By KUNLE KALEJAYE
THE high incidence of substandard, unbranded and smuggled cylinders into the Nigerian market has deterred genuine importers of the product from investing in the business, thereby discouraging the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG/cooking gas in the country.
This development according to the National President, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers Association of Nigeria, LPGARAN, Mr. Michael Chika, has allowed the market to be dominated by those who are ready to cut corners in order to remain in the business.
Prominent among then according to Chika are the faceless ones who often import unbranded cylinders, adding that these cylinders cannot stand the test of time, especially in a society with poor maintenance culture.
In his words: “In the recent years, tens of thousands of LPG cylinders have been imported into the country. While some of the cylinders were certified by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) before and after their importation, others were smuggled into the country by desperate businessmen with little or no recourse to standard requirements.
“Most of the substandard cylinders, for instance the 12.5kg size, are sold between N1,000 and N2,000 less than the certified ones. Unfortunately, unsuspecting members of the public often prefer to buy such cylinders in order to save some money.
To level up with other countries in LPG utilization, the LPGARAN boss reiterated that there is a need to checkmate the trend. This according to him, required urgent attention from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, and other stakeholders such as the Nigerian Association Liquefied Petroleum Gas, Marketers, NALPGAM.
Chika also cited the high cost of cylinders as another impediment to LPG development. He recalled that several schemes had been discussed in the past to proffer solution to the problem, but the absence of coordinated effort toward achieving set objectives have proved abortive
“The effectiveness and successes of the Indonesian model of making cylinders to make them affordable to the end-users have been acknowledged by stakeholders in the Nigeria’s LPG industry. Our West African sister country, Ghana, has experimented with a similar model and the successes were narrated in the last NLPGA conference by a participant from Ghana.
“The present LPG industry in the country is sustained with hundreds of thousands of cylinders owned by members of different strata of investors in the sector, particularly retailers, end-users and some multinationals. And presently, many companies, both big and small, are involved in importation of cylinders.
“In the recent times, the argument has been ‘Who maintains these cylinders?. Two critical issues are involved: Nigeria needs more and more cylinders which cannot be satisfied by one or a few entities; secondary, the cylinders need to be regularly maintained to ensure safety in the industry.
“There is a need for collaborated efforts among the stakeholders in this regard. While those who have the wherewithal to monitor and maintain their cylinders should be encouraged to do so, other must ensure they evolve a framework in which their cylinders are maintained.
”The Nigeria LP Gas Association serves as the best platform in which this can be achieved, and, of course, with the support of relevant government agencies. LPGARAN, on behalf of LPG retailers, is ever ready to partner with other stakeholders to initiate best possible mechanisms for cylinder maintenance.
“It is not a healthy development for Nigerians to continue to talk of cylinders importation as if the country lacks the capacity to produce cylinders locally. It is amazing that a country that produced some of the best LPG cylinders in the world more than two decades ago is now made a dumping ground for all kinds of imported cylinders.”