“We have a lot of gas in Nigeria. We currently have 206 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves… The belief is that if we really aim to look for gas dedicatedly, we will find up to 600 trillion cubic feet of gas,” these were the words of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, at the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston, Texas, US on Wednesday.
Most Nigerians will hardly believe that their country is this endowed given how scarce and exorbitant cooking gas has become. How can a country be so blessed with natural gas yet citizens pay through their nose to get the derivative of the mineral deposit most needed by them? Nigeria sits on gas reserves and potentials so huge that the portion flared was once said to be sufficient to generate electricity for the whole of Trinidad and Tobago for one year.
Nigeria is among the top 10 countries with the highest gas reserves in the world. Yet, this humongous gas deposit hasn’t translated to a better life for the citizenry in terms of the availability of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), commonly called cooking gas. Merely having natural gas or crude oil reserves can’t guarantee that a country will have cooking gas if it lacks the capacity and or the infrastructure to refine the requisite crude oil or process the natural gas into butane and propane which are the composites of LPG.
This is sadly true of Nigeria where citizens are practically experiencing scarcity in the midst of plenty. Since the first quarter of this year, the retail price of cooking gas has so spiked that it is now out of the reach of most Nigerians. A 12.5kg gas cylinder, which used to be refilled with N3,500 at the start of the year has now skyrocketed to the price band of N8,750 and N10,000. Before the increase, a 6kg gas cylinder was refilled for N1,800, but it now goes for between N4,200 and N4500. Up from N1,200, a 3kg cylinder now goes for N2,300.
Across the states of the federation, data from the National Bureau of Statistics has it that the average price for refilling a 5kg cylinder of cooking gas also increased by 8.23 per cent month-on-month and by 21.42 per cent year-on-year in September. Likewise, the average price for the refilling of a 12.5kg cylinder for cooking gas increased by 36.55 per cent month-on-month and by 49.97 per cent year-on-year in September. At the moment, 20 tonnes of LPG is sold for more than N9.5 million against N4 million sold before the hike.
It is feared that these prices will continue this upward trajectory as it is rare for prices of goods and services in Nigeria to decline after rising. As the yuletide sets in, there seems to be no respite in sight. This spike in the price of LPG has since compounded the inflation in the prices of goods and services which Nigerians are already grappling with. It is no longer enough to afford foodstuff, the energy to be used in cooking same has to be considered as well, all from the meager salaries and income of the populace.
With the government playing possum on this very important matter, many Nigerians have now found alternatives to the expensive cooking gas in kerosene, firewood, charcoal, and sawdust. This makes nonsense of the concerted efforts to move people from fossil fuel as energy for cooking, which had won a lot of converts even in many villages. Naija News is therefore worried that the spike in LPG price may reverse the gains recorded by the campaign to transition Nigerians from the use of firewood, charcoal, and kerosene to cooking gas. This practice does not augur well for the preservation of the environment as it engenders desertification and erosion.
Nigeria must live up to the various climate change agreements entered into with the international community. President Muhammadu Buhari, who participated at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in early November, shouldn’t give room for greenhouse emissions in Nigeria by watching the survival instinct of Nigerians make them resort to energy sources that worsen global warming.
Considering that Nigeria imports between 40 per cent to 60 per cent of her cooking gas need, the soaring cost of LPG can’t be divorced from the devaluation of the Naira. It is also a no-brainer that the vagaries of the international market will impact an international commodity sourced from the global market. This is why the Nigerian government must get serious with the calls for the local refining of crude oil. If the country’s four public refineries cannot shore up the local demand for premium motor spirit, alias petrol, they should at least be able to extract cooking gas from the country’s vast gas deposits. This is not too much to expect from refineries that have gulped billions of public funds in turnaround maintenance.
Had LPG been wholly produced locally, the logistics problems around the importation, clearing, and lifting of cooking gas wouldn’t have been there to make the community scarce and out of the reach of most Nigerians. Since the country cannot meet its domestic need for cooking gas, Naija News calls on the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to immediately stop enforcing the payment of 7.5 VAT on LPG imported into the county. This should stay until such a time when the country can produce enough cooking gas that will feed the needs of the population. For Pete’s sake, the government should have thought about the jump in price before slamming VAT on cooking gas. The welfare of the citizenry must indeed guide every policy of the government.
It is disheartening that despite widespread ululation over the rising cost of cooking gas, the authorities are yet to come up with a blueprint to reverse the trend. With no hope in sight for a return to normal, the people are now helping themselves by returning to the use of firewood, charcoal, and sawdust in this age! Aside from the environmental degradation this causes, this poses a great health risk to the citizens. Data from the International Centre for Energy, Environment, and Development (ICEED) has it that 98,000 Nigerians die annually as a result of smoke inhaled while cooking with firewood, with women and children being the most affected persons.
Naija News shudders to imagine what this grim statistic will be as more Nigerians ditch their gas cylinders for the three-stone fires and mud stoves. The health hazards therefrom affect everybody and it is for this reason that Nigerians must demand the return of the price of cooking gas to what it used to be. Just as they do whenever the authorities want to hike the pump price of petrol, conscious Nigerians and civil society must pressure the federal government to make LPG available and affordable.
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