Cooking gas has become unaffordable for millions of Nigerian households due to rapidly rising prices over the past year. As a result, many families are reverting to highly dangerous alternatives like firewood and kerosene instead, posing severe health and safety risks.
Spiraling LPG Price Increases
The price of a 12.5kg cylinder of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), commonly known as cooking gas, has spiked from 4,000 naira to 9,000 naira within one year – a massive 125% increase that has made gas economically out of reach for most Nigerians.
This exponential price hike is attributed to a combination of factors, including:
- Dollar exchange rate fluctuations
- Global LPG supply shortages
- Local macroeconomic instability
Nigeria now has among the highest LPG prices globally despite being a major gas producer and exporter. This shows the market distortions and policy failures which have exacerbated the crisis of unaffordable gas.
Health Risks of Using Primitive Fuels
The rising prices have sounded alarm bells as households are forced to turn to primitive, hazardous fuels for cooking due to inability to afford clean gas.
Risks of Firewood
The use of firewood and biomass as primary cooking fuels is already common in rural Nigeria. But now even urban households are dropping gas cylinders and returning to their use.
Cooking over open fires with firewood releases extremely harmful indoor smoke containing particulate matter, carbon monoxide and other pollutants which cause respiratory illnesses.
The World Health Organization estimates that 4.3 million people die annually from illnesses attributable to household air pollution caused by cooking with solid biomass. These indoor emissions also contribute to environmental degradation when harvested unsustainably.
Dangers of Kerosene
Kerosene is another alternative that urban households are switching to as gas becomes unviable.
Kerosene stoves release toxic fumes and substantial greenhouse gases. Kerosene has a low flashpoint so stoves carry very high fire hazards. Improper handling has caused many serious burns, fire incidents and deaths, especially among children.
Calls for Government Action
Consumer and civil society groups have intensified public campaigns and protests demanding government intervention to control LPG prices.
Many want gas to be designated as an essential commodity like petrol and diesel, with its prices regulated. But the Nigerian government has so far avoided taking any major steps, citing inability to subsidize LPG in the current economic climate.
Some solutions proposed include:
- Reinstating subsidies on kerosene and petrol while expanding LPG subsidies
- Investing in expanding domestic gas production, storage and bottling capacity
- Transitioning electricity generation from gas and diesel to renewables
- Setting up small-scale LPG bottling plants across Nigeria
Nigeria has 206 trillion cubic feet in proven gas reserves. It is unacceptable that despite being the 9th largest gas reserve holder globally, most Nigerian households cannot access clean gas for their basic cooking needs.