Nigerians who use kerosene for cooking have been having a hard time getting the product in recent times. The cooking fuel is not only scarce, its price has shot through the roof. A litre of kerosene, which formerly cost about N200 a few weeks ago, has now skyrocketed to N400. This is despite the fact that the official price of the product is N83 per litre.
The situation calls for immediate remedial action by the Federal Government, because kerosene is the product of choice for cooking by a large number of Nigerians. Many kerosene users are now going through excruciating pains sourcing the product. The development is unacceptable and the government must do whatever is required to resolve it.
The Muhammadu Buhari government is advised to treat this dismal situation as a national emergency. This is because of the high cost of the other major alternative to kerosene, which is gas, and its major accessory, the gas cooker. The other alternatives, wood and charcoal, are not advisable because of the need to guard against deforestation and erosion. No effort should, therefore, be spared to make kerosene available at a reasonable cost to the people.
If it is the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) that is used for fuelling vehicles that has doubled as we are having it for kerosene now, there would have been a national uproar. The government must be careful not to create the impression that the high cost of kerosene is not getting sufficient attention because it is a product that is mostly used by the common man. The incessant shortages and high cost of this critical product suggests an abdication of an important responsibility by the government.
Government is reminded of its fundamental responsibility of ensuring the welfare and security of the people, as enshrined in Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Kerosene, as is well known, is a product the generality of the citizenry use and what affects the generality of the people, would ultimately affect the rest of the country, as the shrill cries of the people on this matter already confirm.
This is why we welcome the recent report that the relevant units of the Warri and Port Harcourt refineries have resumed the production of kerosene. Reports attributed to the management of both refineries say that production resumed on Saturday, January 7 and that the daily kerosene production now is about four million litres. We expect that this new production will go directly into the distribution chain with a view to rapidly increasing the supply of the product in the local market, and quickly forcing down the price to affordable levels. If we are to achieve this alternative, we will need to produce four million litres more, as the daily national average consumption of the product is put at eight million litres.
Nigerians are, however, expressing the hope that the claim of increased production of kerosene is real. This is because such news in the past did not lead to widespread availability of kerosene on the long term. There are, indeed, concerns about how long this latest restoration of the refineries would last, and if their renewed production would genuinely force down the price of kerosene and the other petroleum products.
Ultimately, the permanent solution to the regular and worrisome petroleum products scarcity and inevitable hikes in prices is the securing of local refining capacity. We are worried that government has not been able to build stakeholders’ confidence in this regard. The frequent policy somersaults have not helped matters in the least. Since the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which is said to be a framework for putting our petroleum industry on a sound footing, began making its rounds in the National Assembly about six years ago, it is yet to be passed.
Government is still flip-flopping on what to do with the moribund refineries which have, to all intents and purposes, become an avenue for sleaze for successive governments.
Our hope is that the current administration breaks this evil cycle by finding a solution to the problems that have for long bedeviled the petroleum industry.
In the meantime, the shortfall in local supply of petroleum products, especially kerosene, should continue to be met through adequate importation of the product, until we attain self-sufficiency in their local production.