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Nigeria to  intensify ‘cooking gas’ policy to eradicate health hazards- Kachikwu’s Aide

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Babatunde Abiodun 

 

To reduce to the barest minimum, attendant health hazards associated with the use of firewood and kerosene stove for household and commercial, the Federal Government of Nigeria will boost the implementation of her gas policy by making liquefied petroleum gas, otherwise known as cooking gas abundantly available to everyone irrespective of socio-economic status.

This is coming o the heels of a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that “over 98,000 Nigerian women die annually from the use of firewood. If a woman cook breakfast, cook lunch, cook dinner, it is equivalent to smoking between 3 and 20 packets of cigarettes a day”.

Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Petroleum on Refineries, Downstream and Infrastructures, Brenda Ataga said government is desirous of making gas available to everybody, to the poor and the rich, because it is the cheapest and safest means of cooking energy. “Gas is for everyone, it is a matter of perception about the cost of gas,” she said.

Atanga who spoke with journalists at the ‘Upgrade to Gas’ Stakeholders Meeting convened by Africare Nigeria at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Thursday said the policy plan of the government is to break down gas retail into segments to make sure that people can access gas at their own level.

We want a situation where you can buy 200 or 300 naira worth of gas if that is you can afford. What we are advocating is the ‘pay as you go’ system of gas purchase as we have in the telecommunications sector where everyone irrespective of age, sex or level of social or education use the GSM phone. This will ensure that everyone can afford the use of cooking with gas.”

But she called for a stricter regulation of gas retailing business stressing the need for players in gas marketing to comply with regulations laid down by the Department of Petroleum Regulation (DPR) for a safer environment and to curtail gas explosion and fire disasters.

“Government regulation stipulates where gas can be sold and the last man in the chain of sale for gas is the gas refilling plant which must be certified by the DPR, not gas cylinder retail cubicle on the roadside. It is important that NNPC distil information to the general public on authorized places they can buy gas. Gas that is sold in refilling plant has been tested by DPR and certified as meeting the Nigerian standard.

“But it hard to say where the roadside retailers are coming from, they sell LPG the way people sell tyres on the road and that is totally unacceptable.” She said.

Aliyu Mohammed of the DPR, Abuja Office said that government want to increase the use of gas because of the enormous gas potential that is available in the country and that utilization of gas will increase revenue and create more employment opportunities.

He said the use of gas is far below average in Africa but hoped that with the awareness initiative of organizations like Africare, usage of gas will be improved and attendant inconveniences of using charcoal or firewood bring such as inhaling of carbon monoxide and contamination of the  environment will be drastically reduced.

The convener, Dr. Orode Doherty, Country Director, Africare Nigeria said the  meeting was to update the stakeholders who were involved from the very beginning of the project which started in September 2016 and were involved in the entire process. She said the essence of gathering a whole gamut of stakeholders was to update them, to hear from beneficiaries, the testimony from them and to have an understanding of how Africare have come about the project and what is the next steps.

“We started the project in September 2016,  we found out that there is 20 percent increase in the number of people who consider that LPG is affordable for them. This is important because at the beginning many households do not believe that they could afford LPG. We had a conversation with them and educate them on the health implication of each of the cooking alternatives, especially the effects of the cooking stove and firewood on their health, the health of their children, their environment and their general wellbeing.

She disclosed that an initial survey  revealed that out of the 16,666 household reached 50 percent of them do not use LPG due to fear of prohibitive switch over cost and fear of explosion, 26 percent use LPG with other fuels because gas finished at inconvenient time while 24 percent use LPG exclusively and that 315 LPG non-users switched to LPG as a result of Africare house-to-house awareness campaign.

She added that as a follow-up, it was discovered that 262 stalkers switched exclusively to LPG.

According to her, the project aimed at changing the narrative of cooking in Abuja and Lagos from where four communities in Abuja Municipal Area Council, Bwari Area Council, Ikorodu LCDA and Oshodi-Isolo LCDA were chosen as pilot areas where local residents were interrogated on their opinion about cooking with gas.

Giving the narrative of’ the journey so far’, the Country Director said creative workshops and interactive processes were organized and feedback from the field were duly processed while the Nigerian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association were engaged to train the project staff on the safe use of gas, adding that the project staff thereafter developed curriculum, recruited and trained 63 community workers with the aid of flip charts and pictures using different languages in relation to peculiarity of prevailing cultures of those communities.

” We want to encourage Nigerians to stop the felling of trees and the reduction of our forests. Firewood comes from trees and by felling these trees our forests are being depleted. So, we need to stop cutting down our trees, we need to replant trees in million on the daily basis. In Nigeria we’ve lost some of our forests, with deforestation most of the people in northern Nigeria cannot plant grains, there is no water, we’ve lost huge natural habitat. If we cut trees are we planting new ones?. We need to go for a cleaner, less expensive and relatively safer form of cooking energy.”, she canvassed.

To further strengthen the project, she said Africare has in December 2017, initiated the Cylinder Payment Scheme with major gas marketers like Lite Gas and AA Rano in which households under the scheme pay for cylinders in installment over an agreed period of time. She said “the scheme was developed to provide households with sustained access to safe and certified cylinders.”


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