Despite health risks, residents of Lagos and Abuja turn to charcoal as cooking gas prices soar

When President Muhammadu Buhari declared the “gas decade” in 2021, he promised that his administration would ensure that gas development was a national priority – to drive economic growth, further improve Nigeria’s energy mix and provide jobs essential to citizens.

To support this point, the President made a ambitious speech during the opening plenary session of the COP-26 climate change summit in Glasgow, where he challenged world leaders to “follow their word” in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. Buhari had also pledged on the world stage that Nigeria would achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

Despite promises made at COP 26, the country has seen its largest LPG price spike in 2021. Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, had noted the government has no control over prices, claiming that it is the international market that mainly determines the price of the commodity.

Following rising LPG prices, many business owners and individuals ditched their gas cylinders, opting to use firewood and charcoal for cooking – a counter-development to “intervention”. bold” that the Buhari administration had promised with regard to the gas sector and climate change.

Blessing Amaechi, a resident of Gudaba community in Kuje, Abuja, woke up on a freezing Thursday morning to prepare breakfast for her family. With her two young boys by her side, she struggled for a few minutes until she finally lit the firewood, exposing herself and her children to the dangers of the impure smoke.

The 45-year-old said she resorted to cooking with firewood due to the high cost of cooking gas, especially after buying 3kg for 1,500 naira – and it lasted just two weeks .

Amaechi, who is familiar with the effects of firewood smoke, said she would rather put her health at risk than leave her boys hungry or begging for food.

“I will not let my children suffer. I will continue to sacrifice myself to provide them with food [children]whether the means of cooking are dangerous, unhealthy or risky,” she said.

Blessing and one of his sons.

“I can’t leave my children starving because of gas. As long as I find food to cook for them, I must strive to get something to cook it. I have to find another way. If one lane is closed, another will open, which is why I resorted to firewood for cooking.

“I know that the smoke from using firewood can harm my health but since I don’t have the money to fill the bottle, I can’t let my two children cry from hunger or start begging for food. food to neighbors because of my inability to buy gas.”

According to World Health Organization (WHO), each year nearly four million people die prematurely from illnesses attributable to household air pollution (HAP) due to inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves combined with solid fuels, such as charcoal and coal. firewood.

In 2016, the WHO had reported that 76,505 children under five have died from PAHs in Nigeria. the International Center for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) noted in the same year, more than 218,000 people died in the country from HAP, including women.

Although cooking with unclean fuels has a long history in rural communities, several urban dwellers, including Ikeja, the capital of Lagos, and Kuje, the food basket of Abuja, have joined the more than 175 million vulnerable people. using biomass fuels (wood, animal waste, charcoal) for cooking.


The recent increase in the use of impure fuels can be attributed to soaring prices for liquefied petroleum gas, also known as cooking gas. This price increase has forced many people, both in rural and urban areas, to resort to felling trees to produce biomass.

The resulting effects of these activities include increased emissions, deforestation, and fewer flora communities to absorb methane gases released into the atmosphere.

According to the last report by the National Bureau of Statistics (BNS), The average price of filling a 5kg bottle has increased by 84.37% over the past year, from N1,949.75 in December 2020 to N3,594.81 in December 2021.

The report further established that the average price of filling a 12.5kg bottle skyrocketed by 76.49% over the same period to N7,332.04 in December 2021 from N4,154. .28 N in December 2020.

Abuja, Osun and Oyo were the states with the highest average price for filling 12.5 kg of cooking gas with N8,491.67, N8,303.33 and N8,058.00 respectively.


Dele Kuye, owner of a restaurant in Ikeja, told TheCable that using cooking gas was no longer profitable for his business. She said using charcoal is the only way to sustain her cooking business if she hopes to make a “small” profit.

She argued that inhalation and exposure to constant smoke from charcoal use poses no risk to her health, although household air pollution data shows otherwise.

“A bag of charcoal is affordable. I buy a bag of charcoal between 4,000 and 4,500 naira and use it as I like,” Kuye told TheCable.

“The use of coal for me does not cause any harm to health. It can only cause anything if used nylon is thrown into it to make it burn faster, but without it it does not cause me any harm to my health.

Mellisa Godwin, a charcoal seller in Abuja, said she does not believe there are any health risks associated with biomass.

She said charcoal gives food a rare taste that cooking gas cannot, adding that affordability also plays a key role as the price of a bag ranges between N3,000-3,500.

Melissa Godwin displays bags of charcoal for sale

“Before, even our parents depended on charcoal and firewood. I even believe it is safer to use charcoal for cooking than to use cooking gas,” she said.

“If you use charcoal or firewood to cook your food, it smells different than food cooked with LPG. So, for me, I don’t believe there is any health effect to using charcoal or firewood for cooking. To my knowledge, I believe it saves cost and there is no health risk.

Uzoma Peace, a charcoal vendor, said the “product” is now selling out quickly due to increased footfall.

Like Godwin, Peace said she knows of no adverse effects from charcoal smoke.

“I don’t know if the use of charcoal has any effects on the user’s health. I have never heard of climate change either,” she said.


Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when burning wood and other organic matter. These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause various health problems. from burning eyes and runny nose to heart and lung disease.

Aluko Jumoke, a medical scientist, said carbon monoxide produced by smoke from biofuels is harmful to the health of users.

“The smoke produced when using charcoal and firewood contains carbon monoxide which is harmful to people’s health. I know it causes lung disease, which can lead to a gradual deterioration in the victim’s health,” she said.

Grace Rimamnaura, a consultant at Benue University Hospital, said wood smoke affects indoor and outdoor air quality.

She said particles found in smoke can include soot, dust and pollen, which can settle in the lungs and narrow airways when inhaled.

“Fine dust particles, such as smoke, are more likely to settle deeper in the lungs, while ultrafine particles can be absorbed into the bloodstream,” she said.

“Both fine and coarse particles contribute to several health problems: short-term effects, irritation of the eyes, throat and nose, coughing, breathing difficulties and worsening of asthma.”

In 2006, the WHO stated that the problem with firewood and other biofuels is that they burn inefficiently, that is, the combustion is incomplete; they emit carbon monoxide and particulates that cause respiratory problems and other health problems, such as cataracts, in people exposed to the smoke.


Joy Shaiyen, National Coordinator of Women in LPG, said the best way to reach people who still depend on biomass fuels is to reduce LPG prices.

She said these impure fuels are dangerous, but people who use them are unaware of the effects because it is not instantaneous.

“The main point we used to reach these people is the price point and the health point,” she said.

“Cooking with firewood or charcoal isn’t going to give you an instant death sentence, but it will reduce quality of life and reduce life expectancy.

“So the easiest way to reach these people was price advantage, but that’s not the case anymore.”

In 2020, Nigeria reached one million metric tons of LPG consumption, an increase in supply from 635,452.06 MT recorded in 2018 and 840,594.37 MT in 2019.

However, the federal government intends to achieve consumption of five million metric tons in 2022 through the LPG penetration framework – but the dramatic rise in the price of LPG leaves many questions about the feasibility.

According to LPG in Nigeria, an information and advisory agency, the average price of 20MT of LPG fell from N9.8m to N10.4m in one week in October 2021.

Ogungbenle Fatai, the agency’s business and sales manager, said the increase in the international price of LPG does not affect the domestic price as much as the devaluation of the naira, which increases the cost of imports.

“Most of these importers have to source their supplies on the black or open market at a commercial rate. Certainly, they have to push that cost on the imported product. The prices therefore triggered the price increase at the beginning of this year. he said.

In addition to the effect of forex on the price of LPG, oil traders believe that the reintroduction of the 7.5% VAT on imported LPG puts more pressure on the increase in the price of the commodity.

Additional reporting by Bunmi Aduloju