Nigeria’s poor feel pain of soaring price of cooking gas
After cleaning her teary eyes, Jenifer Abbas arranged more firewood to intensify the flame under her pot. She looked tired and sick, but could not quit her business. She has run the food business for over 25 years, alternating between firewood and cooking gas.
Abbas, who resides in Sabongida village, a community close to Nigeria’s federal capital, battles chest pain and cough. She told BusinessDay that the incessant increase in the price of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) also called cooking gas, has made life more difficult for her.
“I alternate between cooking gas and firewood because I have to factor my children’s school fees into the business. The current rising price of cooking gas won’t allow me to consider it as an option,” Abbas said.
She added, “The little I make from my rice and beans sales are channelled into different responsibilities. With N200 firewood, I will prepare food for my customers for two days and make little money for the needs of my children.”
Eunice Okon, a fruit seller and resident of Lagos State described as worrisome, the rising cost of cooking gas, which she said had made many go back to use of coal and firewood because kerosene was also expensive.
According to Okon, it’s becoming cheaper to cook with charcoal at N200 per bucket of paint than buying 3kg of cooking gas at N2,000 or 12.5kg at N7,500, excluding transportation.
“With the way things are going, the cost of gas may rise to N1, 000 per kilogram by end of the year,” she predicted.
Aina Babatunde, a taxi driver, said he abandoned his gas cooker for a charcoal stove. “Many of us can’t buy cooking gas anymore; the government should do something about it. The price keeps increasing every day.’’
BusinessDay findings revealed that the price of LPG has increased five times in the last two months.
Findings further showed that a 12.5kg cooking gas cylinder was sold in Lagos for N3,800 in October 2020; N4,500 in June and July 2021; N6,000 in September, and now N7,500 in Lagos and Ogun States, depending on locations.
Major fear among consumers and stakeholders is that the price may jump to N10, 000 soonest unless urgent steps are taken to increase local production and improve supply to the market.
Experts blamed the price hike of LPG on the dearth of infrastructure, global shortfall in gas supply, inadequate local production, shortage of foreign exchange (Forex), devaluation of naira and logistic hitches.
“The government need to review the recently introduced import charges and value-added tax (VAT), else the price of cooking gas may as well reach N10,000 for a 12.5kg cylinder,” Bassey Essien, the executive secretary of Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM) said at weekly e-discourse organised by a Platforms Africa.
Recall that in September, oil marketers under the aegis of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), protested the Federal Government’s reintroduction of VAT on imported LPG.
They argued that the introduction of VAT to the already high price of gas which is largely imported due to the global gas crisis will negate the government’s policy on the adoption of LPG.
Members of the association who are major stakeholders in the downstream sector of the oil industry asked the Federal Government to rescind its decision by removing the 7.5 percent VAT on the product, warning that the fee will hamper the adoption of gas in the country and create a barrier to the objectives of the ‘Decade of Gas’ agenda of the government.
“We are also meeting with the marketers via moral suasion not to capitalise on the situation to inflict more pain on citizens by increasing the price of gas in their locations, though they are equally incurring a huge cost to have cooking gas at their locations,” Essien said at the event.
The NALPGAM executive secretary also decried the gradual rise in the cost of cylinders over the years, maintaining that all the raw materials used by the two cylinder manufacturing plants in the country are imported.
He said despite Nigeria’s over 200 million population, the country can hardly boost of 10 million cylinders in circulation, most of which are even substandard, a development that is forcing more households to other means of cooking.
Most health experts say those cooking with firewood and charcoal are likely to develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a condition that makes breathing difficult. Also, children around the vicinity are particularly at risk of asthma.
In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said “each year, close to four million people die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels.”
The organisation also said that non-communicable diseases caused by firewood often lead to premature deaths due to stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
In another report, WHO says smoke emanating from firewood used for cooking is the third greatest killer of women and children in Nigeria as no fewer than 98,000 Nigerian women die annually from smoke inhaled during cooking with firewood.