Food, cooking and fuels used in cooking, are as old as the primal history of man. However, as societies evolved and cooking became complex, fuels used in cooking evolved too. First was the discovery of fire; then followed firewood, charcoal, coal, kerosene, cooking gas and other forms of electric means of cooking.
The popular means of cooking in a typical Nigerian society, like Ibadan, are firewood, charcoal, kerosene and cooking gas. These fuels could easily be found virtually in every nook and cranny of the city, but mostly in markets, streets, filing stations and gas stations.
However, the usage and patronage of some of these fuels are gradually waning, especially firewood, charcoal and kerosene. A survey around major towns and markets in Ibadan shows that the way people patronise charcoal and kerosene is not the way they were being patronised a few years ago; and that cooking gas, commonly called gas, is increasingly becoming the fuel for both domestic and commercial cooking.
Asked why this trending is becoming more pronounced, Oyeyemi Ojudun, the manager of Nurdok Energy filing station at Ojoo, told Saturday Tribune that “Nigeria and its people are advancing. Even old women that used to use stove now use gas.”
Nurdok Energy sells both kerosene and gas. Ojudun said that the way people buy kerosene in their filling station is not the way they used to and that they sell more of gas than kerosene any time.
“We buy 11,000 litres of kerosene, and it’ll take us about three to five months to finish it,” he said. “But, if we buy 1000 to 4000kg of gas, within two to three days we’ll finish it.”
The difference between major gas stations and those that sell on the streets of Ibadan is that the street sellers buy from the major gas stations or plants who sell for between N280 to N290 naira per kg, while the street seller resell at N300 per kg.
On daily basis, many gas stations and plants sell between 300 to 400kg of gas, depending on the patronage. The major gas plants sell as high as between 1000 to 2000kg per day. Many of them offer home delivery services.
On the average, in a major gas plant where gas cylinders are sold, a 3kg cylinder goes for N4000, 5kg for N5500, 6kg for N6500 and 12.5kg for 10,00. People that refill gas on the streets and those that sell gas cylinders in the market or shops sell theirs at a relatively high price.
Olawole Adegun at A.I.B Gas close to Bodija Market said they started business in Ibadan in 2016, and that that they have opened another branch at Oyo town. “We offer home delivery,” he said, “and we charge our costumers depending on where they want us to deliver the gas to.”
The manager of Bovas filling at Bodija said they do not sell kerosene, just premium motor spirit (PMS), diesel and cooking gas.” All Bovas filling stations in Ibadan don’t sell kerosene,” he said.
Sunday Endurance, the gas attendant at Bovas gas plant, said they had been selling gas for over eight years now and that they have five gas plants in Ibadan. The cost of their home delivery services is fixed irrespective of distance.
Asked why Bovas had more filling stations than gas stations, he said, “You can’t put gas plants in on highway or express, you put them in commercial places where they can be properly patronised.”
Richbam Gas Hub, located about 300 metres from University of Ibadan (UI) main gate—which started business in September, 2018 has another branch at Mokola.
“I’ve been using gas to cook in my house for three years now,” Ayobami Akeem, one of the sales person at Richbam told Saturday Tribune. “Many of my neighbours still use kerosene stove to cook, though.”
There are many reasons why people prefer gas to kerosene. Gas is increasingly becoming readily available, more cost effective, relatively safer and environmental friendly.
However, with the promises that gas boasts, some people have phobia for it, while some other people still cannot afford it. These are major reasons why they prefer kerosene stove or charcoal or firewood.
Mrs Olufunke, who uses stove and has young children, said, “I don’t want to risk their lives over gas spillage that can be avoided with an alternative means—stove.”
On why she still uses stove when it is gradually losing its popularity in homes, she said very soon she would not be using stove anymore because her children are getting mature and would have no fear of using gas.
“The elder ones are on campus. When I’m not at home, especially knowing that we can’t rely on electricity for our electric cooker, they use the stove,” she said. “In about a year or two, I won’t have that fear of them using the gas anymore.”
Mrs Oyinkan said she began her matrimonial kitchen space with gas. “I prefer gas anytime. I don’t even think it’s a question of why I’m using gas. It’s more of why would I use stove when there’s a better option.”
The use of stove in homes, campuses, hotels, restaurants, and even among elderly women in many parts of Ibadan, is significantly dwindling. A stroll into major markets in Ibadan shows that gas cylinders stand out, masking stoves that were once prominent.
The demand for kerosene has reduced drastically. Most visited filling stations attested to this fact. People who still use stove see it more like a priority than an option.
A general survey in and around UI and The Polytechnic Ibadan, shows that more students now use gas more than stove. In an off-campus hostel around Agbowo-UI axis, 90 per cent of the students there use gas.
“I’ve both gas and stove,” one of the male students in the hostel said. “I only use the stove when my gas finishes or when I’m cooking beans.”
When Saturday Tribune asked a 300-level Poly Ibadan student, Tolu, if she had taken stove to school before, her answer was a “No”. Tolu’s reasons were based on the increasing scarcity of kerosene, the smoke from stoves and how it contributes to dirt in the kitchen.
“I can’t cook with stove anymore. With gas, you don’t have to smell of smoke while cooking,” she said. “It’s even hard to get kerosene these days. Do people still buy it?”
A filling station attendant, Mr Olu, said the last time his station sold kerosene was about six years ago. He gave the higher demand for gas as the reason for this.
“If many people are not buying kerosene, we can’t sell it. And people who still buy kerosene buy to store at home for cooking emergency,” he said. “Unlike before, people will buy gallons of kerosene to consume monthly. But now, they buy just a bottle and use it for almost a month or more. We sell only fuel and gas now,” he added.
A food seller said she uses gas to support her cooking. According to her, firewood is slow, but gas is faster. With firewood, she only buys a bottle of kerosene, and she could use it for almost a month because firewood does not really consume much kerosene.
“Most times, when I start cooking and I realise time is running, I use gas to support it, because it’s ‘express’,” she said. “The reason why I don’t use gas as the main means of cooking is because my gas is small. If it were bigger, I wouldn’t even think of firewood or kerosene.”
A resident of Agbowo, who is into garri making, stated that she has gas but only uses it once in a while because of fear. “I’m scared my children will use it, and in the process, I’m afraid it might explode,” she said. “I just feel firewood is safer. Besides, I make garri, and the quantity of gas I’ll use while making garri will be too much. Firewood is cheaper for my kind of work.”
Halimat Agunbiade, who sells stoves and gas cylinders, said she uses stove because gas finishes without notice; but with kerosene stove, she could always check the remaining quantity. In addition, she feels her children would not know how to light the gas because “even adults make mistakes when lighting it sometimes, not to talk of children,” she added.
Segun Olaluwoye, manager of GASTAB filling station at Oke-Bola, noted that the demand for gas is higher than that of kerosene in their filling station.
“Apart from the fact that people prefer gas to kerosene because nobody wants to go through the stress of washing the back of their pots or having to deal with stove-related problems, gas is very fast,” he said. “So, why waste time on kerosene? It’s gas I use at home. You should also be able to tell when it’s about to finish.”
He added that most of the people who patronise their kerosene are those that are into painting and some who still burn bushes, but that that is not a good reason to store gallons of kerosene at home.
Interestingly, on the other hand, a survey in some markets around Ibadan shows that there are people who still use firewood and charcoal for domestic and commercial purpose both for cooking and other heating activities.
Mrs Kamorudeen, who sells charcoal at Bodija market, said her customers are mostly restaurant owners and people who cook large family-size food. Some of her customers include people who use charcoal for ironing or dry-cleaning services.
She said she buys the charcoal from farmers who bring them from farms, mostly from Saki, Oyo, and Eruwon in Ogun State. A black-and-yellow polythene bag filled with charcoal costs 200 naira, and she sells 30 to 40 of this size in a day; while a black-and-white bag filled with charcoal costs 500 naira, and she sells 23 to 30 of these bags size in a day.
“Gas, kerosene and charcoal have their different functions,” she said, when asked if gas patronage affected her business. “I still use stove in my house.”
Iya Ijebu, an elderly woman at the same Bodija market, who sells charcoal and kerosene in plastic bottles, said gas patronage was affecting her business and that she barely sells up to N2000 per day these days.
“I don’t have money for gas. Things are hard in Nigeria now,” she answered, when asked if she uses gas in her house. “I use charcoal to cook in my house, and even in my shop.”
In late November of 2019, Senate President Ahmed Lawan tasked the management of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to improve the supply of cooking gas across the country.
“You should bring more of Liquefied Petroleum Gas because we need to move away from using the firewood and so many other things that can cause problem to the environment,” Lawan said. “I believe there’s need to fast track our ability to make LPG available to Nigerians.”
There is no doubt that gas, kerosene, charcoal and firewood have their respective merits and demerits. However, gas is increasingly becoming a major household means of cooking, because its merits outweigh its demerits.
Furthermore, even with the comparison that makes it seem as if gas is expensive to buy, people still choose gas over kerosene and charcoal regardless of the price and the phobia associated with it—If not for anything, for the ease, convenience and fastness of using gas to cook.
These days, it is not unusual that many children have not used a stove or lantern before. A six-year boy said he does not know what a lantern is. Asked if he would love to see pictures of a stove and a lantern, he responded, “It’s something of the past.”
It would not be surprising that in few years to come, younger generations would imagine what stoves and lanterns look like. This is because, even these days, many parents no longer use them in their homes. Remember that Mrs Olufunke said her stove at home was to keep her young children away from gas till they can handle it as adults.
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