…Turn to charcoal, firewood
The plan of the federal government to deepen domestic consumption of gas through the National Gas Expansion Programme, (NGEP), with a target of creating about three million jobs seems to be about to be shattered, even before take-off as many Nigerians are abandoning its use.
Findings show that Liquefied Petroleum Gas, (LPG), otherwise known as cooking gas, is now beyond the reach of average Nigerians as many have turned to charcoal or firewood, with the attendant environmental and health implications.
A kilogramme of cooking gas is now N625 or more, depending on the location, forcing many households and eateries, especially in urban centres to seek alternative means of cooking.
According to the Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR) –the regulator of activities in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, Nigeria’s proven gas reserves stood at about 206.53 trillion standard cubic feet as of June 2021, implying that the country has more gas than oil, while the nation’s unproven gas reserve is still at about 600trillion cubic feet.
A recent survey revealed that the prices of various kilogrammes of LPG have surged more than 50%, with a 12.5kg content selling for N7, 800 or more, rising from N6, 500 in less than a month.
Some of the gas users who spoke to newsmen during the market survey in Lagos and Akute, a suburb of Ogun State, said the situation had forced scores of poor Nigerians to resort to using charcoal-fuelled stoves to cook.
Records of gas price tags indicated that the marketers began to hike the product price from April this year, rising from around N3, 600/12.5kg cylinder to N4, 200.
By May, gas filling plants sold 12.5kg for N4, 700 while it reached N5, 000 in June and N5, 700 in early July. It was learnt that those buying in lower volumes, like 3kg, 5kg, 8kg and 10kg, paid over 50% more than they did in March.
The latest report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), had shown that the average price of a 5kg cylinder of cooking gas in August rose by 3.44% from N2,141.59 in July to N2,215.33.
The average price for refilling a 12.5kg cylinder also saw an increase of 2.09% at N4,514.82 in August from N4,422.32 in July 2021 and was more expensive in Abuja (N5,837), Kogi (N5,237) and Ogun (N5,170) but the cheapest in Niger (N4,021), Kebbi (N4,042) and Jigawa (N4,079).
Ironically, this is coming at a time federal government is working towards promoting more use of gas in Nigeria, with the declaration of 2021-2030 as Nigeria’s decade of gas, meaning more demand for the commodity.
The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers, (NALPGAM), has attributed the latest rise in the price of cooking gas to the federal government’s re-imposition of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on imported LPG.
NALPGAM’s Executive Secretary, Bassey Essien, in a press statement, explained that Nigerians may have to pay up to N10,000 in the nearest future to refill 12.5kg cylinder of cooking gas.
The NALPGAM boss insisted that charging VAT on LPG would return Nigerians to the era of cooking with kerosene stoves and firewood with the attendant health implications.
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, (IPMAN), had attributed the rising cost of cooking gas to a lack of adequate supply.
Although Nigeria prides itself as a major exporter of LNG to the world via the Nigeria LNG Limited, making gas available for domestic use through business-friendly government policies and actions will help a great deal in driving economic diversification and competition.