Nigeria increasingly crippled as fuel shortage worsens

Major banks close branches nationwide as major telecommunications companies say lack of diesel could disrupt services.

Nigeria produces about two million barrels of crude oil a day but imports much of its fuel due to a lack of refining capability [AFP]

Nigeria’s severe fuel shortage has started to cause widespread disruption to everyday services, with the telecommunications and banking sectors the latest hit hard by the worsening crisis.

A major Nigerian bank announced on Monday that it would close all branches at 1pm local time, after major mobile phone networks announced over the weekend that a shortage of petroleum products may cause a disruption in services.

In a statement, GT Bank said: “The current shortage of petroleum products in the country has limited our ability to supply diesel to all our branches in order to continue normal branch operations.

“Due to this, we unavoidably have to close our branches nationwide at 1pm [on Monday].”

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Kano in the country’s north, said that public transport services have also been affected across the nation and that petrol stations were selling fuel at prices significantly above government-controlled prices.

“Things are gradually grinding to a halt in many areas of Nigeria at the moment,” our correspondent said, noting that there were reports of schools and electricity networks being affected by the fuel shortage.

The crisis started weeks before the March 29 elections, with oil suppliers hit by tightened credit lines amid halved international oil prices, a slump in the naira currency, and unpaid government debts the suppliers claim amount to nearly $1bn.

The crisis is expected to be one of the most critical issues for incoming President Muhammadu Buhari to address after he is sworn in on Friday.

Telecommunications threatened

Over the weekend, one of the country’s largest mobile phone carriers, MTN Nigeria, said the fuel shortage was “posing a significant threat to quality of service”. 

“Most of our base stations and switches are powered round-the-clock by diesel generators and the current fuel shortage has drastically reduced the availability of diesel supply to key locations,” MTN’s corporate services executive Akinwale Goodluck said in a statement.

Rival carrier Airtel issued a similar statement late on Sunday.

“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,” Airtel’s statement said.

Some Nigerian airlines have announced drastically cut services and some radio stations have gone off air, because they can not source diesel for their generators.

Nigeria produces about two million barrels of crude oil a day but despite its huge reserves, it imports much of its fuel due to a lack of refining capability – a situation blamed on corruption and mismanagement.

Source: Al Jazeera