11 March 2014, Lagos – SCARCITY of kerosene has become a part of the daily challenges many Nigerians face. Unfortunately, their sufferings in sourcing kerosene, a fundamental cooking energy for a majority of Nigerian families do not enjoy the sort of prominence that a day’s shortage of petrol does.
Low income earning Nigerians bear the brunt of the scarcity. They use kerosene for cooking and lighting up their homes. Their daily toils with providing food for the family endures the additional challenge of getting kerosene, one of the numerous by-products of the crude oil we produce.
The official price of kerosene is fixed at N50 per litre. Kerosene is never available at that price. Across the country, kerosene costs as much as N170 per litre. In most instances, availability is the bigger issue.
Scarcity of kerosene is attributed to diversion of the product by some marketers. Sharp practices by middlemen are other reasons for the high price of kerosene. Obviously the supply of the product is inadequate. It is the primary cause of the high cost of kerosene. DPR has to deal with the sharp practices. It has the means to detect marketers who divert products. What it lacks is the will to punish them, which is why the sharp practices thrive.
If government cared about ameliorating the sufferings of the poor, it would not watch as the little people eke out is expended on inefficient and expensive fuels like kerosene. Over the years, availability and affordability of kerosene has posed challenges to users but government did not care.
Government usually claims it subsidises kerosene. Where is the subsidy if the product is sold at more than three times the official price? Many homes need kerosene. They are not getting attention for their pain because they are poor, including rural Nigerians, who their governments ignore their voices. What have their representatives at the National Assembly done about this recurring national burden on the poor, who are already over-burdened?
It is important to look beyond the immediate solution of liberalising kerosene importation to make room for other importers and marketers to join the business. The key to lower prices of kerosene, like fuel, lies in domestic refining of kerosene.
Government should be concerned enough about the plight of its people to act. In the longer term, other energy sources like gas, should be promoted as the alternative to kerosene.