In the past few weeks, kerosene has become a scarce commodity. The price has gone up to about 100 per cent. OSBY ISIBOR writes on the pains Nigerians go through to access the product and the implication of kerosene scarcity on the economy.
It is estimated that about ninety per cent of the Nigerian populace use kerosene for domestic purposes. Officially, Kerosene is meant to sell for N50 per litre, but it now goes for between N150 and N300 per litre, no thanks to artificial scarcity and inflated prices by marketers.
From east to the west; north to the south, the endless search for this commodity is virtually affecting all homes, especially the ordinary people who find the use of kerosene for domestic purposes more affordable. The long queues of consumers waiting endlessly at filling stations have made the situation worse.
This sudden increase in kerosene price has also affected the suppliers as some managers of filling stations are complaining bitterly about the challenges they are facing as a result of the change in price. Some said as a result of the price increase, they have not been able to purchase the commodity because nobody is ready to pay such amount of money for a litre of kerosene.
Most homes that cannot afford the commodity are now forced to make do with other cooking alternatives such as firewood and charcoal, despite the inconvenience associated with the use of these materials. The current situation could lead to deforestation, as low income earners who cannot afford kerosene now depend on firewood as alternative energy source.
According to reports, the national daily demand of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DKP) is estimated to be between 8 and 10 million litres. This quantity obviously cannot be made available by the dysfunctional refineries scattered across the country.
Nigeria’s refineries have been meeting only 35 per cent local consumption, while the remaining 65 per cent is sourced abroad. Hence, the country relies on importation of the product to meet high demand.
The absence of refineries to produce kerosene as well as other petroleum products have also been attributed for the untold hardship inflicted on Nigerians, especially now that kerosene imports have reportedly declined with only few refineries producing it worldwide.
Nigeria is one of the largest producers of petroleum products in the world, yet the products are not available and where it is available, it is unaffordable by the common man. What an irony?
For instance, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and its environs, the price of kerosene recently jumped by more than 100 per cent. This has resulted in long queues at Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega stations and other filling stations.
At the height of scarcity of the product, thousands of people including pregnant women and nursing mothers kept vigil at some of these petrol stations.
Investigations revealed that most of the nursing mothers spent the night in an open space around the area despite the harsh weather.
A woman, who identified herself as Mercy told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that she had not been able to buy kerosene despite staying in the station for two days with her one-month-old baby. The woman who looked depressed lamented that cooking had become impossible without kerosene.
“This is frustrating. How can we be producing a product and still be experiencing this level of scarcity and high cost?” She asked.
Mrs. Ngozi Osemeke, a business woman in Garki area of Abuja, said the increase in prices of kerosene was inhuman and unfair.
According to her, “Government wakes up and takes decisions without considering the feelings of the common man on the street.
This government has no better plans for the poor masses. The only way they are compensating the people that voted them into power is bringing out policies that impose hardship to the masses. There is no adequate electricity supply and right now, we have been faced with scarcity of kerosene. This government is making life miserable for the society”.
The high cost of kerosene could bring some resultant problems on the community. The poor people now take to the old practice of fetching woods from the forest and with resultant deforestation and climatic changes. The government at various times had encouraged tree planting to prevent deforestation, desertification and their gross effect of erosion of the landscape.
Kerosene scarcity would reverse the gains of all these past efforts. The use of coal is another concurrent effect of kerosene unavailability. Coal usage in the homes gives all forms of health hazard, the respiratory diseases and global carbon dioxide increase and the attending ozone layer depletion.
Another sad effect of unavailability of kerosene is adulteration, which at times results in explosions with great loss to lives and property.
Scores of Nigerians have lost their lives to kerosene explosion, as a result of kerosene adulteration. Economic analysts blamed the government for its inability to monitor the distribution of the product.
With no visible action taken to control the ever rising cost of kerosene or make the product readily available, consumers who go through the torturous experiences of queuing up in the scorching sun to buy the essential commodity looked up to the federal government.
Unfortunately, both federal and state governments have been silent on the high cost of kerosene and its concomitant scarcity that is tearing the common man apart in Nigeria.
The perennial scarcity and the attendant high cost of kerosene is a problem the Nigerian government should address squarely. It affects the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder causing untold hardship to the generality of the masses.