The major cities of Nigeria are experiencing acute gasoline shortages as importers feel the pinch of a plummeting local currency, tighter credit lines and unpaid government subsidies.
The contrariety here is that the currency crisis leading to gas shortages is being caused in part by plummeting oil prices.
As long queues of double-parked cars stretch outside filling stations, empty tanks elsewhere are forcing consumers onto the black market just weeks before presidential elections on March 28 in Africa’s biggest economy.
Reuters report that Nigeria exports around two million barrels per day of crude but a neglected refining system means it is almost wholly reliant on imports for the 40 million litres per day of gasoline it consumes.
The tale will certainly be an irked to President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces former military leader Muhammadu Buhari in what is expected to be the tightest election battle since the end of military rule in 1999.
The country’s oil company have tried to reduce panic buying on Friday by announcing additional supplies but to little avail.
Obafemi Olawore, the executive secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), said they began receiving the stop-gap gasoline on Tuesday morning.
Gasoline is reported to have been heavily subsidised by the government via the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), and President Jonathan’s own efforts to scrap them in early 2012 caused riots.
Credit problems due to erratic subsidy payments have been magnified by the plunge in global oil prices and the country’s currency, leading to the buying freeze.
The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had disclosed on Tuesday that about 320.8 billion naira had been paid to marketers in December last year from the country’s rainy day fund, the Excess Crude Account.