From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
Energy challenge in the country appears unending and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is no exception. From epileptic electricity supply to protracted petrol scarcity and expensive diesel, the hardship jolts Abuja residents daily, despite being the seat of power.
The scarce and expensive Liquified Natural Gas (LPG), also known as cooking gas is the latest residents’ nightmare. The price of this clean energy, in recent months, has become a source of worry going completely out of reach.
Most of the LPG dealers are out of stock, making it extremely difficult and expensive to get the product. Its price increased by 25 per cent between January and May 2022 in Abuja.
The 12.5kg cylinder which sold for N7,500 in January, now sells between N10,500-N12,000 in the FCT, depending on the location. Those tucked away in satellite towns and villages are the worst hit, as the dealers factor in additional operational cost.
Consequently, households, students, restaurants and other consumers are lamenting the horror, even as they call on relevant stakeholders in the LPG business to find ways of crashing the price of the vital commodity.
But while waiting for respite, a cooking revolution is speedily taking firm roots as residents have resorted to cooking with charcoal. It was that bad that those in remote villages now go to bushes to fetch firewood.
Already, the demand pressure on charcoal has resulted in a remarkable spike in price, deepening the energy crisis. A confectioner and events planner, Chiamaka Nwandu, told Daily Sun that her profit has become the casualty of the rising cost of cooking gas:
“The price of gas has almost eroded the profit I make from small chops. I can’t make them with firewood and charcoal because it will affect the taste. You fry them on the gas. No electricity to use hot plate.
“Sometimes we spend huge amount of money on transport just to go refill your gas cylinders. By the time you factor all these, you are already incurring losses and if you hike your goods, customers will avoid you. You will be blacklisted. You’re on your own.
“Government should help us, 12.5kg of gas is now N11,000 from around N7,000 in January. This is totally unacceptable. It’s killing my business.”
Mama Rekiya, mother of five, living in Karamajiji village, said firewood has become the only option for her family as gas is now a luxury. Pointing at a huge stack of firewood against the fence of her house: “Those are our saving grace. I was using firewood before my husband brought home a gas cylinder a few years ago, saying it was to make cooking easier for me.
“I enjoyed cooking with gas. It is faster, smoke free and even cheaper then. But now that the price has skyrocketed, I have gone back to using firewood because by the time I deduct money for what is budgeted monthly for foodstuffs and other essentials, what is left cannot fill my cylinder anymore.”
A food vendor in Lugbe, Bekky, said: “I had to adjust the price of my food and reduce the potion a little to accommodate the huge amount I spend on gas. My customers were quite upset but I had to make them understand that the price of food items and the energy for cooking the food have all gone up considerably. Some of them have come to terms with the reality while I lost some. All the same, a business owner has to make profit.”
She tried to augment her energy sources with charcoal. She said the recent high demand for the good, coupled with the rainy season, which made the price to also go up, held her back.
Maria James, a private school teacher: “I am now forced to avoid foods that take too long to cook. For example, I can’t recall when last I cooked beans or even jollof rice. I just make plenty stew and soup when there is power and put in the fridge.
“For months I only boil rice or make eba. Most times, I can’t cook what I crave or boil water to take a bath even when it’s cold because I am trying to preserve my gas.”
National Chairman, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers (LLPGA) branch of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), Michael Umudu, admitted that the situation was unsavoury for both consumers and retailers. He said the foreign exchange allocation from the Nigerian LNG Limited to marketers could only meet about 40 per cent of the consumption in the country.
He added that prices at the depots have similarly risen to about N12.6 million for 20 metric tonnes, from N11.4 million, which was the average price a few weeks ago.
General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development (NLNG), Andy Odeh, noted that the company supplied about 400,000MT of LPG to the domestic market in 2021.
He said the board approved the supply of 450,000MT, 100 per cent of the company’s LPG production (Propane and Butane), to the domestic market in 2022: “This marked the company’s strong commitment to the continued growth of the domestic LPG market.”
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), in its March 2022 LPG-Propane-LNG Supplies report, noted that 61,884.291 metric tonnes (MT) of cooking gas were imported in the month of March.
This, according to the authority, indicated that the total gas import rose by 107.61 per cent from the 29,807.591 MT imported in February. The report also revealed that the 61,884.291 MT cooking gas import, represented 47.9 per cent of the total cooking gas supplied in the country in the month under review.
In terms of destinations, there were no changes as the United States of America and Argentina topped the suppliers of the commodity to Nigeria. They also topped in the previous month.
NMDPRA disclosed that five companies – Algasco LPG Services Limited, Prudent Energy and Services Limited, Rainoil Limited, NIPCO and Techno Oil Limited – were responsible for Nigeria’s total cooking gas import in March 2022.
The report revealed that in March Algasco imported 22,389.781 MT of LPG from the US; Prudent Energy imported two consignments of LPG from the US, comprising 4,020.031 MT and 4,177.380 MT, while Rainoil brought in 7,512.035 MT of the commodity from Argentina.