The Use of LP Gas – A Palliative in Tackling some Nigeria’s Social Problems

Nigerian government has been saddled with the responsibility of finding measures to reduce/end the incessant clashes between the herdsmen and farmers in local communities.

In the past, the nation has witnessed bloody clashes between the herdsmen and farmers in some states such as Nasarawa, Edo, Benue and Delta.

Recently, in Agatu community of Benue state, the clash took a different outlook in terms of ammunition, strategy and degree of casualty. This particular attack attracted so many media attention which resulted in stakeholders seeking lasting solutions to this ugly menace that portended danger to national security.

While some concerned stakeholders have been taking a look at the immediate causes and proffering short term solutions such as providing a national grazing reserve for these herdsmen, the problem remains that little or nothing has been done in finding the remote causes of these problems and its long term solution.

Some of these communal clashes and its consequences can be avoided if the right measures can be put in place.

The big question is: What is the remote cause and how can it be tackled?

From LP Gas perspective, we realised that greater part of Northern Nigeria has been overtaken by desertification, a consequence of deforestation. Our findings has it that the consumption of firewood as a domestic fuel is high in the North, hence the consequence of deforestation leading to desertification. In a situation where there is no green pasture for the animals to graze, the next line of action is –migration (the animals must survive so that Nigerians can have meat and milk for consumption).

The migration of these herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the southern, eastern and western part of Nigeria is caused by lack of grazing pasture, hence the frequent exodus to other parts of the country in search of greener pasture for their animals which consequently result in deadly clashes between the herdsmen and their host communities who are predominantly farmers. This remote cause is quite covert in nature but its ripple effects are very overt.

While we agree with the fact that the government should set aside “national grazing facilities” for these herdsmen as a short and medium term measures, efforts need to be made in understanding the remote cause(s) of these clashes and proffer a long term solution to this effect.

To tackle desertification, the issue of deforestation need to be addressed, and to deal with the challenges of deforestation, there is need to provide an alternative, efficient and sustainable energy source for domestic purposes for the people (since cutting down of trees for domestic cooking fuel contributes more to deforestation) and that practical energy source is LP Gas.

Report has it that Nigeria loses about 350,000 to 400,000 hectares of land to deforestation annually.

“…Conversely, deforestation has negative implications for the environment in terms of soil erosion, loss of biodiversity ecosystems, loss of wildlife and increased desertification…unfortunately, Nigeria continues to lose forest cover at an alarming rate of about 3.50% per annum –approximately 350,000 to 400,000 hectare per year…” (Nigeria 2013 MDG report, page 49)

Nigeria has a proven associated and non-associated gas reserves of about 187 Trillion (standard) Cubic Feet, while the unproven ones stands at 600 trillion (standard) cubic feet.

Nigeria is a gas nation in terms of potential and sustainability, hence the need to take advantage of this treasure and solve our social challenges.

The beautiful thing about LP Gas is that it is a by-product of crude oil refining and natural gas processing which does not attract extra cost during production and can be sustained on a long term.

LP Gas is a clean, portable, efficient, convenient and exceptional energy source especially when compared to other traditional cooking fuels such as firewood, charcoal, sawdust and kerosene.

Its emission capacity is relatively low, has a high energy content and wide range of applications unlike other unhealthy domestic fuels.

If the government can create a short/medium term grazing facilities and commence the process re-grassing and re-planting the north while providing LP Gas as a long term efficient alternative to firewood, all these ethnic clashes will be a thing of the past in no distant time.

Similarly, the use of firewood for cooking affects the family adversely especially the women and girls. They are most affected by the toxic fumes emitted from those unhealthy cooking fuels. They spend most of their productive time, fetching firewood, setting up the fire for cooking, cooking and finally washing the dishes. Most of them are raped, or bitten by snakes and scorpions while trying to fetch firewood. Most of them lose their lives in the process. Even the stench that comes from firewood fumes lead to discrimination which affects their self-esteem and social lives which if not well handled affects their overall productivity in life.

Switching from traditional biomass fuels to modern fuels for cooking such as LP Gas can reduce women’s work and time burden, improve health and decrease deaths. Secondary benefits can come from how the time saved is used by women to improve their personal and household lives, through income generation, education or leisure activities.

There are equally safety benefits women derive by switching from firewood, charcoal, animal dung and kerosene to LPG.

Modern stoves and fuels can save women’s time and effort both in fuel collection and in cooking, which women perceive as a major advantage of switching to LPG. This is because less time is spent in preparing and washing of dishes because of its unique properties.

LPG is a clean burning fuel and thus, does not soil the pot and other cooking utensils. Norms about responsibilities for care and housework mean that women in nearly all countries work longer hours than men, with a “triple burden” of going to market, housework, and family care.

These differences in gender roles reduce women’s leisure, welfare, and wellbeing. Releasing women’s time is a key necessity for women’s ability to invest in education and other life choices. Their ability to take up economic opportunities and to participate more broadly in economic, political, and social life is what switching to LPG guarantees.

The majority of traditional fuel collection and transport is carried out by mostly women and girls, with head loads of 20 kg or more and distances of up to 12 km travelled.

Cooking however, which is almost exclusively women’s task, can also take many hours per day, sometimes equal to or greater than the time spent in firewood, charcoal and animal dung collections. Considerable time savings are possible when a switch is made to LP Gas for cooking, especially from biomass fuels and also kerosene.

In conclusion, Since energy is one of the most important components of sustainable development affecting the family mostly women and children, the environment, social and economic growth of a people, LP Gas can be used to mitigate some of the social challenges which are connected to components which affect our national life.