Engr. Betty Ugona, Executive Director, Storage, NPSC and Coordinator, GTHI
…Low awareness as only 5% uses LPG
…As a gas country, Nigeria produces over 3.2 million tons of LPG annually
…Amount of carbon dioxide emitted with adverse impact on the environment is alarming
…In the country’s energy mix 91% of Nigerians are still using alternative means of energy
-By Felix Douglas
The use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LPG) as a means of clean energy is low in Africa and awareness about its usage is poor even among countries with abundance energy resources like Nigeria. Nigeria is ranked as 9th in terms of gas resources but surprisingly only 5% of its teeming population use LPG.
Recently, the Gas Academy in Singapore in conjunction with gas associations across the globe converged in Lagos at the LPG West Africa 2019 Forum & Exhibition to deliberate on how LPG can be adoptable, affordable, accessible and sustainable in Africa.
Gas To Health Initiative (GTHI) is one of the associations concentrated on awareness creation on the use of LPG as the most efficient energy for cooking.
GTHI is a non-governmental and non-political organization to bridge the gap between LPG users, industry players and potential ones through massive awareness creation by sensitizing the public on the use of LPG. Its aim is to promote LPG thereby increasing its use in Nigeria as the most efficient source of energy.
Executive Director, Storage, of the Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company (NPSC), a subsidiary of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Betty Ugona, explained that GTHI main focus is to shift local food vendors also known as ‘mama puts’, schools, hospitals and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps across the country that are major users of alternative energy such as firewood, sawdust, charcoal and kerosene to the use of LPG.
According to Ugona, who is also the Coordinator of GTHI, LPG is the most efficient, cleaner and safer energy. Its use will discourage desertification and consequently maintains a healthier and cleaner environment.
There is general belief that such awareness campaign should be the prerogative of government and industry operators.
Why will certain people take up such responsibility? Obviously, publicity and awareness especially through conventional means are exorbitant and within the reach of some people.
Nigeria is a gas country producing over 3.2 million tons of LPG annually, yet, if the consumption of LPG is compared in the country with other West Africa nations, not even with the globe, the country is still low in LPG consumption.
Giving her views on LPG consumption in Nigeria, the GTHI Coordinator said she was once a manager for LPG sales in NNPC for about eight years and realized a huge gap in the development of LPG market in Nigeria. “Awareness and education of the benefits and safe use of LPG is creating misconception. The fact that a lot of people especially low-income earners believe that the use of LPG is for the elites, Ugona bemoaned.”
There is also lack of awareness of the danger associated with constant exposition to smoke from the use of derivatives.
Most low-income earners and rural dwellers in Nigeria do not know the danger associated with the use of firewood and its derivatives for cooking. Some of them do not know that the use of LPG is cheaper and safer.
The GTHI Coordinator noted that as a manager of LPG sales of NNPC she took it personally to survey by visiting local food vendors and how much was being spent on monthly basis to buy firewood and kerosene for cooking. Astoundingly, these food vendors do not know that it is much more expensive to use firewood for cooking. It was also discovered that food vendors use three main sources of unconventional energy for cooking, such as; kerosene stove, firewood, sawdust and charcoal pots. If these sources of energy are accumulated on monthly basis, it is more expensive than using LPG for cooking.
Another discovery made is that major and heavy users of firewood for cooking are the ‘mama puts’, hospitals, public-boarding schools and NYSC camps. This is because they deal with large number of people.
It is also alarming that the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from these group of people when cooking impacts the environment negatively with adverse health effect on the users.
There is need to switch to LPG especially the local food vendors who provide daily meal for almost 80% of Nigerian workforce.
Looking at the energy mix of Nigeria, 56% uses firewood, sawdust 2%, kerosene 27%, charcoal 6%, electric 4% and gas 5% for cooking. Therefore, about 91% of house-holds in Nigeria are using unconventional alternative energy on daily basis to cook.
Ugona pointed out that the target of GTHI as an advocacy organization is to empower and convert the users of firewood to LPG. It is observed that some of these people intend to use better energy for cooking but do not have the financial might to afford appliances. A cylinder cost for about N10,000 to N12,000 while the burner cost between N15,000 to N20,000 depending on the size. The vendors believed that spending such money does not augur well instead it should be used to enhance their petty trade businesses than buying appliances.
Mobile telecommunication strategy was applied by GTHI. The telecommunication operators target the elite such that they give the SIM cards free to them. Previously, SIM cards were exorbitant and out of the reach of the poor. But, operators in the industry reduced the price to the barest minimum so that a lot of people can buy the SIM. The market of the elites was saturated and they were enticed by getting SIM cards free. The idea is for them to give the SIM to their aids and family members and thereafter purchase airtime for them. The main strategy is the purchase of airtime.
The GTHI Coordinator made it known that if the food vendors, NYSC camps, hospitals and public-private schools are empowered using the telecommunication method by converting their kitchen to the use of LPG, it will increase its consumption in Nigeria not to “Talk of its impact in the entire continent of Africa.”
She gave detailed account of her childhood concerning the use of firewood adding that all through her college days up to service year with NYSC, she cooked with firewood which was the means of energy. There were times that her mother who was once a food vendor, if she erred would ask her to fetch firewood as a means of punishment. According to her “I declared to myself, if I have the opportunity to venture into any better instrument for cooking, I will make sure that I champion it.” Stating further, Ugona said “I thank God that he took me to NNPC and brought me to a department where I have to sell gas and that is why I venture into this, to make sure that schools, NYSC camps will be converted to LPG.”
The NPSC Executive Director started with the conversion of her alma matter from firewood to LPG in the school’s kitchen. Through her efforts, NYSC camp in Abuja was also converted from the use of firewood to LPG. Moreso, to buttress the usage of LPG as a means of efficient energy, an operator has volunteered to sponsor six NYSC camps in some states in northern Nigeria.
GTHI has been able to educate people through virile information network on the danger of using firewood and its derivatives for cooking. It is propagating and intentionally creating awareness to the grass roots. The non-governmental agency advocates for empowerment so as to encourage people who are willing to use LPG get access to it because some of them cannot afford it.
Research shows that in a month 3000 local food vendors ‘mama puts’, in six markets at Abuja, consume 1.2 million kilograms of fire woods. If these fire woods are burnt, “The quantity of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment is about 2.1 million compared to 108 kg LPG which emits only 350 kg of carbon dioxide, Ugona revealed.” This is part of what informs GTHI to take up the initiative. Carbon dioxide is constituting nuisance to the globe and this is worrisome to stakeholders.
As part of its intervention, GTHI has empowered about 5000 ‘mama puts’ while it has the intention of taking the initiative to every parts of Nigeria.
Ugona reiterated that GTHI is looking for support to drive its vision adding that gas plant owners should assist the non-governmental organization.
Obviously, the most important aspect of the initiative is for plant owners without involving GTHI to assist food vendors within their areas of operations including local government. Operators should give free appliances to these food vendors and those involved in local snacks using alternative source of energy to prepare them. Like the telecommunication strategy, these vendors will buy gas and refill their cylinders whenever they have been exhausted. Therefore, within one year, the operators would have recovered their money. GTHI’s concern is on how LPG will penetrate the country and save its citizens from emissions.
SCORE CARDS OF GTHI
GTHI is a member of the World Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (WLPGA) where it was accepted as a non-fee-paying member.
It has distributed about 5000 50kg cylinders and switched about 600 local food vendors including public schools to the use of LPG while volunteers have shown interest by sponsoring the initiative.
GTHI also air an initiative known as ‘Who To Live’ in the radio and has published safety tips including training of potential LPG users on how appliances can be used.
Since 2013 when GTHI commenced its initiative, there has been no incidence or report of any adverse effect on LPG users. Safety tips have been published in major Nigerian languages and pidgin to sensitize people on how to use appliances while emphasizing on the benefits of LPG as clean source of energy. GTHI’s ‘Who Cooks It Feels The Brunt, the environment feels the heat’ initiative has also impacted positively on people.
After training and sensitization on the use of LPG, health hazards associated with the use of alternative energy has been reduced.
Through the cause of GTHI campaign, the non-governmental organization discovers that affordability of starter pack and sustainability of LPG are a source of challenge to food vendors. It encouraged the vendors on how to afford and sustain the use of LPG as they were linked to operators that will supply gas to them whenever it has exhausted. This process brought mutual benefit and relationship between buyers and sellers.
A major source of intervention of GTHI is that it has advocated for more gas plants to be built across the country especially in rural areas while appealing to plant owners to have different facilities for low prices of gas so that it could be afforded.
Fund is a major challenge to GTHI as it could only train few people within its financial strength. The non-governmental organization is willing to convert many people from dirty to clean energy usage but lack the fund hence it is looking for sponsors and donors to support its idea.
LPG operators feel reluctant since it might not be ascertained if they could recoup their money after assisting LPG users. Will they buy gas from them after the support? Premonition of fear and lack of trust hamper LPG support from operators. Although in some parts of the country, there is mutual understanding between gas sellers and buyers such that suppliers go directly to supply LPG users whenever the need arises but the process is at a minuscule level.
There is also a widening gap in the aspect of awareness and education of LPG.
Nigeria as a gas country with over 190 million population, the use of LPG should be competitive to make the price of gas fall while awareness has to be created on the huge benefits of LPG compared to unconventional energy sources.
This will go a long way to address issues of deforestation, health hazards among others. As an energy-based country, Nigeria and its citizens should be committed to clean energy.
Engr. Betty Ugona, Executive Director, Storage, NPSC and Coordinator, GTHI