Kerosene users among the urban poor, in remote towns and among the middle class chucked down the social ladder by the recession are groining under the skyrocketing price of the product all over the country. In Lagos where the scarcity of the product was most pronounced during the festive period, leading to the increase in price at between N240 per literto the recent increase of N300 per liter hike, the Christmas was very bleak. Many residents of the mega-city could not find a drop in petrol stations where it was selling for N200 per liter as against the official price of N150, before Christmas.
Despite claims of renewed importation by the NNPC, nothing has changed.
To worsen matters, those who are used to cooking with gas are now been affected by product scarcity as a 12kg cylinder that was sold for N3,500 during the festivities have gone up to N5,500 in relation to Kerosene scarcity. Said a housewife in an estate in Abule-Egba area of Lagos State, MrsBlackkyOweifa; “At a time when we bought gas for N2, 600 between October and late November last year, we felt it was better than Kerosene which add up to the same amount by month end usage. But now, I am so confused, I don’t know which to go for, Kerosene, which is not availableand gas which is becoming unaffordable. A banker who spoke under anonymity urged the government to step in fast as the situation was becoming “intolerable by the day”. She said that even charcoal which used to sell for N100 per polythene bag is beginning to increase in price because of rise in demand.
In Far away, Nsukka in Enugu State, residents share the same fate with Oweifa.
In a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, some residents of the University town have decried Kerosene scarcity, which has led to the product being sold for as high as N3oo per litre.
What is even worse is that it is the filling stations that are selling the product for N300 per liter sells as against the official pump price of N150 per liter.
For many of the residents, the ready alternative is to cook with firewood and charcoal, a more tiring business.
According to a widow, Mrs Stella Ezema, said the situation is so worrisome because buying food items at high cost is bad enough, not to talk of being unable to cook the food items for her children.
She said: “I have not seen this kind of situation before where you will have food items in the house but what to cook them with becomes a problem.
“Because of the high cost of kerosene, the prices of firewood and charcoal have also doubled as the quantity of firewood we used to buy for N250 now sells for N500.
“As a result of this high cost of kerosene, I now avoid cooking food like beans that last long even though my children like eating beans,’’ she said.
MrsIjeomaAmadi, a trader, called on the Federal Government to move to restore order in the sector before things got out of hand, mostly for the main users who are the poor.
“Everybody knows that with the economic recession in the country, things are hard but this astronomical increase in the price of kerosene has added to the suffering of the poor.
“Government should intervene quickly to ensure that owners of filling stations sell the product at the official pump price or seal stations that default to deter others.
“It will be unfair if government should fold its hands and watch kerosene marketers continue to exploit poor Nigerians,’’ she said.
A civil servant, Mr Andrew Ezeugwu, said the government should find out what was responsible for the scarcity of kerosene.
“It was during the Christmas period that the price jumped up. Before the Yuletide, the price was between N200 and N220.
“I spend about N5,000 now to buy kerosene in a week as my family members are used to hot water bath both morning and night.
“Government should swing into action and fish out those responsible for this scarcity before the poor people will start to die of hunger,’’ he said.
A manager in one of the stations in Nsukka town, who spoke to NAN on condition of anonymity, blamed high cost of the commodity in both private and government depots and called on the to step in and regulate the price regime between the marketers and official pump price
He said: “The price of what we sell to customers is determined by what we buy from the depots.
“Government should ensure kerosene marketers buy at normal price from depots so that they can sell at the official pump price.’’