The Jonathan administration plans to purchase N9.2bn worth of cooking stoves and ‘wonder bags’ for rural women under a nebulous National Clean Cooking Scheme. This is a non-electric, slow cooker invented by Sarah Collins, a South African eco-entrepreneur. The decision was taken on Nov. 27 at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo. The Supervising Minister of Information, Dr. Nurudeen Muhammed, and his counterparts in the environment and the Federal Capital Territory Minitries, Mrs. Lawrecia Mallam and Bala Muhammad jointly briefed State House correspondents afterwards.
Muhammad said the N9.2bn, inclusive of Value Added Tax (VAT), was approved for the procurement of 750,000 units of clean cooking stoves and 18,000 wonder bags. He said Integra Renewable Energy Services Limited would deliver the stoves in 12 weeks. The government expects that the stoves, to be assembled locally, would provide jobs for Nigerians, among other benefits.
The minister said: “The National Clean Cooking Scheme is an aggressive drive to engender clean cooking culture amongst the poor rural women, to reduce and possibly eliminate cooking with solid fossil which is detrimental to health…The scheme is expected to provide 20 million clean stoves over a five-year period at the rate of four million stoves per annum, which will be distributed free of charge.
“It will also reduce incessant felling of trees, which exposes the country to ecological problems. Additional benefit of switching over to this technology is the carbon credits arising from the registration by the UNFCCC. The country stands to gain 50 per cent price reduction (subsidy) through the generated carbon credits.” According to Muhammad, the government “will be above aboard” in the distribution of the stoves by ensuring that “political considerations” do not come into play in determining the beneficiaries. He explained that all women groups in the country were involved in the scheme from conception to the level of awarding the contract.
On her part, the Minister of Environment said in deciding the rural women that would benefit from the free stoves, the government would give preference to the about two million female farmers that are procuring fertilisers through e-wallet and another two million already registered by a non-governmental organisation. She described cooking with firewood as a silent killer, hence the need for the government to come to the aid of rural women.
Twenty million stoves for “rural women” so they will stop using fuel wood that pollutes the environment! This is music to the ears. However, we all know too well this concept will end up the way of other initiatives before it. For example, in the 1980s when government was procuring fertiliser for rural farmers, the commodity ended up in the market. The gainers were not farmers but government officials and middlemen. The farmer was short-changed in the process and that was one of the factors that killed our agriculture. The stoves the government wants to buy, we have no doubt, will enrich someone’s pocket, assuming they are bought at all.
The truth, which we all know, is that they will not be purchased and the money will be diverted to the campaign to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan and return his PDP to power next year. In other words, this N9.2 bn is an electioneering campaign fund by another name. Nigerians are not fooled by the quaintness of the idea.