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Monday, March 27, 2023

Nigerians Revert to Primitive Ways of Cooking as Gas Price Surges

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Mariam Guli, a 51-year-old mother of three and a level 4 civil servant in one of the ministries in Niger State, with the help of her children and relatives, makes use of trees in the forest for firewood to cook, as the price of cooking gas has skyrocketed.

There were cords of wood under the arm of her children who piled them beside a bonfire, as dinner would soon be prepared.

Guli, who looked lissome or limber, gazed up and stared into space while she took a deep breath. “I am lost for words. Cutting the wood into pieces with an axe is excruciating and l take painkillers to subdue aching joints. Honestly, l am going through agony just to prepare a meal for my family. I can no longer afford cooking gas,” said Guli

The lady said that inflation has already stolen her take home pay and as a widow, the sole responsibility of taking care of the children falls on her shoulders.

“I am not the only person who fetches wood in the forest, many in this neighborhood do so,” said Guli.

The high cost of cooking gas is pushing most Nigerians to use firewood as the cooking gas is increasingly becoming inaccessible.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) Liquefied Petroleum Gas Price Watch report, the cost of refilling the 5 kg cooking gas cylinder rose by 9.6 percent month on month (m/m) to N2,627.9 in Oct 2021 from N2,397.6 and by 34.5 percent year in year (y/y) from N1,953.7 in Oct-2020.

Similarly, the average price for refilling the 12.5kg cooking gas cylinder increased by 7.7 percent month on month (m/m) to N6,638.3 in Oct-2021 from N6,165.0 in Sep-2021 and 62.8 percent year on year (y/y) from Oct-2020.

However, United Capital’s survey research showed that the cost of refilling a 12.5kg cylinder prints at N10,000 as of Oct-2021.

Of course, the protracted spike in cooking gas price adds to the gloom and misery of the preponderance of people ensnared in poverty and dependency.

According to the World Bank, over 50 percent of Nigeria’s population of 200 million live on less than $1.98 a day.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent, in the three months through December 2020, translating to some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world, according to a report published by the National Bureau of Statistics on March 15.

It went up from 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020.

It is indeed a double whammy unbelievable calamity because the economy is just recovering from the coronavirus pandemic that forced the government to impose a lockdown policy that paralysed business activities, tipped the county into its second recession in 5 years in 2020.

The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4.03 percent y/y in real terms in Q3 compared with 5.01 percent in the second quarter of (Q2) 2021, based on the recently released GDP report.

Analysts at United Capital said the price increase in cooking gas is due to demand pressures outweighing supply due to acute production shortages.

Avoiding vituperation by the public and refusing to take responsibility, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) blamed the supply deficit on gas marketers’ inability to procure its total gas production of 450,000MT due to logistical and infrastructural setbacks.

Another contributing factor is policy mistakes.

The government recently imposed VAT of 7.5 percent on imported gas in Aug-2021 as imported gas accounts for the bulk of Nigeria’s gas consumption.

The fundamental reason is the recent spike in gas prices in Europe and the United States as they are struggling with higher energy prices and supply chain crisis. And that is on top of the severe dollar scarcity and currency devaluations undermining the economy.

“On the strength of NLNG’s policy decisions to enhance production and hence improve supply to meet domestic demand, we expect prices of LPG to moderate in the medium and long-term,” said analysts at United Capital.

“To accommodate the increased demand in the domestic market, the company recently announced that it would reduce its export of cooking gas. The NLNG has also commenced the construction of its Train 7 project, which is aimed at expanding its capacity by 35.0%. In addition, supply is expected from private gas stations which are being developed by downstream oil & gas producers such as ARDOVA,” added the analysts.

There has been immense criticism from the general public that falling trees has severe negative consequences for the environment.

Coalition of South East Youth Leaders have warned that the return to the use of firewood for cooking would affect the ecosystem.

They urged president Muhammadu Buhari to take a critical look at the issue as Nigerians are suffering.

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