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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Cooking gas: Consumers resort to firewood over rising cost

Some residents of the South East Zone of the country have vowed to resort to firewood and charcoal if prices of cooking gas continue to soar.

Cooking gas cylinders
Cooking gas cylinders

The consumers said in separate interviews that they could no longer cope with the situation as it was taking a toll on their lives.

They called on the Federal Government to address the current hike in the price of cooking gas to ease the sufferings on the people.

Checks in some gas plants in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states showed that the price of cooking gas had increased by more than 50 per cent.

A 12.5kg cylinder which was sold for N6,800 in September, had increased to between N7,800 and N8,000 depending on locations.

It was also observed that a 6kg cylinder, that previously sold for N2,900, had gone up to N4,200 in less than a month.

A manager of one of the gas plants in Awka, who pleaded anonymity, said that the hike was as a result of the current devaluation of the naira.

“You know gas is refined and imported into the country, therefore, the price is dominated by the dollar. So, the more the naira is devalued, the higher the prices will continue to rise,” he said.

Some consumers blamed the government for its inability to control the price of cooking gas in the open market.

A resident of a gas plant in Awka, who identified himself as Mr Smart Okongi, said that the continued rise in the price of cooking gas was alarming, adding that the increase was being felt by many Nigerians.

“As a civil servant with no increment in salary, it is now becoming very difficult keeping up with the everyday rise in prices of food stuff, transportation, rent and now cooking gas.

“This development is sad because our country is endowed with natural gas. I also blame the Federal Government for its inability to control the price in the open market.

”I appeal to the government to reduce or have a fixed price for cooking gas to alleviate our sufferings,” Okongi said.

Another resident, Mrs Helen Aniaso, a caterer, said that the daily rise in price of cooking gas was impacting on her business negatively.

“It is frustrating because for every time we go to refill, the price increases. It is affecting my business in terms of productivity and profit.

“We have increased the prices of the food we sell just to meet up, but we are losing customers because many of them cannot afford to pay.

“It is not also cheaper resorting to kerosene, charcoal, or firewood because their prices too have increased.

“The government should come to our aid before our sources of livelihood collapse, ” she said.

Mr Adolphus Egwu, a businessman in Onitsha, expressed fears that the price of 12.5kg gas cylinder might increase to N10,000 by December if the government did not act quickly.

“This practice of gas sellers is highly unfair to users, considering the economic situation in the country. Because of this hike, a plate of food rose from about N400 or N500 to N800 or N1,000?

“I appeal to the relevant regulatory agencies, to halt this practice by monitoring and checking the excesses of the sellers,” he said.

It is a similar situation in all the states in the zone as consumers groan over the rising cost of cooking gas.

Some gas dealers in the zone blamed the development to increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) to the petroleum products, high demand of gas and naira devaluation.

According to an Umuahia resident in Abia, I now use charcoal as an alternative because a 7kg of gas that I used to refill with less than N2000 now goes for over N4,000, that is at the rate of N640 per kg.

A financial expert, Mr Timothy Okoroafor, said the inflation rate posed a serious challenge and was largely responsible for increased spending on food items and cooking gas.

“What do you expect when we are only consuming and not producing as a nation?

“The monetary and other fiscal policies of the government do not help matters.

“There is also no price control.

“Our government should come up with some interventions and provide an enabling environment for industries to thrive,” Okoroafor said.

On high cost of food items, Mr Jerry Okenwa, who sells food items at Isigate, said the prices of food would continue to soar because the local production could meet the ever increasing demand.

According to him, the problem of insecurity in the country, which affected farming, coupled with the border closure, has contributed majorly to the high cost of food items.

Okenwa said: “The farmers are afraid to go to farm because of fear of attacks, so the ones available are not enough for our large population.
“Our local production is not enough, while the border is not open for importation.

“The cost of transportation of the food items has also increased by 100 per cent.

“Since the cost of transporting the items from the north to this place (Abia) has increased, one has to sell according to how one buys, in order to cover cost and make some profit.”

Some market men and women in the zone, while expressing their grievances, attributed the high increase in the prices of foodstuffs to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Others attributed the hike to increase in transport fares and the inability of farmers to produce enough food for domestic consumption as a result of insecurity in the country.

Some of the major foodstuffs affected by the price hike, as confirmed by NAN, include rice, beans, tomato, pepper, palm oil, onions, egg, plantain, garri, spaghetti, yam, soup sauces such as Egusi, Ogbono and cocoyam.

Even the prices of bread, table and satchet water, soft drinks and many other edibles have increased.

Mrs Joy Ekeh, a petty trader, said that the hike in food prices was alarming.

“Two months ago, I bought a bottle of palm oil at the rate of N800 but today I just bought for N1,400, same goes for other commodities.

“Increase in the prices of food items is getting worse by the day and that should not be. The government’s agency in charge of price regulation should do something about this,” she said.

Mrs Agnes Madu, a business woman, noted that a tuber of yam that was sold for N700 to N800 had gone up to N1,200 to N1,300, adding that she could no longer afford to buy more than one.

“Not just yam, even the prices of beans and garri have all increased. A cup of Egusi as of August was N120 but now it is sold at the cost of N250 to N300.

“If care is not taken, the poor will find it hard to feed if things continued at that rate, ” she said .

One Mr Angus Eleweke, a civil servant, called on the state and federal government to urgently address the situation before things get out of hand.

“We cannot blame the traders; there are a number of factors for food prices inflation.

One of them is the issue of security. Some of the areas where foods come from have been subjected to banditry and insecurity.

“Farmers out of fear for their lives have not been going to the farm. This contributes to the price increases we are witnessing.

“As traders complain, so do buyers. The soaring prices of food stuffs are frustrating many families with limited budgets,” Eleweke said.

Mrs Agnes Ebeke, a Customer described the rise in cooking gas and food prices as artificial inflation.

Ebeke added that average Nigerian family was finding it difficult to buy the product between N680 and N800 at its current price per kilogramme in some gas plants and outlets.

She said that the steady increase in the items were disturbing and could continue if not checked.

“Gas outlets sell the product higher than the gas plants,” Ebeke said.

Mr Chiwe Ogbonna, cooking gas user at Hariz Gas Plant Limited, explained that price of LPG has been on steady rise since January 2021.

Ogbonna expressed concern that the commodity was getting beyond the reach of the average citizen.

In Ebonyi, residents appealed to relevant stakeholders to address the worsening economic down turn and reverse inflationary trend that caused hike in prices of essential commodities in the country.

Meanwhile, an attendant at the Lopa gas station who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that gas price was not determined by the stations but according to price fixed by regulatory agencies.

Mrs Stella Onu and Nwamaka Ugwu, who are both consumers while making their purchases, described the situation as unacceptable and called on relevant authorities to urgently take necessary step to reverse the price hike.

Mr Evans Chika, at the Margaret Umahi International Market said a bag of crayfish is sold between N75, 000 and N70, 000 as against N45, 000 and N50, 000 sold in September.

“A painter of crayfish is sold between N3, 000 and N3, 500 currently. The cost is getting higher gradually,” they said.

Another customer and civil servant, Mrs Amara Ezeoketa, lamented that buying food items at its current price with a salary of less than N50,000 a month was becoming difficult for her and other families as well.

Ezeoketa disclosed that a bag of onion now cost between N60, 000 and N55, 000 as against N18, 000 and N25, 00 in August 2021.

“Now a painter of beans is sold between N2, 400 and N2, 800 depending on the brand.

“A bottle of palm oil is now sold at N800, and a litre of groundnut oil sold between N1, 200 and N1, 500 depending on the brand.

“The increase also affects other items like, floor, beverages, soft drinks, toiletries, tailoring materials among others,” Ezeoketa said. 

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