For many months now, Nigerians have been experiencing scarcity of petroleum products as the country relies on importation for over 80 per cent of its fuel needs. Currently, the scarcity of kerosene, has resulted to about 100 per cent increase in its price as it now sells for as much as N300 per litre in some parts of the country in spite of the recent liberalization of the product market, many marketers have refused to join the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in importing kerosene as they continue to focus on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol.

According to the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, the foreign exchange scarcity plaguing the country has discouraged the importation of kerosene. He said, “For the PMS we are importing, the NNPC is helping us with the dollars. The NNPC has spoken to the international oil companies; so, some of them are giving us the dollars. Even the NNPC cannot combine importation of everything because of the scarcity of dollar. The militants (attacking oil and gas facilities) are not allowing crude to sell at the correct quantity level that will bring in more dollars”.

In Lagos, where many marketers get petroleum products to sell to other parts of the country, a number of filling stations do not have kerosene to sell. Some of the stations that have the product are selling for as high as N220 per litre, especially in Ikorodu, a fast-developing, largely residential area on the outskirts of Lagos, sharing a border with Ogun State.

With the non-availability of the product at many filling stations, roadside vendors are selling a gallon (4.5 litres) of kerosene for between N1, 200 and N1, 400. The Director of Operations, KCC Investment Limited, Mr. Akeem Adebayo, said his company, which deals in petroleum products at Oko-Oba in Agege, Lagos, has been finding it difficult to get kerosene. According to him “The experience is getting tougher because to get it (kerosene) from the depots, even from the yards, is not easy, and this is what 60 to 70 per cent of the masses use,” he told our correspondent on the sidelines of a workshop for small business owners in Lagos on July 19.

He said the product, which he was selling for N110 to N120 per litre a couple of months ago, is now sold for between N210 and N215 per litre. “One can buy charcoal of N50 or N100 to cook one’s food, and it can even last for more than a day.” Two of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 are to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030, and to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Residential solid fuel burning accounts for 25 per cent of global black carbon emissions, about 84 per cent of which is from households in developing countries, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. An energy expert and Technical Director, Drilling Services, Template Design Limited, Mr. Bala Zakka, described the shift towards the use of charcoal in the 21st century as unfortunate. He added that deforestation would be encouraged with the drift towards firewood and charcoal.

Zakka said, ‘‘It simply means that there will be increase in pollution and health hazards.”
Millions of Nigerians, most especially in the rural areas, have, over the years, continued to rely on traditional biomass for cooking despite the abundant crude oil and gas resources in the country. The International Energy Agency said that 70 per cent (122 million) of the nation’s population was relying on traditional use of biomass as at 2013, according to the World Energy Outlook 2015.

Commenting on the development, the President, Nigerian Association of Energy Economics, Prof. Wumi Iledare, said that it is a shame that more people, instead of using Liquefied Petroleum Gas, are now embracing traditional biomass for cooking.
“I saw better life in the past than what I see in Nigeria today. If more people are now using firewood the way my mother did, I don’t think we are making progress,” he said.

The lack of access to clean cooking facilities by most Nigerians is a reflection of the high level of poverty in the country, where unemployment rate rose to 10.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015 from 9.9 per cent in the third quarter and 8.2 per cent in the second quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The nation’s economy has continued to take a serious bashing from the sharp fall in global oil prices since mid-June 2014, with adverse effects on the citizens, especially those at the base of the economic pyramid. The economy shrank by 0.36 per cent in the first three months of this year for the first time since 2004, with the International Monetary Fund saying the country would slide into recession this year for the first time in more than two decades.

Now faced with deepening economic crisis, many Nigerians have experienced significant drops in their purchasing power as inflation accelerated to 16.5 per cent in June, the highest rate in almost 11 years. “We are living in a country today where the disposable income of many Nigerians cannot afford normal meals, house rent and basic necessities for human existence,” said Zakka.

Johnson Alabi
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