The hope of Nigerians that domestic gas as a stable energy for all will one day replace kerosene, firewood and coal remains a still birth in the labour room of government policies. GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT SNR takes a critical look at some issues involved.
The report that the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) had ‘commenced working’ with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Oando Group, Sahara Energy and others to promote manufacturing of gas cylinders locally is not a new song. Nigerians have come to realise that policies and political promises are shelved for lack of political will and conscience.
Since the pre and post independent era, government policies have failed to address issues that would make the common man benefit from the abundant natural resources of his fatherland. Daily Times took time to feel the pulse of dwellers in Ajegunle, Makoko, Mushin, Oko Oba and Ikorodu on their expectations concerning the use of domestic cooking gas to completely replace kerosene, charcoal and especially firewood.
Correspondents from at least 28 states who covered over 300 Local Government Areas sent in responses from rural and grassroots dwellers, and the people’s verdict was skepticism and distrust. Mrs. NkemjikaNwamkpa, of Old Ojo Road, Ajegunle said she was tired of hearing what government wants to do. “I lived in Port Harcourt in the 70s before I got married; now I am a grandmother and all we have been hearing from government is how they want to make gas available for everybody, how they will do this and how they will do that, but nothing has happened.”
A family who sells firewood for a living in Nnewi, Anambra state lamented the cost of firewood and how their livelihood is threatened because of government ban on deforestation. Reviewing the failure of the domestic project over the years, cryogenic expert and former branch manager of BOS Gases, in Ibadan, Festus AdesinaObinaike, listed the advantages of making domestic gas available to all. According to him, cooking with firewood is unhealthy for the millions who do so while it also deforests the eco-system.
Obanaike added that the country stands to earn a lot of revenue if even only 40 per cent of Nigerians take to cooking gas. “The kind of returns that can come from the massive use of domestic gas in Nigeria is unbelievable because of the great population. Let’s assume only 40 percent of us would be interested in using domestic gas, the spinoff effect would be indescribable.” He lamented that at present, less than 10 percent of Nigerians are using domestic gas at a rate unaffordable to most people. The jobs that will be created if Nigeria fully exploits its gas resources are also enormous, Obanaike added.
“Just to satisfy 60 to 70 percent of 170 million people, the logistics investment that would be involved would be enormous in terms of human capacity because you’re going to use people and you will have to employ them; you’re going to use equipment and provide services that would make the people’s lives a lot easier and economical.” On the planned strategy by NCDBM, he declared: “The strategy that NCDMB is talking about has always been there; it is the political will and conscience of the players in government that have always been the problem. Another problem is that government didn’t make policies that favoured private investors.
“You cannot build a reputation on what you plan to do; you are assessed by work done and the sustainability of a project beneficial to all, especially on an issue like domestic gas. “Government, he stressed, should make deliberate policies that will favour the cylinder- manufacturing and domestic gas projects. Daily Times investigation reveals local and international players in the Nigerian Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) subsector are holding back investments in the storage of the product because they do not consider them profitable ventures — due to poor penetration.
According to the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), an arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the current adoption of the LPG is 6.8 per cent. Out of over 250,000 metric tonnes of the LPG produced in Nigeria annually, only 20,000MT or less is properly stored, according to data made available to our correspondent and this shows over 92 per cent deficiency in the country’s storage capacity for the product.
PPMC Managing Director, Mr. Haruna Momoh, lamented that dedicated LPG jetties and refrigerated storage facilities are investment areas that had not been fully explored. Corroborating this, Obanaike recalled the problems some companies suffered in their early attempt to venture into the domestic gas business. “Total Nigeria Limited went into partnership with some foreign firm and established Nigerian Gas Cylinders at Ibadan, producing domestic gas cylinders.
“It was a massive effort; they manufactured and introduced a one-burner cooker and onecylinder that were affordable, and they called it ‘Easy cooker’; but consumers were not patronising them at the level that would encourage them to continue. And government did not move in to assist them. How government allowed that company to die is something I cannot fathom. “I was the branch manager of BOS Gases at Ibadan then and we were supplying them with liquid oxygen that they used when they metal-sprayed the cylinders after they had finished to get that perfect surface finish. We were involved with them, so I knew them very well. “Since then, many companies have attempted to repeat the process, but nothing has been achieved to meet that national need.”
The absence of functioning steel companies in the country is another major obstacle to local manufacture of cylinders, says Obanaike:
“Now, if you have to import the metal sheet among other raw materials at the current rate of over N200 to the dollar, what can anyone achieve? “Okay, there can be some local input like welding, electrode; even electrode used to be made locally, but it is no longer so now. “Government had agreed at the time that they would subsidise, but when the product started getting into the hands of distributors, people hijacked it and sold it and the laudable project never worked.” He stressed the problem of transporting big gas cylinders, and advocated smaller, more portable cylinders. “We need a small cylinder that people can carry easily so that you can enter a bus to town, drop and fill it and take it home without much stress,” he said.
Daily Times investigation uncovered a huge import market of light single and double burner kerosene cookers and cylinders manufactured in India. One of the marketers told Daily Times that Indians have studied the Nigerian domestic fuel situation and packaged a neat and kerosene-efficient solution for us since our government refused to do it. The single-burner built on the cylinder costs N5,000, while the double burner costs N10,000. With so much resources and technocrats on the ground, the manufacturing of gas cylinders and production of domestic cooking gas at affordable prices for all is not only feasible but also workable. All that is required is the will and the right attitude.