•It’s causing tension in many families —Ezeamaka
•Nigerians paying heavily for gas, while it’s flared in the Niger-Delta —Student
•We use charcoal, electricity as alternatives —Housewives
•Resorting to firewood nearly killed my 10-yr-old son —Motor of mechanic
•We’ve stopped boiling water for bathing —Abia Commissioner
•Declare state of emergency on cooking gas, kerosene —Lecturer to FG
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Chidi Nkwopara, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Peter Okutu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinoso Alozie, Steve Oko & Emmanuel Iheaka
ENUGU—The astronomical rise in the cost of cooking gas and kerosene in the country has subjected homes, particularly poor homes, in the South-East zone, to more stress, in addition to the excruciating hardship the general economic condition in Nigeria has already placed on them. The situation has forced many families to resort to alternatives such as firewood and charcoal.
A housewife in Awka, Anambra State, Mrs. Eucharia Ezeamaka lamented that high cost of cooking gas is causing so much tension in many families as husbands sometimes feel that their wives are deliberately wasting the product.
Narrating her experience, Ezeamaka said: “We were buying 12.5 kg of cooking gas at N1200. After some time, it went up to N2000 and it has been increasing such that few days ago, I filled the 12.5 kg cylinder with N11,350. My husband is always unhappy whenever we tell him that the gas is finished, but there is nothing we can do about it because there is no alternative.
“I contemplated cooking with electricity and discovered that gas is even much cheaper and so, I discarded the use of electricity.”
A student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Miss Odinaka Okoli said because of high cost of cooking gas, she has shifted to the use of electricity to cook, which, according to her, has turned out to be much cheaper than cooking gas and kerosene.
“When the cost of cooking gas became so high, I decided to buy hot plate for cooking while gas serves as a support. Since we live in a house where the landlord included electricity bill as part of the rent, I found cooking with electricity much cheaper.
“Now the N2,000 gas I bought in January this year is yet to finish because I only use it when there is no public power supply.”
She wondered why the cost of cooking gas is so high when the product is being flared ceaselessly in the Niger-Delta. A civil servant in Enugu State, Mrs. Gladys Igbokwe said she has resorted to using firewood for cooking. She lamented that as a salary earner of N30, 000 minimum wage, she could not afford to buy gas at N700 per kilogram.
”We don’t know what we should be using now because even firewood is very costly now.
A painter of charcoal which can only help you prepare a pot of soup is now sold for N500. The problem we mothers are having after buying the food is what we will use to prepare it.” The widow and mother of three children lamented that government has made life unbearable for them. A cross section of housewives who spoke to South- East Voice in Umuahia, said they now use charcoal, firewood and electric stove for cooking whenever electricity is available.
It was gathered that cooking gas now sells for as high as N750 to N800 per litre in Abia State.
The situation has made it difficult for average families to continue to use cooking gas for cooking. A housewife, Mrs. Blessing Onuma, said she resorted to using charcoal for cooking as alternative because her family could no longer afford cooking gas, considering the high cost of foodstuff and other household items in the market.
”My family can no longer afford cooking gas. I have resorted to using charcoal which is cheaper. A pack of charcoal sells for N500, N1,000 or N1,500, depending on your choice and it lasts longer than cooking gas; a litre of cooking gas which sells for N750 can’t last for two days. We buy eight kilograms of cooking gas at between N6, 000 and N7, 000 and it can’t last for more than two weeks for an average family.”
Another housewife, who simply gave her name as Chinenye, said she uses electric stove for cooking whenever electricity is available because her family can no longer afford cooking gas.She explained that many families have adopted the use of electric stove, firewood and charcoal to save cost due to the skyrocketing prices of food items in the market.
”The major problem is that prices of food items are going up daily in the market. Any item you buy at a given price won’t be the same price when next you visit. There are too many bills waiting for the family even with scarce resources. You have the children’s school fees and rent to pay, among other bills. So, families are now adjusting to alternatives to save cost and make ends meet. Using electric stove and charcoal are the alternatives to the increasing cost of cooking gas,” she explained. An auto mechanic in Owerri, Imo State, Jude Maduoma, said he had since resorted to the use of firewood for cooking following high cost of gas.
Maduoma stated that his family of six persons was making use of 12-kilograms of gas which he said would usually last for two weeks until about two months ago when he said he could no longer bear the cost. The mechanic who resides in Ubomiri, Mbaitoli Local Government Area in the outskirts of Owerri, happens to live in his own house, which affords the family the opportunity to make use of firewood.
According to him, resorting to the use of firewood has given him relief in terms of the money he was spending to buy gas.
Maduoma, however, said his second son would have been consumed by fire some weeks ago when he poured petrol on firewood thinking it was kerosene. ”We now use firewood to cook. We were using 12 kilograms of gas which finishes within two weeks. I realised I was spending so much on gas, so two months ago, I decided to stop and start using firewood.
”Luckily for me, I live in my own house at Ubomiri; so, it is easy for us to use firewood.
“But God saved us last two weeks; my second son would have been burnt because of this firewood issue. He mistakenly poured petrol on firewood thinking it was kerosene and the thing exploded. How he managed to escape is what has remained a miracle. The jerry can containing the fuel and a guava tree in my compound were burnt down,” he narrated.
For Mrs. Priscilla Umeh, a Commissioner in the Abia State Local Government Service Commission, the outrageous cost of cooking gas has forced her to stop boiling water for bathing in her house.
She said the decision was taken as a measure to minimize the impact of the rising cost of cooking gas on the economy of the family. Apart from stopping the use of hot water to bathe, the lawyer also said she had long stopped cooking some of her favourite meals such as local beans (akidi), bread fruit (ukwa) which take a long time to cook.
She also said she had reduced the rate of cooking in the family all in a bid to cut cost. Mrs. Umeh who said she has no alternative to resort to than using gas, described the experience as very excruciating. She, therefore, urged government to quickly intervene by removing all the bottlenecks responsible for the rising cost of cooking gas and kerosene. ”It is not funny.
It is a hellish experience. We are suffering in this country. The rising cost of cooking gas and kerosene has gone out of control, and unless there is urgent government intervention, many families may not be able to feed well in the coming months,” she said.
Narrating her own experience, a university lecturer, Mrs. Onyi, lamented that cooking gas “is now taking a big chunk of the family’s resources,” lamenting that 15kgs of gas she previously bought at between N3,750 and N4000, now sells for N9,750. ”It is really not a good time for most families.
“If I am cooking I will be always afraid the gas might finish midway. Cooking for my family which has always been my hobby, is no longer pleasurable.”
Cooking gas is now taking a toll on the family’s income. The amount we spent on gas two months before now, is hardly enough for three weeks. It is not funny at all. The children are scolded for over-boiling water with gas.” Mrs. Onyi also said she had stopped preparing meals that consume so much gas to cook as part of measures to save cost. She appealed to the Federal Government to come to the rescue of families by declaring a state of emergency on cooking gas and kerosene.
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, a housewife, who simply identified herself as Mama Daberechukwu, lamented that the cost of living was getting unbelievably unbearable for most families.Her words: “The cost of living is getting unbelievably unbearable for most families.
The cost of virtually all goods and services in the country has become extremely high and our leaders do not appear to care. Cost of foodstuffs, cooking gas and kerosene, have hit the roof. Only God will save us.”
Similarly, the Chairman, Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice, Bishop Kenneth Obi, who addressed newsmen in Owerri, blamed the plight of the citizens on “the inability or unwillingness of the people to speak out.
”The disheartening aspect of it is not that bad leadership has negatively affected the country’s economy, but that a lot of people are not speaking out, either for fear of being killed or intimidated by those who are behind our woes in the society.
Of particular interest here is the prevailing high cost of virtually all the petroleum products in Nigeria. It has sadly worsened the economic situation in the country.
”The transportation sub-sector is also badly affected by the cost of fuel. Apart from the fact that people now pay through their nose to move from one point to the other, the issue of insecurity also stares the citizens in the face,” he lamented. According to the cleric, “sadly enough, the hardest hit by this ugly development are the people considered as ordinary Nigerians, whose wages have not experienced the necessary upgrade.”
A commercial driver, who simply identified himself as Mathias said: “Our leaders and government officials can afford to pay for the petroleum products, despite the cost and that is why they are not speaking for the masses. Government should please realise that there is an elastic limit to everything under the sun.”
Speaking with South-East Voice, a federal civil servant, Mrs. Happiness Igboke described the development as unbearable and very frustrating. ”This is really unbearable and frustrating. The price of cooking gas has gone up. The price of kerosene is something else.
The last time I bought kerosene, the price was N580 per litre. How can one cook in this country? Right now, we are on strike. How to feed is a challenge and the high cost of kerosene has compounded it. God will save us in this country,” she cried out. A trader in the popular Kpirikpiri Market, Abakiliki, Mrs. Nwabueze Amaka lamented the high cost of cooking gas and kerosene, saying that something has to be done to reduce the prices, so that Nigerians will not be driven into starvation.
”Well, the situation has made us to resort to alternatives. In fact, cooking with firewood is even better. The food tastes better. We have now created an area in my compound for cooking with firewood. We must survive no matter what. The government needs to come up with policies that will make life better for Nigerians,” she noted. An Onitsha-based legal practitioner, Prince Christopher. O. Muo said the situation has forced many homes to resort to the use of fire wood, especially if they stay in apartments conducive for that, though he noted there are some health implications, moreso when materials like polythene and plastics are used to ignite and sustain the fire while cooking.
Commenting on the ugly development Anambra State chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross Society Prof Peter Emeka Katchy said that it is quite unfortunate that the Federal Government has the wherewithal to repair our dilapidated refineries and make them functional and save Nigerians from unnecessary hardship.Many families who could not afford to buy kerosene and cooking gas have now resorted to the use of charcoal and firewood to do their domestic cooking even as they continue to ponder on what they termed ineptitude of the present government of the federation.