By Cyril Ogar Abuja
With the recent hike in prices of kerosene and cooking gas across the country, most Abuja residents now depend on charcoal as a substitute. A litre of kerosene now costs between N300 and N400 in most quarters as against N195 to N220 while 12.5kg cylinder of cooking gas costs between N5,500 and N6,500 as against N3,500 in December 2016.
A survey by news direct revealed that many households across the city, especially the middle and low classes, have resorted to the use of charcoal for cooking. Both sellers and housewives across the city confirmed that the price of charcoal also went up as a result of increase in demand for the commodity.
A charcoal trader in Jikwoyi Village, Mrs. Mercy Igelle, said many people have abandoned their stoves and switched to charcoal, leading to increased patronage of her business. “It has also affected the price because the cost of a bag of charcoal increased by N400. However, we now sell more depending on how fast the market moves.”
Mrs. Amaka Samuel, who has been trading in charcoal for the past four years in Kuje, said scarcity and increase in price of kerosene has improved her business. “Many people now use charcoal pots rather than stoves, and that has increased the number of customers. Although the number of people who buy in bags has dropped, those buying in smaller quantity have increased.”
A housewife, Mrs. Folashade Ojo, said she had to switch to a charcoal pot because of the high cost of kerosene, explaining that one has to be wise in spending. “The last time I bought kerosene, it was N350 per litre and it did not last, which was why I opted for charcoal which is a bit more affordable. Though I prefer using stoves, I have no choice but to keep managing with the charcoal until things get better,” she said.
Madam Deborah Goza, a charcoal wholesaler in Kado Market, who affirmed that the hike in price of kerosene has brought much improvement and patronage to her business, noted that her customers used to be restaurant operators who buy in bags but a lot of housewives have joined her clientele list.
She said the increase in the wholesale price of the commodity is also affecting her. “I used to buy a truckload of 200 bags but now we team up to buy and share because the money is too much for one person.”
Mrs. Precious Anene, who owns a hair dressing salon in Old Karmo, said she still uses her stove despite the high cost of kerosene. She says it’s not easy for her but she’s concerned about the safety of her baby.
Another resident, Anwuli Okeke, said she had to resort to the use of firewood and charcoal when a litre of kerosene became N250 because of the size of her family.
“I have a family of six, so how much kerosene do I buy? I heard the price has risen to N400. I cannot afford that because I’m just a petty trader and the money coming in from my husband takes care of the children’s school fees and house rent,” she said.
As the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) continues to blame oil marketers for the scarcity of kerosene and cooking gas, Nigerians are also praying and looking up to the authorities concerned to do something urgent, to ease the hardship.