Since Monday, many filling stations throughout Nigeria's cities have been closed intermittently due to a reported drop in petrol supplies. Motorists have faced long queues at the few stations selling the product, or risked sourcing fuel on the black market, while commuters have been hit by increased fares on buses passing on the rising costs.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which regulates the industry has organised an emergency convoy of 12 ships, and blamed the scarcity on four factors:
Firstly, a recent strike by tanker drivers in Abuja. This must be discounted however, since it affected few cities in Nigeria directly, and ended two weeks ago.
Secondly, vandalism of pipelines in Ogun state, disrupting supplies to much of Lagos.
Thirdly, a combination of panic buying and extortionary pricing leading up to deregulation. Indeed, some drivers have told of filling stations deliberately restricting their opening hours to breed a sense of panic.
Finally, an inability of oil companies to import fuel, despite having recently received licences to do so.
Oil companires responded to the accusation by citing three barriers to timely import of fuel supplies: they have been unable to access finance to fund the delivery of petrol due to the Credit Crunch, they have not received adequate subsidy payments from the NNPC, and the import licences were received too late to organise shipments on time.
This trading of accusations does little for Nigeria's motorists, of course, whose businesses are increasingly disrupted by the continuing paralysis.
Sources: Vanguard, nEXt, The Punch, Daily Trust