NIGERIANS are beginning to shift to dirty fuels such as sawdust and charcoal as the prices of cooking gas, also known as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), continue to rise.
The price of LPG in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) increased from an average of N4,800 for a 12.5kg cylinder in June to about N7500-N8000 in October.
In Lagos, two persons who bought gas between early and mid-October said they paid N6,400 and N7,200 respectively. The price was below N5,000 in June, they said.
The 10.5 kg of gas costs N6,300 to N6,500 in Abuja. Same in Lagos.
A resident of Port Harcourt Johnson Wogu said he bought 10.5kg at N6,000 in late September 2021.
According to warnings by gas marketers, the 12.5kg of gas is likely to cost N10,000 in the coming weeks.
Sarah Adejo, who lives in Piwoyi, Abuja, told The ICIR that she had newly acquired a charcoal stove with which she prepares food that consumes more gas such as beans.
“I don’t cook beans with gas anymore. I bought a charcoal stove and I use it to cook food that takes time to cook, like beans,” she said.
Yetunde Alade is a mother of three who lives in Mpape. She is considering the same option as Adejo and said it had been difficult keeping up with the steady increase in the price of the product.
President of the National Association of Liquified Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM) Bassey Essien, who spoke in a recent symposium, had expressed worry that more Nigerians were gradually being forced to return to coal, sawdust, kerosene, and other dirty fuels, a situation he said had severe and environmental implications.
Chika Richard manages a gas station in Lugbe. A kilogram (kg) of cooking gas costs N600 at his facility. He sells a 5kg cylinder for N3000 and a 12.5kg cylinder for N7500.
Richard had sold a kilogram of gas at N4800 in the first half of this year. It had increased to N416/kg in June with a 12.5kg cylinder going for N5200. The price increased again in July and seemed to have maintained a steady rise since then.
“In July, there was an increase to N476 for 1kg, making 12.5kg N5950. It increased again to N512 in September,” he said.
He told The ICIR that he did not understand the reason behind the increase and noted that business had been slow in recent times.
“Customers are complaining a lot, especially those that use it for business. With the increase, the sales are reducing because many people can no longer afford the price. Now, when customers come, most of them are not happy. They ask the cause for the increase and I don’t know what the cause is,” he said.
In Apo, Chinedu Raymond has a shop by the roadside where he sells cooking gas. He has also recorded a decrease in sales as customers now buy in lesser quantities than they used to.
“The price I sell each kg is N700. But if you are going for 12.5 kg, it goes for N8000. The 6kg is N4000 and 5kg is N3500. It has been a bit challenging because people no longer feel free to buy the way they used to buy. Some who used to buy full cylinders are now reducing it to half or less than that,” he said.
Reason for the increase
The devaluation of naira has left a negative impact on the price of LPG as a large quantity of cooking gas used in Nigeria is imported, despite the country being a gas-endowed state.
The global gas crisis caused by shortage in supply of natural gas is also a contributing factor to the price surge of LPG in Nigeria, analysts say.
Marketing Manager of the Nigerian Liquid Natural Gas (NLNG) Austin Ogbogbo, during a press briefing in Lagos last month, had also attributed the rising cost of LPG in Nigeria to the inability of domestic marketers to procure a large per cent of gas supplied.
Ogbogo said the decline in procurement was due to challenges with logistics and infrastructure in the industry.
However, stakeholders within the sector have identified other reasons for the hike, including the imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) by the Federal Government (FG) on gas imported into the country.
The imposition of VAT on imported gas by the FG goes contrary to government’s plan to increase the use of gas in the country.
Bassey Essien, earlier mentioned, said if the government did not address the recently introduced import charges and VAT, the price of cooking gas might as well hit N10,000 for a 12.5kg cylinder, soon.
In March 2021 Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had declared 2021-2030 as the decade of gas.
Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had also announced the Federal Government’s intention to increase the number of people using LPG from five per cent to 90 per cent by the end of the decade.
He said this at the opening of the National LPG sensitization programme held in June and expressed the FG’s desire to discourage Nigerians from cooking with fuel that was harmful to the environment and human health.
Osinbajo noted that about 900,000 people were negatively affected annually as a result of cooking with dirtier fuels, and said measures were being put in place by the FG to ensure affordability of gas, including providing five to ten million gas cylinders next year.
However, barely two months later, the FG began the implementation of VAT on LPG which led to an increase in the price of the product.
Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Sarki Auwalu had said the government re-imposed VAT to generate revenue and attract investments.
But the re-introduction of VAT on LPG by the FG calls to question its intention to promote the use of cooking gas among Nigerians.
Oil and Gas Analyst with Chapelhill Denham Mustafa Wahab said in a monitored broadcast that Nigeria might have to live with the price hike until the import gap of 40 per cent was closed by investors.
“The NLNG supply is around 25-30 per cent of the cooking gas and other local producers supply around 15 per cent and that leaves import of almost 40 per cent and that has exposed us to the external vulnerability on the cooking gas.
“Also, we see the Federal Government imposing VAT to LPG import in an environment where we are not self-sufficient in LPG local production. The key question is how soon we are going to be self-sufficient in gas.
“The FID train 7 of LNLG has been signed and this Train 7 would add 35 per cent to the LNLG capacity in gas production and increase the domestic supply of LPG that Nigeria urgently needs. Until the project kick-starts around June next year, we may live with this challenge.”
Increasing prices, health and climate change
The increase in the price of LPG has left Nigerians exploring other options such as charcoal and firewood.
These solid fuels have damaging effects on human health. The ICIR had reported how constant exposure to smoke from cooking with firewood put people at risk of respiratory issues and bad eyesight.
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that an estimated 95,300 Nigerians die every year as a result of indoor pollution, which largely results from cooking with solid fuels.
Beyond the health implications, burning solid fuel also releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the air. These trap heat in our atmosphere, causing global warming and a depletion of the airspace, experts say.
Dependence on solid fuels also worsens deforestation which compounds the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The United Nations (UN) in a report on Tuesday warned that Africa’s few remaining glaciers could melt away within two decades.
“By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods, and extreme heat in Africa if adequate response measures are not put in place,” it read.
Though cooking gas has been assigned a global warming capacity of zero by the UN International Panel on Climate Change, it has become a luxury for most Nigerians who currently live below poverty line.
About 105 million Nigerians are extremely poor, said World Poverty Clock, and cannot afford the use of gas.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.