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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Firewood sellers make profit as Nigerians abandon costly cooking gas

The high cost of cooking gas has now compelled some residents in the South-South zone in Nigeria to begin using firewood and charcoal for cooking, a survey has revealed.

Cooking gas cylinders
Cooking gas cylinders

Investigation shows that 1 kilogramme of gas is now sold for N900 as against N700 while 12.5 kilogrammes is now  N11,250.

A resident of Calabar, Mrs Eno Akan, says she now buys firewood in bundles from the Beach Market in the Cross River capital, because of the high cost of cooking gas.

According to Akan, the harsh economic situation in the country has brought hardship to her household hence she now goes for what is cheaper and affordable.

A firewood dealer at Beach Market, Mr Samuel Bassey, said that most eateries as well as individuals in Calabar now patronise him.

Bassey however said that the patronage for firewood was far higher than that of charcoal.

“Due to the increase in the price of gas, we have been experiencing a boom in sale of firewood. As we speak, I just got a call to supply 50 bundles of firewood to an eatery in Calabar,” he said.

However, a housewife, Mrs Theresa Odum, said that in spite of the high cost of gas, she still preferred using it in cooking her meals to using firewood.

“I can’t stand the smoke that comes from firewood. Moreover, there is no space in my house for a firewood setting for cooking,” Odum  said.

A Director of Forest Management in the state Ministry of Environment, Mr David Egbe, said that in spite of the government ban on felling of trees, some people are still involved in the act.

“The government of Cross River prohibits cutting down of trees of any form. But most people are still involved in the act because the level of prosecution for offenders is low,” Egbe said.

An environmentalist, Mr James Okon, says that the use of firewood for cooking has some health implications.

According to Okon, smoke generated by firewood exposes women to disease such as tuberculosis, asthma, high blood pressure and lung cancer.

Meanwhile, the Director of Forests Management in the state Forestry Commission, Mr Timothy Odey, said that the commission had hundreds of forest guards protecting the forests from deforestation.

According to a Port Harcourt-based housewife, Mrs Margret Ephraim, lack of electricity supply and high electricity tariffs sometimes force Nigerians to rely on charcoal for cooking.

“If cooking gas is affordable and electricity becomes readily available and affordable, domestic use of firewood and charcoal will naturally phase out,” Ephraim added.

For another respondent, Mrs Sofia Edet, firewood could no longer be seen as a cheap alternative to cooking gas because it could no longer be freely bought.

“I think the problem is the non-availability of cooking gas in local communities.

“A heap of firewood that was sold for N1,000 is now N5,000, while transporting it to residential area gulps as much as N3,000.

“For us in Andoni LGA, we are not finding it easy gathering firewood from forests around us because there is currently a by-law against tree felling and poaching,” Edet explained.

Meanwhile, an environmentalist,  Mr Maxwell Ijaan, has urged authorities in the local communities to begin to engage in vigorous tree planting.

“Some communities are endowed with the rain/swampy forests. Such areas should be excluded from any form of human activities like farming, hunting and tree felling,” Ijaan suggested.

A respondent in Benin, Mrs Comfort Omoriege, said though she preferred gas, the exorbitant  price of the commodity had forced her to resort to using charcoal and firewood for cooking.

Omoriege laments that a 12.5kg cylinder that she used to fill for less than N4,000 is now N10,000.

She said the amount was too much for her to afford.

Also, another Benin resident, Miss Mary Thompson, called on the Federal Government to urgently address the sharp increase in the price of gas because it has increased hardship for the people.

Thompson, who said she still managed to buy gas for cooking, however, noted that many could not bear the cost any longer.

“I don’t use charcoal or firewood for cooking because of stain and waste of time. However, the current price of cooking gas may force somebody to have a rethink and seek alternative,” she said.

In the meantime, the Edo State Government has insisted that illegal felling of trees for charcoal, firewood or any other purpose remains outlawed in the state.

Mr Lucky Wasa, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, said instead, the state was regenerating its forest through partnership with Rongtai Wood Industry in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area.

“We are planting 10 million trees every year; we have many NGOs we are also partnering with. We encourage our timber contractors and those in the wood industry to also do forestations.

“We also established environmental clubs in some selected public and private schools across the state, enlightening them on the need to plant trees and the importance of green environment,” Wasa said.

On action against violation, the Permanent Secretary said government usually prosecuted offenders in accordance with the provisions of the law.

In Delta, firewood and charcoal sellers say they have recorded increase in sales in the last two months, despite the slight increase in prices of the commodities.

They attributed the situation to the continual increase in the prices of cooking gas and kerosene.

Mrs Ifeanyi Olikeze, a charcoal dealer at the Midwifery Market, Okpanam Road, Asaba, said in July, she sold a bag of charcoal for N1,000, but since September she had been selling it for N1,200.

“Despite this increase, more people have been buying charcoal and sales have really increased,” Olikeze said.

On her part, Mrs Ruth Azu, a firewood seller on DLA Road, Asaba, said that the price of a bundle of firewood had increased from N400 to N500.

Azu also said that she had been recording more sales in recent months.

By Razak Owolabi

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