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Gender and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform in Nigeria: Findings and recommendations

Publication Overview

Gender and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform in Nigeria: Findings and recommendations

Key Messages

  • The report examines the impact of kerosene subsidies and reform from a gender perspective in Nigeria and finds that they did not work well for poor women. None of the households surveyed reported paying the official price for kerosene when it was subsidized. In periods of fuel shortages, hardships increased for women as they queued for hours and sometimes all day to get fuel. 
  • It finds that women were negatively impacted by reforms when the kerosene subsidy was removed in 2016, as higher kerosene prices from reforms stressed household incomes. 
  • The report recommends against returning to subsidizing kerosene. Given the high dependence of households on fuel wood for cooking, financing support for clean-burning cookstoves may be necessary in the interim to provide cleaner alternatives.

The report examines from a gender perspective the impact of kerosene subsidies and their reform in Nigeria. Its research included secondary data, household surveys (1,000 households in 2017) and focus group discussions. 

The report finds that kerosene subsidy did not work well for poor women. None of the households surveyed reported paying the official price for kerosene when it was subsidized. Instead, households paid between two and six times the official sales price. Women also queued for hours and sometimes all day to get fuel, often resorting to informal dealers with the attendant problems of higher prices and health dangers of using adulterated fuel.

The report finds that women were negatively impacted by reforms when the kerosene subsidy was removed in 2016 and prices increased. Survey results found that women generally pay for kerosene and firewood. Higher prices for kerosene might therefore have a greater effect on women’s budgets and incomes. In Lagos, women coped with price increases mostly by saving fuel or shifting expenditures within their budgets. In rural areas, women appeared to have fewer financial strategies and resorted to using inferior fuels, especially firewood. Half of the households in Imo and 18% of households in Lagos said they would use more biomass to cope with price increases.

Women want to switch to cleaner modern energy sources. In Lagos and Imo, most women stated that switching to a preferred cooking fuel would enable them to save time spent on cooking. Yet, when asked what kind of government support they preferred, households do not prioritize energy subsidies over other kinds of support. Households chose jobs, health, financial support and education: their priorities and needs should be considered in policy development. This raises the question of whether the billions spent on an inefficient subsidy system might not be better spent on social protection programs. 

Kerosene subsidies did not work well, so the report strongly recommends against returning to subsidizing kerosene. Given the realities of most households’ high current dependence on fuel wood for cooking, financing support for clean-burning cookstoves may be necessary in the interim to provide cleaner alternatives. This is particularly relevant for low-income women predominantly using biomass for cooking in order to reduce their immediate exposure to indoor air pollution. Longer-term measures to address energy access can include investments in electrification infrastructure and renewable energy, supporting women's education and exploring affordable energy pricing for low-income households. 

Cover photo: Spaces for Change | S4C, Nigeria

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