By Bose Adebayo
Her seven-month-old baby was crying uncontrollably in the room while she was outside gathering sticks to prepare pap for the baby and rice for her other children that had gone to school. It was a rainy day and she has just returned from the market where she sells cooked beans (ewa agonyin).
Even though there was sufficient firewood under the pot stand, this could not produce enough flames to cook the meal. As she bent down, vigorously fanning and blowing at the fire, it was all she could do to stop herself from inhaling the thick smoke that issued forth. In fact she had to pause from blowing the fire when she was seized by a spasm of coughing which lasted for sometime.
Indeed, it was evident from her red-rimmed eyes and runny nose that smoke from cooking in this manner has been taking its toll her health. But the bothersome symptoms of catarrh and headache were the last thing in her mind asÂ she resumed and indeed intensified her efforts at getting the fire burning.Â â€œOh God! When will the food be ready, this is strenuous but what can a poor man do without money,â€? She exclaimed helplessly.
Mrs Afusat Alarapeâ€™s plight is synonymous with what millions of housewives have been going through in the past six months that the price of DPK (Dual Purpose Kerosene) has gone beyond the reach of the common man, especially in Lagos.
The Federal Governmentâ€™s directive that AP filling stations should sell at N50 per litre had not produced any relief as Vanguard Metro can authoritatively reveal that only few of them have complied with the directive, while others would prefer to sell the product to retailers having been bribed by them.
The masses are then left with the choice of either buying at N60 per litre at AP stations or patronising the retailers who in turn sell at a minimum of N90 per litre.
As a result of the hike in price, some housewives have resorted to using firewood or coal to prepare meals for their families Some of them told Vanguard Metro they have streamlined cooking to once in a day as a result of the rigours associated with firewood and coal.
When Vanguard Metro went to town recently, a bunch of firewood was selling for between N50 and N100, while four litres of kerosene was sellingÂ between N480 and N600, depending on the location.
A kerosene dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was no indication the price would be reviewed before the year ends. â€œWe have been on it since February and we are already in July; those who are on top have been enjoying the new price and they are not doing anything to cut down the price.
They donâ€™t know how painful it is because their wives use gas. I have deposited some money with my dealer for the past one month but there was no supply. Many of our customers rain abuses on us because they cannot afford the price. Already, some of my neighbours have been using coal pot or firewood,â€ she said.
â€œWe do major cooking in the morning and buy food for our children in the afternoon while we retain small quantity of kerosene in the stove to warm the soup in the evening,â€ chorused two house wives, Chika Onyebuchi and Mary Odoro who reside in Orile-Agege.
Another house wives who lives at Ijede (Ikorodu area) said the product is being sold at N120 per litre. â€œMy neighbour sells kerosene but it is usually N120 per litre while the filling station sells at N80, but I would need to spend N200 on a bike. It is better for car owners because they will always buy on their way home but for somebody like us, it is tough O,â€ said Ayilara Abeni.
â€œApart from those who have a good job, how many families can afford the price. Imagine I gave my brother N200 to buy me kerosene. He came back with N50 change and told me my money could only buy one litre,â€ lamented Sade Odeyemi.
While housewives are lamenting the hike in price, the situation had succeeded in enriching the pockets of some filling station attendants. One of them who refused to disclose his name said the development is now a gold mine.
â€œHa, those of you who claim you work in big companies cannot take care of yourself the way we do. While many of you are saying the price of kerosene has gone up, that is the time I have been able to furnish my rented apartment because our customers must give us something before they are supplied.
By the time you put the money together, you discover it is not a small money. We are acting on the directive of our Oga who also gets his own share at the end of the day,â€ he informed with glee.