In the past week, a lot of events happened across the country that engendered debates and talking points. From the Ikoyi building collapse in Lagos state to the abduction and rescue of the University of Abuja lecturers and the Anambra elections, these were major talking points for many across the country. However, a salient event that soared below the radar was the kerosene tank explosion in Kubwa, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory.
The incident happened on a Friday, the 5th of this month around 7 p.m. It was reported that the incident occurred close to the popular Kubwa village market area. So far, no fewer than five people have been reported dead, while several others have sustained varying degree of injuries. Two shops in the market were affected in the incident. Sadly also, the kerosene seller and her two children were reported to have died in the fire incident.
As soon as the incident occurred, the rumor that began making rounds was that the incident was as a result of a bomb blast. Well, due to the security challenge the country is currently facing, such thoughts wouldn’t be misplaced. It took the FCT police command and other security personnel to debunk the bomb explosion narrative. While the explosion has been attributed to adulterated kerosene, the important thing to note here is that there is a growing demand for kerosene as well as firewood for cooking across the country as the price of cooking gas has risen astronomically and beyond the reach of many Nigerians.
Households need energy for various activities. On top of the list is cooking, which accounts for a greater percentage of the total domestic energy consumption. Across Nigeria, household cooking energy accounts for a major part of the total energy consumed. Research has revealed that the cooking energy with the highest perceived level of efficiency was Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), while the energy with the highest level of preference was kerosene. The major reasons for the preference for LPG was because it cooks fast and clean compared to kerosene.
During the generations before, the use of firewood for cooking was literally a ‘no-brainer.’ Despite one’s occupation or class in the society, firewood was the go-to as the source of energy was not a concern for Nigerians at that time. However, over time, kerosene stove became popular as concerns for tree-felling, as well as deforestation became widespread. By the turn of the 20th century however, many homes across the country embraced the use of LPG for cooking.
These days, the situation seems to have changed as the rising cost of living, especially the increase in price of cooking gas, is forcing Nigerians, especially the low-income earners, to return to the use of wood, sawdust, kerosene stove and other sources for cooking of their daily meals. Since June this year, the price of gas has been on a steady rise with many making jokes on social media that the new answer to the riddle “what goes up and never comes down” is LPG.
The increment has become a source of worry for many Nigerians. A neighbor recently divulged that the last time he bought gas for home use was last month. He can still recall getting to the gas station and chatting with the attendant over the increment. He said that a 5-kilogramme of cooking gas was being sold for N3, 500 while 12.5-kilogramme was being sold for N8, 750. He however also expressed that the price varied depending on the location within the FCT considering the fact that some petrol stations charged higher. This amount also represents an increment of over 20 per cent in the last two months as 5-kilogramme of gas cost N2, 250 while 12.5-kilogramme was being sold for about N5, 625 in August.
When he asked the man who attended to him why this was the case, the response he got was that the price hike resulted from the global shortfall in gas supply and inadequate local production, as well as the FOREX challenge. The attendant also noted that the price of gas would continue to rise until December. With the current economic challenges many Nigerians are facing, the price hike has undoubtedly triggered the use of kerosene stoves as alternatives. This will surely give rise to sharp practices like the sale of adulterated kerosene, which could pose an alternative kind of danger.
A case in point occurred last Saturday when three students were reported to have been injured and their properties destroyed in a fire outbreak at the University of Maiduguri’s female hostel. This is the second of such incident in one month. The fire was suspected to have started from a kerosene cooking stove. Early last month, a kerosene explosion that occurred in Enugu state caused a 16-year-old boy to sustain burns on his body.
In late February last year, two persons were reported to have sustained high degrees of burn after kerosene, suspected to have been adulterated by a local vendor, caused explosions in their various homes in Anambra state. In May of the same year, another kerosene explosion in Rivers State killed one person and injured another. These are just a few instances where the use of alternatives to LPG has proven harmful and, in some cases, fatal to Nigerians that have opted for their use.
The fact remains that although LPG is a safer and more environmentally friendly fuel for cooking food compared to kerosene and charcoal, many Nigerian homes, particularly in the rural areas, still do not have access to this energy source. This hinges on a variety of reasons ranging from distribution and storage infrastructure deficits to high cost and logistic bottlenecks. In many satellite towns and suburbs within the FCT, as well as many parts of rural townships all over the country, research reveals that kerosene demand is on the increase.
If one is familiar