Thursday, July 10, 2003

Kerosene price hike: Desert encroachment, erosion eminent


By Wisdom Patrick

The hundreds of millions of naira so far invested by some Northern and Eastern state governors in fighting desert encroachment and erosion over the years may be in vain as it is predicted that rural dwellers will fell more trees for firewood than planting them, due to high cost of kerosene.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who made this observation in the congress’s position paper to the National Assembly over the fuel price hike, made available to the Daily Trust, added that the country had spent the huge amount in tree planting aimed at checking this problems.

Oshiomhole said with the hike in price of petroleum products including kerosene commonly used by rural women in cooking "common sense detects that more and more trees will be felled for use as firewood for cooking, by this villagers in core north and eastern part of the country and the result would be continued desert encroachment and erosion.

"Mr. Speaker, you come from Katsina, every year, people from your part of the country, spend time, including the traditional rulers lecturing Nigerians on the need to plant tree, including traditional rulers lecturing Nigerians on the need to plant trees to deal with the problem of desertification."

The NLC president told Speaker Aminu Bello Masari that if kerosene was kept out of the reach of the people of the rural North, does common sense not suggest readily that they will fell more trees than planting?

The number one worker in Nigeria stated that if rural people engage in more tree felling, "will that not increase the problem of desert encroachment? How does this help to solve the problem of environmental degradation which environmental policies are intended to address?"

Oshiomhole said in the East, the problem of erosion was very serious. "If people fell more tree because they cannot afford kerosene the erosion problem will increase. I believe that Nigerian leaders need a comprehensive holistic approach to the problem of energy policy and price management."

The NLC president pointed out that, unless the aforementioned approach was adapted by government, "we will keep on going through this production of one increase, one strike, some reduction, no reduction, some arrest and some prosecution and the music goes on."