Experts’ Lamentations Over 40m Nigerian Charcoal Users

The quest to have clean energy and environment in Nigeria appears to have received a setback following a report by the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that 40 million Nigerians are engaged directly in fuelwood collection and charcoal production.

The Chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resources Centre), Olanrewaju Suraju, President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) Alhaji Debo Ahmed and a former Director, Renewable Energy Centre, University of Ilorin, Prof. Clement Olufemi Akoshile, have raised the alarm that Nigeria has been exposed to catastrophe and natural calamities as 40 million Nigerians are reported to be users of charcoal.

They said Nigeria could be prone to deaths, climate change, ecological eruptions and environmental degradation as well as economic challenges resultantly. Nigeria’s population is projected to be about 200 million people.

Charcoal addiction

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in a report titled: “2022 State of the World’s Forests,” said about 40 million Nigerians are engaged directly in fuelwood collection and charcoal production.

The report, which was released during the 15th World Forestry Congress (WFC) in Seoul, South Korea, said these engagements provided an estimated 530,000 full-time equivalent direct jobs for the citizens. It stated that an additional 200,000 people – mostly also full-time – provided transport services for retail and wholesale trade in the fuelwood and charcoal production in Nigeria.

Suraju identified charcoal as one of the main culprits driving climate emergency and lamented that climate change threatens the lives of Nigerians and Africans in general; the communities, the ecosystems and the economies. He stated that to stave off these threats, the world was moving in a new direction, one that is powered by renewable energy.

According to him, over 190 nations have become signatories to the Paris Agreement to limit emissions fuelling climate change. IPMAN’s concern and appeal for other sources of energy provision Also, Ahmed said charcoal is unhealthy, but noted that users may be unable to afford other sources of energy, hence their resort to it.

He appealed to government to make other sources of energy cheap  and accessible to the masses. Dangers of charcoal use Ahmed said: “When you do not have alternative energy, people use charcoal. Gas is not affordable to everyone, so people find alternatives to cooking, either by using firewood or charcoal. “Charcoal is unhealthy.

Government should produce some other source of energy that will become cheap for the common man to use or cook. It is because there is no availability of energy that people go to the bush to cut the trees, deforest the bush and get charcoal. And charcoal is not healthy. So, government should do something about it.

“The use of charcoal has environmental and health negative consequences. Deforestation connotes cutting down the trees and then they will get charcoal. Deforestation leads to desertification or encroachment of the Sahara desert. When that happens, vegetation will be bad and there will not be an arable land for farming and other useful activities.

“Healthwise, it is affecting a lot of people because it is polluting the environment.” Expert view Akoshile, who is a former President, the Nigerian Meteorological Society, said the FAO’s report was right because, according to him, in every part of Nigeria, whether in the cities or urban villages, people who can get firewood, use charcoal.

Reasons for charcoal’s use Akoshile identified urban settlement as a causative factor for the excessive use of charcoal. He said: ”Urban migration, which involves migration from the rural areas to the urban centre, is a factor.

The migrants discovered the technique of using charcoal and the need for this technique and that there is hardly any capital required. “The capital trust is free and they are looking for money, so they just go to the bush, cut down trees, chop it, dig, put in the wood, and put a fire under the cover of sand.

You discover that after some time, it turns to charcoal. You can store it in a bag, unlike firewood. “So, they found it a convenient and cheap source of money. But they did not consider that in the end, it could be dangerous for the economy, the environment and the climate. Because each tree you fell, it lived many years and you can not replace it as quickly as you chop it.

“Therefore, the ability of the terrain to withstand wind and reduce evaporation and evaspiration reduces. Then what used to be a forest will turn into a grassland. Consequently, the climate effect will fall on us all.”

Akoshile added: “Besides the fact that there are some immediate repercussions such as storm, all the trees that used to withstand the storm, as they have been taken away, the storm may just flow free and that will be a disaster that is immediate.

“The prolonged one is the economy. Suffice it that villages that have rivers and streams passing through them start lacking them. Then agriculture that used to be lush and close to home, you have to go far to get a regular land where you can plant.

All of us in the end, whether you are buying or not buying, selling or not selling, will suffer the consequences of climate change because it will come. “What is the other consequence of that? If you can not get water nearby, there will be migration and disputes.

And then there will be the need to dig down, either finding a well or borehole, and you start tapping on the ground for survival, which, again, the money you did not want to spend, you have to spend to get water so that you can survive.”

He warned that the calamity could affect everybody, adding that proactive strategies should be activated and implemented by government to forestall the impending catastrophe.

According to him, those who deal on charcoal do so as a survival strategy, while some affluent Nigerians have access to electricity, gas, cooling system and even solar panels.

Akoshile said: “If climate change occurs and storms become more regular, knowingly or unknowingly, the flight will become more dangerous and buildings that are tall among the short ones will also be suffering danger because it will be easy for them to be targeted, either by lighting or storm.

“The effect is on us all. If a flood is flowing, it does not care whether you are using charcoal or not, you have created the path for the water to flow.

It does not give a damn whether you are in the city or in the village. Once the drainage is not done, we will all suffer for it. We have had situations where vehicles are carried away from the root by the flood itself into the river. The effect is on everybody.

“Other important concerns are the length of the rainy season, the length of the dry season, all those and the intensity of the sun. And when it happens, whether you are in the north or south, all of us will suffer it. “Do not forget the coast, water also wants to claim land from the coast, and in the north, dryness wants to push in more desert to the south and more grassland. All these things will be forcing us to be moving to find convenience. It is survival now.

“You will be looking for air conditioners, fans, etc. All the things that used to be available for many millions of Nigerians will be gone. And so, another force will be struggling for another thing. So, it causes a riot, stealing, pilfering or people being taken away like that.” Remedies

He urged government to build good drainage systems to address ecological and health concerns as well as implement a good and efficient deforestation policy in the country. He called for prudent management and the use of the nation’s resources for the good of all Nigerians.

He advised government to address insecurity in some parts of the country, which, he noted, could also boost agriculture and food security if addressed. Akoshile said: “If Nigeria is peaceful, they collect a lot of grain from the north and bring them to the south.

Similarly, they can collect a lot of things that are in the South. “For instance, solar drying, everything can be solar-dried in the north, if there were good roads so that whatever you harvest in the south, you can go and dry them in the north. We do not need to use electricity; the energy you will use will be free.


Now, there is also the need for us to do something like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other countries.

They also have desert and oil, which Nigeria has. But what did they do with their oil? Part of it was building Dubai, going to their different units and building things that can last. “Nigerians should use their money, not to be stored abroad, but to develop every part of the country.

If they do, we will all benefit from and people will like to come to Nigeria to live. God blessed every part of Nigeria. We should use the nation’s wealth for the development of the country. “We have oil, but we can not have it eternally.

Look at what is happening currently to Russia, but their oil has been embargoed. If that happens to Nigeria, many people will perish. We should plan how to invest our money. We will not be rich forever.”

The UN report had said that large numbers of livelihoods in other sub- Saharan African countries also depended on the fuelwood and charcoal economies. Therefore, there is a need for environmental, economic and social sustainability in bioenergy production, which can be assessed through a set of multi-criteria indicators  and life-cycle assessment can be used to explore environmental performance.

The report raised environmental concerns about the further use of wood biomass for bioenergy production associated with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, soil-quality degradation and biodiversity loss. Russian/Ukraine war compounds woes

The banning of oil and gas imports from Russia by the United Kingdom, the United States and European Union (EU) members has also heightened the demand for energy in the affected countries. The EU published a document that outlined its aims for the REPowerEU plan, which emphasised the importance of energy savings, the diversification of energy imports and speeding up of what it called “Europe’s clean energy transition.”

According to the document, in total, it envisages extra investment of €210 billion ($220.87 billion) between 2022 and 2027. The document further stated that it comes to renewables’ share in the EU’s energy mix, the Commission has proposed that the current target of 40 per cent by 2030 be increased to 45 per cent. The EU’s desire to wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine means it will need to find oil and gas from other parts of the world to plug supply gaps.

The Commission said as much as 1.5 to two billion euros of investment would be needed to secure oil supply. To import enough liquefied natural gas and pipeline gas from other sources, an estimated 10 billion euros will be needed by 2030.

It is said that all the above is happening at a time when the EU said it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 and that in the medium term, it wants net greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by at least 55 per cent by 2030. EU calls its “Fit for 55” plan.

The Commission said REPowerEU could not work without what it called “a fast implementation of all Fit for 55 proposals and higher targets for renewables and energy efficiency.”

The Commission said: “In this new reality, gas consumption in the EU would reduce at a faster pace, limiting the role of gas as a transitional fuel. G7’s commitment There was a glimmer of hope as the G7 Energy and Environment minister, in a communique at the end of their meeting in Berlin, Germany; pledged for the first time to decarbonise their electricity sectors by 2035 and eventually phase out coal power generation, which is part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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The G7 is an informal membership of seven of the world’s advanced economies or an inter-governmental political forum of the wealthiest liberal democracies, which comprises the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan. Also, the European Union is a ‘non-enumerated member.’

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