Nigeria: Grinding to a Halt

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Nigerians on a queue looking for fuel

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Economy and social activities in the country appears to be dangerously grinding to a halt as fuel scarcity is restricting movement and forcing businesses to function at lower capacity

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 25, 2015 @ 13:50 GMT  |

THE on-going fuel scarcity in Nigeria is assuming a dangerous height. In many parts of the country, fuel is now being sold at filling stations and black market for between N300 and N600 per litre. Diesel, kerosene and liquefied cooking gas are also affected. Added to the situation is lack of electricity. According to available information, the national power generation and distribution has dropped to 1,327 megawatts.

This development has started to cripple the economy as many businesses have either shutdown or cut down their operations because of lack of fuel to power their generators.  For instance, MTN Nigeria and Airtel Nigeria have warned customers that the current scarcity of petrol and diesel in the country could shut down its services within 24 hours if the crisis was not resolved.

The MTN Nigeria tweeted on Saturday, May 23, that it would require a significant quantity of diesel in the very near future to prevent a shutdown of services across Nigeria. “If diesel supplies are not received within the next 24 hours the network will be seriously degraded and customers will feel the impact,” it said.

Airtel in a statement on Sunday, May 24, said: “While we are currently doing everything within our means as well as going the extra mile to ensure that all our base stations and switches are up and running, it is sad to note that it is becoming increasingly difficult to replenish current stock of diesel due to the lingering scarcity of the products. We are also concerned that, if the situation persists, it may have adverse effects on our network, impacting both voice and data services.”

Airtel and MTN jointly have more than 80 million subscribers.

The banking sector is not left out of this unending crisis, Guaranty Trust Bank, GTB, on Sunday, May 24, sent out an email notice to its customers that starting from Monday, May 25, it would close its branches all over the nation at 1pm instead of the usual time of 4pm due to the fuel shortage.

Even commuters are not left out of the hardship, which makes people spend more to get to their destinations. The transport fare has increased by 100 percent in some routes. From Ikeja to Ogba, which used to cost N100 is now N200. Ikeja to Ota toll gate that used to cost N150 during the rust hour is now N500. These increases are applicable to all the routes in and around Lagos State.

A survey by Realnews indicated that while most of the filling stations in Lagos were closed due to non-availability of the product, the few that had it sold it for N300 to N400 per litre. On Sunday, May 24, at Ayomide Filling Station, Alagbado, area of the state, the product was sold for N300 per litre, while at MRS Filling Station at Ajuwon, it was N400.

The scarcity has created business for roadside sellers who dispensed the product from big jerry cans at N500 per litre. Street urchins who had established black market outlets in most areas are making brisk business as vehicle owners and residents buy from them at skyrocketed prices. Realnews investigation of the situation showed that five litres of fuel sold at N2,000 in the black market while 30 litres went for N10,000. At Awolowo Way, Ikeja, black market traders were everywhere with fuel in jerry cans which they sold far above the pump price while most filling stations had run out of stock.

Nigeria is facing one of its worst fuel shortages following the federal government’s non-payment of subsidies to importers of petroleum products. The petroleum importers claim they are owed about $1 billion (N200 billion) and therefore, have refused to supply petroleum products until the outgoing government pays up. The protracted row has brought almost all sectors of the Nigerian economy on its knees since most businesses depend of generators and fuel to power production and services.

Realnews checks also revealed that most domestic airline operators have cancelled flights and stopped operating schedule flights while international carriers now refuel outside the country.

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