Deforestation looms as escalating price of cooking gas triggers boom in firewood/charcoal business in S’East

From PAT NNADI, Nsukka

Firewood sellers in the South East, especially in Enugu State and in the Nsukka area of the State in particular, are currently smiling to their respective banks as high prices of cooking gas and kerosene have re-ignited people’s interest in firewood for domestic cooking in the zone.

AbeyaNews investigation revealed that, indeed, many residents of  Nigeria’s South-East had resorted to using firewood and charcoal for cooking.

Our investigation in Nsukka metropolis showed that 1 kilogramme cylinder of gas now sold for N900 as against N700, while a 12.5-kilogramme cylinder went for a whopping N11, 250 as against about N8,000 a week or so ago.

A resident of Enugu metropolis, Chika Nweze told AbeyaNews that she had resorted to buying firewood in bundles from Olo in Ezeagu Local Government Area of the State, as an alternative to cooking gas, no thanks to the high cost of the product.

According to Mrs. Nweze, the harsh economic situation in the country had brought hardship to her household, hence her resort to cheaper and affordable means of cooking food for her family.


A firewood dealer at Olo, Mr. Johnson Magbo told AbeyaNews that most eateries as well as individuals in Enugu town had resorted to buying charcoal and firewood for their domestic cooking, agonising that the price of cooking gas had hit the roof and wasn’t about to come down so soon.

Magbo, however, explained that the patronage of firewood was far higher than that of charcoal.

“Due to the increase in the price of gas, we have been experiencing a boom in the sale of firewood,” he declared. “As we speak, I just got a call to supply 50 bundles of firewood to an eatery in Trans Ekulu in Enugu metropolis.”

However, a housewife, Catherine Nwankwo told AbeyaNews that in spite of the high cost of gas, she still preferred using it to cook her family’s meals.

“I can’t stand the smoke that comes from firewood. Moreover, there is no space in my house for a firewood setting for cooking,” Mrs. Nwankwo said.

But environmentalists are worried that the increased use of firewood and charcoal could lead to a spike in deforestation as citizens scramble to make money from illegal felling of trees for charcoal and firewood.

They, therefore, called for a rethink on the part of the people and on the government to do something about the escalating price of cooking gas in Nigeria, not only to reduce the high cost of living in the country but also to save the environment.

Enugu state government prohibits illegal logging

The State Commissioner for Information, Hon Chidi Aroh, earlier this year announced that the Enugu State government had banned illegal logging in the State, expressing dismay that such illegal activities persisted even after an earlier warning which was widely circulated in the media.

“Enugu State Government views with great concern the unabated, deliberate and wicked logging in and around the Milliken Hill, Ngwo Enugu, which has continued to negatively affect the natural ecosystem, biodiversity and climate of the area, and put the Milliken Hill Road at risk,” Aroh said in a statement.

“Recall that the State Government had previously warned against this illegal activity and indeed invited the press on a tour of Milliken Hill, to bring to public notice, the threat this illegal and senseless acts of a few have brought, not just to the environment but also the stability and sustenance of the Milliken Hill Road.”

Aroh, who expressed government’s unwavering commitment to protecting the environment and all infrastructure in the State, called on the security agencies to urgently clamp down on perpetrators of such acts to bring them to justice.

He further enjoined all well-meaning members of the public to assist in the arrest of defaulters by promptly alerting the security agencies whenever such defaulters were sighted engaging in their nefarious activities.

However, according to an Nsukka-based housewife, Jane Agu, besides high cost of cooking gas, lack of electricity supply and high electricity tariffs had also forced some Nigerians to rely on charcoal for cooking.


“If cooking gas is affordable and electricity becomes readily available and affordable, domestic use of firewood and charcoal will naturally be phased out. As I speak with you, a bag of charcoal that was sold at N2000 is now N3500. So, charcoal is not even easy to come by,” Mrs. Agu told AbeyaNews.

But for another resident of Nsukka, Maureen Eze, firewood could no longer be seen as a cheap alternative to cooking gas because it could also no longer be bought cheaply.

“I think the problem is the non-availability of cooking gas in local communities,” she contended. “A heap of firewood that was sold for N1,000 is now N5,000, while transporting it to residential areas gulps as much as N3,000. For us here in Nsukka town, we are not finding it easy gathering firewood from forests around us because there are currently no such forests.”

Nevertheless, an environmentalist, Engr. Clement Uroko, has urged authorities in the local communities to begin to engage in vigorous tree-planting.

“Some communities are endowed with the rain and swampy forests. Such areas should be excluded from any form of human activities like farming, hunting and tree felling,” Mr. Uroko suggested.

Appeal to federal government

Another resident of Nsukka, Mr. Kenneth Ezeme said though he preferred gas, the exorbitant price of the product had forced his household to resort to using charcoal and firewood for cooking.

According to Ezeme, he could not afford to pay N10,000 for a 12.5kg-cylinder that he used to re-fill at less than N4,000 not too long ago, stressing that the amount was too much for him.

For her part, Mrs. Georgina Okpe, an owner of a popular restaurant in Nsukka, called on the federal government to urgently address the sharp increase in the price of gas because, according to her, it had increased hardship for the people.

Okpe said although she still managed to buy gas for cooking, it was beginning to tell on the price of meals in her restaurant, agonising that many customers could no longer afford the high cost of her meals.

“I don’t use charcoal or firewood for cooking because of stains and waste of time. However, the current price of cooking gas may force somebody to rethink and seek alternatives,” she said.

When our reporter visited one of the popular gas plants in the Nsukka metropolis, the owner also lamented that the high cost of the product had negatively affected his sales.

“About eight months ago, we used to sell more than 10,000 kilogrammes in a day. But today, the situation has changed. We can hardly sell up to 2,000 a day. This is because of high cost of the product,” he lamented.

Until the federal government takes a decisive stand on the high price of cooking gas and takes steps to bring it down, firewood and charcoal sellers would continue to have a field day as more residents abandon their gas cookers for firewood and charcoal.

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