Sani Dangote, Vice President of the Dangote Group and President of the Gas to Health Initiative (GTHI), Tuesday in Abuja flagged off a nationwide pilot scheme that seeks to encourage Nigerians from all walks of life to embrace the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LP Gas).
The Gas to Health Initiative is aimed at protecting the health of Nigerians, as well as the preservation of the environment from deforestation.
Mr. Dangote who also launched a new book written by the Secretary of GTHI Mrs Betty Ugona, said the book addresses the key issues of acceptability of LP Gas, focusing on four cardinal elements: Efficiency, benefits, sensitization and the empowerment of core users of LP Gas.
Mr. Dangote bought 200 copies of the book titled: “Who Cooks it feels the Brunt.”
“The book strikes on the root causes of low LP Gas usage and offers practical steps to achieving improved usage of LP Gas,” he said.
He said with an overabundance of resources and population of over 165million, Nigeria still ranks amongst the lowest in LP Gas consumption in ECOWAS member countries, with a per capita consumption of about 1.8kg, trailing countries like Senegal at 8.46kg, Cote D’Ivoire at 9.3kg and Ghana at 10kg per capita.
Mr. Dangote regretted that despite being rated as the leading producer of LP Gas in Africa with annual production of about 3.2 Million MT and 12th in Global ranking, the country still ranks abysmally low in terms of consumption of LP Gas and its application to other relevant domestic, industrial and social purposes.
According to him, about 56% of energy needed for cooking within Nigeria is supplied by fuel wood (firewood) particularly in the rural areas, adding that the cumulative effect of this trend is the negative impact on citizen health, the environment, and economy as a whole.
“Deforestation and its effects (desertification, soil erosion, landslides, etc.) which can be traced directly to the high demand for cooking energy has become a major issue in Nigeria over the years as we currently lose about 350,000 – 400,000 hectares annually,” he said.
He reiterated that in view of this environmental and socio-economic malaise, there is urgent need for a switch in the use of preferred energy from firewood and other alternative sources of energy to LP Gas popularly called cooking gas.
“While there are a number of reasons for the low rate of success in the switch to LP Gas, inadequate awareness and sensitization of the populace has been identified as the greatest culprit,” he added.
He said the flag off of the “Operation Mama Put/Local Food Vendors Conversion to LPG Usage” Nationwide Project is notable, as the project is designed to take a practical approach to addressing this lack of awareness and sensitization.
He said: “By providing the Mama Put women with LP Gas starter kits, the project hopes to make converts, and eventually, ambassadors of these members of the community, who will in turn create micro awareness of the benefits of LP Gas consumption.”
Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Occasion, Mr. Anthony Ogbuigwe regretted that Nigeria produces ten times the LP Gas it consumes, and that the country ranks very low in Africa.
The Secretary of the GTHI, Mrs Betty Ugona, attributed the success of the campaign to the support of its sponsors which include Mr. Sani Dangote.
She said the Initiative has also received support from market women especially those in Utako Market, Garki International Market, Garki Model Market, Mpape Market Yanyan Market and Kubwa market among others.
She said studies have shown that about 2.6billion people around the world rely on traditional use of biomass for cooking and heating purposes which results in the inhalation of toxic fumes leading to over four million premature deaths annually.
Speaking at the event, Mrs Osunkoya O, a Deputy Director, who represented the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, said the ministry was ready to support the Initiative as its aims and objectives were in line with those of the Ministry.
She said the problem of deforestation and gas flaring are of utmost concern to the Ministry of Environment.
“The Initiative will without doubt help in the protection and preservation of the environment and the forest in particular,” she said.
The Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of Ultimate Gas Limited and Public Relations Officer of the Initiative, Mr. Auwalu Ilu, said the Initiative has become necessary in view of the health hazards the use of firewood poses to Nigerians.
Chairman, Board of Trustees, Mr. Haruna Momoh, said the time has come when all hands must be on the deck to maximize the use of LP Gas in the country, saying that Nigeria is one of the world’s largest producers of cooking gas.
Managing Director of Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Mrs Esther Nnamdi Ogbue, who was represented by Planning Manager, Mrs Nkese Umoreh, said the PPMC has always been at the fore front on issues of environment.
She said the PPMC will support the Initiative so that Nigeria can continue to occupy its rightful place in Africa.
The representative of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mr. Dominic P. Mathew, said the Ministry is a stakeholder when it comes to the issue of cooking gas because women bear the brunt of the health hazard from firewood.
According to him, prior to now, the Ministry has been providing services to vulnerable groups, especially women in the country.
Director General of the National Centre for Women Development, Lady Onyeka Onwenu, called on the Nigerian women to embrace LP Gas at home and for their businesses.
She said it is cheaper and healthier, while describing women as the pillar of the home and the country.
She said the Nigerian project is not possible without women.