ABUJA, Nigeria – A fuel shortage in Nigeria, Africa’s top crude oil producer, has prompted many citizens to demand government action.
Authorities blamed the fuel shortage on the withdrawal of adulterated gasoline which the West African nation’s national oil company said was imported by four oil traders.
In Nigerian cities on Friday, lines spilled from petrol stations onto main roads as motorists spent hours waiting to refuel their cars.
“I slept with mosquitoes [at the station] …because there was no other option,” said Chijioke Ngene, a taxi driver who said he spent 14 hours trying to buy fuel at a petrol station in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
Gasoline shortages are common in Nigeria, even though it is one of Africa’s top crude oil producers, pumping an average of 1.27 million barrels a day in November, according to the Organization of Exporting Countries. oil. Nigeria’s oil exports contributed more than 7% to its economic growth rate of 3.4% in 2021, the statistics agency reported this week.
The Nigerian government has said a “major investigation to untangle everything” has been launched to resolve the latest crisis.
In Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, and Abuja, public transport systems are overloaded with fewer vehicles capable of carrying commuters.
“Lock [a ride-hailing platform] charged me [$12] … as the rate at the office this morning from the usual [$5] I used to pay,” said Enitan Omolola, who works in Lagos.
A national workers’ union is threatening to strike, increasing pressure to resolve the crisis. The main opposition party has also called on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also the country’s oil minister, to step down from the post.
Although the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Company said it had 1 billion liters of gas in storage and another 2.3 billion liters due for delivery before the end of the month, its chief executive, Mele Kyari, said admitted in a meeting with Nigerian lawmakers that the fuel shortage “is quite unavoidable [and] we didn’t see it coming.”
The company has ordered petrol stations under its control to start round-the-clock sales, although analysts say the measure is unsustainable and not sufficient.
Service station workers are also struggling to keep up with the increased demand. Asked about the impact of working all night and the next afternoon at one of Abuja’s petrol stations, Eniola Ossai, an attendant, said: “What do you want us to do? It’s a serious condition.”
Okorie Ikechukwu, 35, is one of hundreds of taxi drivers operating in Abuja whose income has steadily declined due to the crisis. Where he used to make $17 a day, he now returns home to his family of three after the work day on between $5 and $7, he said, spending less time working and more time at service stations.
“It’s been terrible,” he said of the impact of the crisis on his business. “It’s only God supporting us. I beg the government to help us.”