The price of cooking gas and kerosene desired because they are regarded as clean and environment- friendly sources of domestic energy may be threatening government’s effort to manage deforestation, desert encroachment and climate change. The two commodities, without doubt, meet their description as clean sources of energy but they are becoming unfriendly to the pocket of most Nigerians especially those in the middle class and others down the ladder of social strata who have come to cherish their convenience. Within the last one month, the price of gas has pushed up from N4, 000 to, in some places, N6, 500 for a 12.5 kilogramme cylinder while the camping gas cylinder which was N1, 500 is now N2, 500 or more.
Kerosene, on its part, is going beyond the reach of the consumers who need it not just to power their cooking stoves but also their bush lamps in areas that electricity is a luxury. Where the product is available, the price per litre is up to N400. But that is not even the main cause of worry. Getting it to buy even at that price is headache-inducing on its own.
We are worried that if this trend is allowed to continue, the temptation to revert to the old reliable firewood and charcoal may be too attractive to be ignored. Of course, the implication for deforestation is easy to imagine. In our opinion, the explanation for the recent scarcity and hike in price is amusing. The blame is being put on the logistics of bringing in the product that is in abundance in the country. It is alleged that only one ship was allowed to offload the product at the port as against three that used to supply the commodity. With the resultant scarcity, a price increase becomes inevitable as demand is more than supply.
Obviously, we find this reason not only preposterous but also indefensible especially in a situation that the products can be easily sourced locally. We note with regret that the syndrome of planlessness has continued to dog our every step. And this, in our view, has been the bane of public policy implementation. In most cases, instead of those the nation put in charge of its affairs to think strategically and anticipate challenges, they spend the whole time preparing for excuses to put forward when they fail as they eventually do.
The government has consistently urged Nigerians to use gas and kerosene. The last administration of Goodluck Jonathan actually embarked on the project of supplying to the public a brand of stove just to discourage the use of firewood and charcoal. This is part of the policy of reducing the effect of climate change and the attendant deforestation, desertification and erosion.
This preachment, in our view, will become meaningful if the government ensures that clean energy is available at a price the people can afford and when needed. Gas and Kerosene are by products of crude oil and Nigeria is believed to have that resource in large quantity which makes it difficult to understand why these commodities should be scarce at all. The earlier complaint was the cost of infrastructure such as the cost of the cylinder and the cooker itself. To add the scarcity and consequent high price of the commodity to it will be enough reason for the people to look for alternatives and disregard what is to be the effect on the climate or, for that matter, the environment.
Nigeria has been accused of contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer through the flaring of gas that comes with crude oil in the fields instead of re-injecting it back into the soil. We are already familiar with the effect of deforestation and the menace of erosion. The government is spending huge sums of money on afforestation. From what is going on in the gas and kerosene market, that effort is likely to be wasted. What or who will stop the people from cutting down those trees and using them as firewood? To avert this movement in cycles, the authorities must do the needful, which entails encouraging and supporting the people to continue to use the environment- friendly fuels like gas and kerosene by making them readily available at reasonable cost.