Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fresh kerosene scarcity, fresh suffering

A fresh scarcity of kerosene is here and consumers are not smiling, already under pressure from an economy that seems to be in a free fall.

At a price range of N135 – N150 per litre kerosene has never been this costly in Nigeria. Early in the week, 60 year old Lagos housewife, Helen Orofin after days of searching around for kerosene was directed to a filling station at Oke Afa, Isolo Lagos. She was almost sighing a heave of relief when she was told a litre would cost her N140. Her shock almost brought tears from her eyes.
After overcoming the shock, she decided to buy just one litre which should serve her to prepare two meals at the most.

“I will only buy based on the amount I have. This litre will serve me for just one and a half days,” she told Saturday Vanguard.

And she can’t use the only affordable alternative – charcoal and firewood because according to her, “I live in a place where it is impossible to use charcoal or firewood.”

At the current rate of N140 per litre, a civil servant earning the new wage of N18,000 per month will have to shell out N3,500 for 25 litres of kerosene every month.

Helen Orofin could even be said to be lucky. Many filling stations are out of stock or are hoarding it, driving the price beyond the means of many Nigerians.

The prices of alternatives like charcoal and firewood have also gone up.

Mrs. Rose Manuel, a charcoal seller in Lagos, said a bag of charcoal which used to go for N1, 200, now costs between N1, 700 and N1, 800, while a small bag of charcoal formally N50 now costs N100.

A food seller, Mrs. Taiwo Akinyele said since the latest scarcity of kerosene, she has resorted to the use of sawdust popularly called Abacha stove. “With the nature of my work, I can’t afford to buy a litre of kerosene at that exorbitant rate, so the best alternative is sawdust. I can’t use firewood and charcoal because they are very costly now. Firewood is expensive, and difficult to use during the rainy season. Sawdust is less stressful,” she said.

Gilbert Chukwuyerinka, of Isheri, Lagos said the common man is being made to go through a difficult period. “I believe this particular product is for the masses, yet we can’t afford to buy even two litres”, he said, adding “I am here with my Eva plastic bottle and told the attendant to sell N200 kerosene for me.

I can’t buy more than that because the price is grossly expensive”. I have been using kerosene since I came to Lagos. If government can look into problem, it will go along way to averting people’s problem.

“I live in Isheri, unfortunately, I can’t get kerosene to buy in any of the filling stations in my area unless I go to Oke-Afa and of all the filling stations, it is only this filling station that sells kerosene for N140 per litre.

Asked if, he thought of any alternative means, he said: “The rule in my house is never to use charcoal. So, it is difficult to switch over to charcoal. And I don’t have money to buy gas.

“We are calling on President Jonathan to intervene and he should realise that God enthroned him to help the poor and attend to the problems facing Nigerians at large. I believe he is a righteous man that has been enthroned by God, he should live up to the people’s expectations”.

National Chairman, Surface Tank and Kerosene Dealers of Nigeria, (SUTAKED), Benjamin Rotimi, said the hike in price of kerosene is as a result of Federal Government’s refusal to make use of NNPC depots across the nation. According to him, there are about 40 NNPC across the nation, but lamented that some of the depots including the ones in Ore, Ibadan, Ilorin, haven’t been able to sell kerosene in the last 10 years.

“The Federal Government is not doing enough to alleviate the suffering of the poor. The product is available based on the effort of business men. And you know that the people will not want to put their money into what will not yield profit for them.”

However, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Allison Maduekwe said at a media forum in Lagos on Thursday that government was doing its best to reverse the current scarcity of kerosene.

According to her, the eight million litres of kerosene which government used to supply per day had increased substantially as part of the strategy to bring down the price. NNPC sells at N40 per litre to marketers but the same litre is sold to consumer at N150.

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