Tree felling for firewood purposes across Nigeria is assuming a worrisome dimension as the price of cooking gas hits the rooftop, Daily Trust reports.
Many households and restaurants especially in the cities that were hitherto using cooking gas are now using firewood and charcoal.
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Experts described the development as dangerous, saying it has reversed the “little achievements” recorded by the federal government in the last few years during which cooking gas burners were shared in towns and villages to discourage tree felling occasioned by climate change.
President Muhammadu Buhari was part of the just-concluded World Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Scotland where alongside African leaders joined world leaders and signed off a new climate change agreement after two weeks of intense negotiations.
Experts championing the course for a greener environment have raised the alarm that if not curtailed, the increasing felling of trees would not only impact negatively on the environment but also affect the health of Nigerians.
Daily Trust reports that there has been a consistent rise in the price of cooking gas starting from April 2021 when it was sold for between N280 and N300 per kilogramme but later increased to N750.
A 12.5 KG of gas is currently sold for between N8, 500 and N9, 300.
This newspaper had severally reported that the rise in prices was a result of the shortfall in the supply of the product to the domestic market.
The country’s main supply source of the product, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), had said it supplies about 350, 000 tonnes per annum of the product to the Nigerian market out of its 450,000 tonnes capacity.
The company reportedly said it was committed to dedicating the entire production capacity to the Nigerian market to boost supply and help reduce the spike in prices of the product.
Austin Ogbodo, the Marketing Manager, was quoted as saying that between 2007 and 2020, NLNG had cumulatively supplied over two million tonnes into the domestic market; spurring a steady rise in annual domestic consumption in a market that was below 50,000 tonnes per annum in 2007 to over one million tonnes per annum in 2020.
Situation in states
Findings by our reporter showed that as a result of the astronomical increase in the price of cooking gas, many people in major towns and villages across the country have resorted to the old method of using firewood and charcoal.
In Kano State, many residents said they have adopted the old method of using firewood.
They added that the price of charcoal has also increased.
Visits to villages along Dambatta and Makoda axis revealed that firewood felling has become a business of every local besides farming without minding the implications on the environment.
Saad Yakub said, “We are now getting more sales compared to the past. Before the prices of charcoal and gas went up, only a few customers mostly bread bakers and those selling Suya were patronising us.”
Malam Aminu Garba, another respondent said a bunch of firewood that was selling for N100 now sells at N300. He said there was a huge demand for firewood from the city.
“When the firewood mongers realised that there is a huge demand by people from the city, they hiked the price per bunch.
“As I speak with you, many people have cut off many trees from their farms and those planted by the government to supply firewood,” he said.
In Kano city, findings revealed that many firewood sellers that were witnessing low sales before are now making brisk business even as housewives have also joined the trade.
“Our neighbour is now selling firewood inside her house and people are buying regularly,” a resident who gave his name as Salman, said.
“This shows how the situation has affected many people and how they have stopped using gas and charcoal,” he said.
A restaurateur in Naibawa, Halima Habib said there was no way they could use gas and recoup their money.
“We were encouraged by the officials from the forestry department to start using gas some years ago and we reluctantly embraced it.
“Of course, we discovered it was better in terms of hygiene and all that but suddenly it is now beyond our reach.
“We have no option than to go back to using firewood and it is now a smuggled commodity…The drivers bring it at night because the government frowns at felling of trees,” she said.
In Benue State, our correspondent reports that there had been an increased felling of trees in recent months amid the rising cost of cooking gas.
A resident of Nyon suburb in Makurdi, Charity Chile, said she resorted to firewood after discovering that the prices of charcoal too went up by 100 per cent while the price of cooking gas, which she was used to before has now gone beyond what she could afford.
“I depend on firewood sellers now. They go to the bush, fell trees and sell to us,” she said.
Another resident in the Apir area of the state, Judith Terhemen, said it was no longer a shameful thing for members of her household to go to the nearby bushes in search of wood to be used as fuel for cooking.
“We get woodcutters to help us fell the trees in bushes and in that way, we reduce cost. A bag of charcoal, which sold for N1, 400 in January, this year, now goes for N3,000 or more while kerosene if at all is found in filling stations goes for as much as N400 per litre,” she said.
In Ogun State, our correspondent reports that the indiscriminate felling of trees in search of firewood, charcoal and plank business had increased.
Findings showed that poachers and illegal loggers have been cutting down trees from the forest reserves across the state while their activities remained unchecked.
An Abeokuta-based entrepreneur, Michael Ogunsiji, told our correspondent that he used charcoal at home due to the high price of cooking gas.
Agnes John, a housewife and civil servant in Abuja, said many of them have resorted to using charcoal and firewood to cook.
“FCT officials are on the look for firewood merchants and therefore, we use our private vehicles to go to the outskirt of the city where we meet with them and buy.
“We know it is not good because it increases global warming and desert encroachment but what can we do?”
An entrepreneur, Sabo Mohammed Ali said the government was to blame for the tragedy befalling forest reserves.
“I know that Nigeria holds 187 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven gas reserves but what is the government doing all these years to harness it?
“Gas flaring is common in Nigeria at a time other countries are investing heavily to harness it to save their environment. We should prioritise what we are doing to get it right,” he said.
Experts raise concerns
An environmental expert, Oladapo Soneye said that increased felling of trees for firewood as an alternative to the prevailing high cost of cooking gas in the country is threatening the existence of human beings.
Oladapo, who is also the Head of Communications, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), told Daily Trust that trees naturally provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide from the environment, reduce erosion, prevent rain from washing off soils, and provide habitat for wildlife.
While blaming the act of tree felling on ignorance and sabotage, Oladapo said: “When we consider the importance of trees to human existence, from the perspective of being critical to life, we will desist from deforestation.
“If the environment is stripped of its cover, which is trees, human existence is threatened. If we lack oxygen, we will be falling sick.
“We will not have the strength to work to generate revenue and revenue from agriculture is reduced or frustrated.
“When there is no habitat for wildlife, they move to the urban centres, people could be harmed. They pose a serious security threat to man also,” Oladapo said.
Also speaking on the development, Dr Akor Godday, a family medicine physician said cooking with firewood and charcoal has negative implications on health.
He said it puts people at risk of lung cancer and triggers asthma attacks and other allergic or airway reactions.
He said when firewood or charcoal burn, they release carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, among others, stressing that these chemicals were toxic and prevent absorption of oxygen or air into the body cells.
He said: “Lung cancer is one of the conditions the people using firewood or charcoal can be at risk of.
“Those that have conditions like asthma or allergic or airway reaction may also come down with asthma attack or difficulty in breathing,” he said.
By Fidelis Mac-Leva, Ojoma Akor, Baba Martins (Abuja), Ibrahim M. Giginyu, Zahraddeen Y. Shu’aibu (Kano), Hope A. Emmanuel (Makurdi), Peter Moses (Abeokuta) & Olatunji Omirin (Maiduguri)