There is a growing national momentum to tackle problems associated with cooking energy in Nigeria. Recently, over one hundred stakeholders representing energy companies, policy makers, donor agencies and NGOs gathered in Abuja to deliberate over rising challenges of cooking energy. This is coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s award of a contract of N9.6 billion for the supply of clean cookstoves, NNPC’s launch of the “kerosene correct” campaign as well as a new presidential initiative on cooking gas soon to be launched.
In his welcome address, Ewah Eleri, Executive Director of the International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development (ICEED) and Coordinator of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, claimed that Nigeria is facing a silent energy crisis.
“Twenty-five million households cook with wood in traditional open fire. Smoke from the kitchen kills over 100,000 women and children every year. It leads to deforestation and costs poor families money and time that could be used for food, education and health care. The time to act is now,” he said, even as he thanked the Federal Government, the Nigeria LPG Association and the organised private sector for rising to the challenge.
Minister of Environment, Mrs Laurentia Mallam, restated her ministry’s commitment to work with the organised private sector to ensure an effective implementation of the N9.6 billion clean cookstoves project. The minister used the opportunity of the conference and expo to meet with partners of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. She emphasised the need to ensure that Nigerian producers of clean cookstoves and fuels participate in the project.
In his presentation, Robert van der Plas, a leading international household energy consultant, estimated that one million additional households are created in Nigeria every year.
“For the Nigerian National Clean Cookstoves Market Development programme to be effective, it must be ambitious and built on sound fundamentals. A private sector-led market is a necessary condition for success,” he said.
Biodun Olaore of Envirofit International, a clean cookstoves producer, stated, “Government has no business distributing free stoves. Did the government give away free GSM phones to create the market for the growth of the telephone market in Nigeria?” he queried.
Happy Amos, a young beneficiary of the Federal Government’s You-Win programme, demanded, “Why should the government that gave me money to start a stove factory in Niger State turn around to destroy the market for my products by giving away free stoves?”
Amos used her You-Win funds to start a factory that produces efficient charcoal stoves. Through this investment, she has employed several other young people. The partners concluded that free stoves will undermine the long-term viability of investments in the household energy market.
Many demanded that the government create an enabling policy environment for a private sector-led growth of the cooking energy market estimated to be about N800 billion annually. They proposed a reduction or removal of duties and VAT on cooking energy and equipment.
Dayo Adeshina, President of the Nigeria LPG Association, insisted that the government should reduce tariffs, expand LPG infrastructure and provide access to finance.
“Nigeria is a gas nation and our current production of LPG is over ten times the local consumption. We must set the policies right for this sector to grow,” he insisted.
Participants agreed that, despite the fact that we must all work to ensure that cooking gas gets to all parts of the country, widespread poverty would consign a large segment of the population to continue to use wood fuel for cooking. There is need to ensure that the market is created for modern and efficient wood stoves, they argued.
Partners of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves unanimously agreed that the Federal Government should use the N9.6 billion to stimulate local production of cylinders and cookstoves, adding that this will trigger private sector investments and create jobs.
Rather than spending this huge amount of money on free stoves, this fund should be used to provide low or no interest loans to investors, support the expansion of LPG infrastructure and create public awareness on the benefits of clean cooking. The N9.6 billion should form the basis for launching a household energy fund and removal of duties and VAT on household energy equipment, they noted.
Besides supporting the private sector to grow the market for clean cooking energy, stakeholders proposed approaches to enhancing demanded for clean cooking energy products.
Christine K, the Country Director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, a German international environmental NGO, said, “Seeing is believing. We need pilot projects at state and community levels. Let people see that clean cookstoves save money, their health and their environment. Let people see these stoves at work in their neighbourhood. This can be more important than jingles and large scale adverts.”
Partners resolved to strengthen the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves as a pressure group to interface with government. They insisted that the voice of the industry must be heard for any new government initiative to be effective.