Nigerians pay through the nose to cook as hike in charcoal, firewood hits Abuja, Borno, others

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BY AHMED ABDUL & KHADIJAT O. MUSTAPHA, SEPTEMBER 05, 2022 | 04:37 PM


Nigerians have decried the high cost of charcoal and firewood, a development that makes it difficult for them to cook.

The price of a bag of charcoal, which is widely used for cooking among average families, rose from N2, 500 to N4, 500, up by 80% in many cities, especially across the northern part of the country.

‘The increase in charcoal price really puts us in a difficult situation. I now buy coal at 4, 500 naira per bag as opposed to N3, 000 just few months back,’ Amina Yusuf, a mother of six in Maiduguri, lamented.

Mrs. Phoebe Ishaku, a resident of Piyawe community, Bwari, Abuja, who is a mother of four, said she bought a bag also at N3, 800, up from N2, 500 a few months ago.

‘Earlier in 2022, I bought a bag of charcoal for N2, 500, but now that same bag is N3, 800,’ she told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN.

Similarly, Mrs. Auta Bature, a wife and mother of five in Sabon-Gari area of Bwari, said she initially used kerosene to cook but that she could not afford it any longer because of the cost.

According to her, a liter of kerosene now sells for N900 and that she needs up to five liters to cook for her large family.

‘This will not even take us up to two weeks because the kerosene they sell these days easily evaporates.

‘So buying a bag of charcoal and gathering firewood while returning from the farm has been a bit more effective for us,’ Bature also told NAN

This has left Nigerians, they said, to resort to using firewood, which is also only a little cheaper.

The shift to firewood also hiked the demand, thus also causing it to now be scarce and more expensive than few weeks ago.

'Prior to the surge, a N500 firewood used to last for almost a week for me but now, even N1, 000 firewood lasts for only between three to four days,’ Amina Yusuf, another Nigerian affected by the hike said.

The increase in the prices of goods and services, a result of wider inflationary pressures affecting Nigeria’s economy, thanks to internal and global factors, has hit every household in the country. While in some countries, it is about the hike in prices, in some places, like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka for instance, it is ultimately about outright unavailability.

These economic challenges are consequences of Covid-19, the Russia - Ukraine war and other global problems, which is said to locally also manifest in rise in the prices of such commodities as petrol, diesel, gas, electricity bills and forex scarcity, among others.

There is also the effects of insecurity, which has widely affected travels across the country, caused displacement of communities and disruption of economic activities, especially across the northern part of the country.

Borno, thanks not to Boko Haram, the people have to deal with all these at once. It is only recently starting to recover from the effects of the crisis.

The residents of the historically old state told YERWA EXPRESS NEWS that they are not finding it easy to cope with the situation.

'Before the increase in firewood price, I and my children used to feed well, but not now. Three pieces of firewood is now N200. Just recently it was N100. This makes feeding ourselves really difficult,’ Fatima Abbas added.

The dealers of both items in the state have attributed the price surge to the factors cited above, but largely to insecurity.

At least one other person attributed it to the rainy season, explaining that it makes storage difficult in the circumstance, as most of them only keep them in open places. The source said since this is difficult given the season, some of them refuse to restock or order only a quantity they can sell in a short time, while others find ways at great cost to store them elsewhere. In reaction to these, the source said, the prices went upward.

Charcoal and firewood are made out of timber and trees. With deforestation, as well as other climate changes, becoming widespread, governments and civil society organizations have also continued to convince the public to change its attitude towards the environment. Thus to this end, indiscriminate felling down of trees are now largely discouraged. This further forced its dealers to look for other ways to stock them from far and wide.

Ba Mai’du Ali, chairman of Borno Firewood Sellers Association who spoke to our correspondent in Maiduguri said insecurity is what makes their business difficult.

'We operate with license but Borno State is battling with crisis and it makes it more difficult to get the firewood because it’s gotten from the bush,' the chairman said.

'If one goes deep into the bush, he/she will get good and dried firewood but because of the fear, one cannot go,' he added.

He noted that this coupled with government regulations guiding the business, have continued to affect supply, thereby creating scarcity, and eventually high prices.

The state government’s regulations, which include a condition for felling down the trees only in specific places and given ways, are being enforced by security personnel.

However, the dealers complain that sometimes the personnel are part of the problem.

They alleged that the personnel mostly stationed along roads into the state capital stop them unnecessarily and deny them access to the bush even when there is no convincing reason.

The chairman said this is why 'before the insurgency, a vehicle full of firewood was sold between N10, 000 and N15, 000 as against over N50, 000 now.'

In addition to this, the chairman said some of his members also help to compound the situation.

He explained, for instance, that government has instructed that a tree must not be cut down from its roots but some of his members have continued to do that nonetheless, an action which brings the association face-to-face with government.

For this and other reasons, such as lack of data, he noted, the association is reviewing its membership policy.

'Some of our challenges include not keeping record of most of the vehicle going into the bush, as everyone ventures into the business.

‘Before the crisis, we keep record of all the vehicle going into the bush. If you are a firewood seller, you have to register with us before going into the bush, but now there is no record,' the chairman lamented, stressing that the management is doing everything to fix the problem.

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