportunities for Nigerians and has important environmental and climate benefits,” she said.

However, speaking earlier at the event, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the executive director, International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED), Ewah Otu Eleri, while detailing the negative health, economic and environmental impacts of inadequate access to clean cooking solutions in Nigeria, said “Nigeria needs a policy, financing framework and to build partnerships with the international community for clean cooking.”

“There is a need for the government’s intervention, with a view to ensuring the use of locally sourced cooking gas and removal of VAT on imported LPG; to reduce the present hike in the price of LPG. Its affordability and usage will save lives of Nigerians,” he said.

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