Many of Nigeria’s urban dwellers are resorting to charcoal as an alternative source of cooking fuel as prices of domestic gas and kerosene go out of reach.
According to a survey carried out by News Agency of Nigeria, many residents of Abuja are seeking other options for cooking because they can no longer afford kerosene and cooking gas.
BDSUNDAY research in and around Lagos metropolis shows that a similar scenario is also playing out as many can hardly afford to refill their gas cylinders at the exorbitant amounts being called by retailers.
In many areas visited by our correspondent, it was observed that a 12.5kg gas bottle, which was refilled for between N3,500 and N3,700 just before Christmas, now costs between N4,500 and N5,500 to refill, while a 5kg bottle which formerly sold for between N1,600 and N1,800 now goes for between N2,200 and N2,500.
Similarly, a litre of kerosene now sells for between N270 and N300, from its former price of N200 as at November 2016.
A number of Lagos residents who spoke with BDSUNDAY say they are turning to charcoal which provides a cheaper alternative.
Dora Ukong, a resident of Ijeshatedo and a trader at the popular Balogun market, says she has a hot plate that she uses as an alternative when there is power, but she rarely uses it because of the epileptic power supply.
“I cannot afford to refill the gas cylinder because I still owe for the last one that was supplied to me. You see, my husband who works in Cross River State has not been paid for the last four months. I had no choice than to resort to cooking with charcoal,” she says.
Ukong is not alone in her newfound alternative as most local restaurants favour the use of charcoal for cooking.
Madam Sarah, who operates a roadside eatery on Point Road, GRA Apapa, says she has embraced the use of charcoal because it cooks very fast, both for soup and other foods, and it is clean and does not stain pots or pans.
She is concerned, however, that even charcoal is also becoming expensive.
“They used to sell it in N100 packs, but it has increased to N200. On a daily basis, we use like N500 worth of charcoal and it is enough for everything we need to cook. This is all that remains from what we bought today,” she says, pointing to a few coal pieces in a nylon bag.
Blessing Adeniran and her husband who run a canteen around Apapa Wharf have also been using charcoal for a while now. They have a supplier who brings the product to them. Before now N1,200 worth of charcoal would last them a whole week, but not anymore.
“It seems to burn faster these days and also there is visible reduction in size. Because of this, we now go to the market to buy it ourselves. But it is still cheaper than gas or kerosene,” she says.