The Chairman of DAS Energy Services Limited, Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, has decried the recent increase in the prices of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) also known as cooking gas, noting that it will add to the suffering of the downtrodden in the country.

He also warned that the initial objective of domestic availability and preservation of the forest would be defeated if cooking gas goes beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians due to the current increment in prices of the commodity.

Onuesoke lamented that the price of refilling the 12.5kg cooking gas cylinder, which had been between N3, 200 and N3,500 for a very long time, has suddenly jumped to N6,500 and N26,000 respectively, adding that refilling camping gas cylinder which was N1,500 is now N2,500.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain at a press conference in his office in Warri, Delta State, yesterday argued that the recent increase of prices of the product were outrageous, considering the current situation in the country.

Despite the abundant LPG reserves and gigantic production plans, Onuesoke, who is also an oil and gas magnet, expressed dismay that a country so richly blessed in gas can be plagued by evils of skyrocketing prices.

He said: “According to a report by the NLNG, Nigeria is blessed with abundant reserves of both associated and non-associated gas, estimated to be in excess of 202 trillion standard cubic feet.”

The World Fact book, a reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), stated that Nigeria ranks ninth in terms of proven natural gas reserves in the world after Algeria. It was estimated that the reserve would last for over 100 years.

“However, despite having the capacity to produce such quantum of LPG, it allocates only 350,000 metric tons to the Nigerian domestic market that requires about 1.2 million annually, while the rest is exported. One wonders why the NLNG cannot fully supply the domestic market with the volume it requires.”

Onuesoke recounted that while some end users, especially housewives and low-income earners, are left with no other choice but to gradually adapt to the situation, most rural dwellers and those in the hinterland are being forced to abandon their gas cylinders for firewood, charcoal and sawdust in spite of the inconveniences and health hazards associated with their use.

Quoting World Health Organisation (WHO), the politician noted that household air pollution causes non-communicable diseases that include stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer, adding that close to half of deaths due to pneumonia among children under five years of age are caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

According to him, “Based on a 2013 WHO report, 98,000 Nigerian women die each year from the use of firewood, with thousands more at risk of serious health problems. With the recent 70 percent increase of prices of cooking gas, that means the population of death from use of firewood would increase astronomically.”

Onuesoke, therefore, called for the full domestication of LPG, noting: “What this means is that the NLNG should give the domestic market the required 1.2 million metric tons, and export the rest as it produces 22 million tons, instead of exporting the same, only for the country to import it back.”