Like the hundreds of motorists in front of him in line at the gas station, Idowu Balogun is there to pump petrol into his bike but he is disabled. It may be some time before it is his turn. He closed this morning around nine o’clock in the row, now it’s almost eleven o’clock. As bad as last week when he was eight hours in line to refuel, it will hopefully not be as long this time, says the entrepreneur.
Whoever wants to fill his tank, these days in Nigeria, needs a lot of patience. Lines are daunting like the more than five hundred meter long line at Funsho Williams Avenue in Lagos. For more than two months, what reigns in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, is a poignant gasoline shortage. Since then, Nigerians are engaged in a time-consuming and costly search for fuel.
Most gas stations are extinct, where the fuel flows are incessant and traffic jams the norm. Sometimes there are pump battles between customers. Because you never know where petrol is sold in advance, some err on the side of caution. Taxi driver Alhaji Agba parks at four o’clock in the morning at the gate of a gas station in Surulere, a middle class neighborhood, and sleeps in his car, he explains:
“If they open at six o’clock and they have gas, I’m first in.”
How is it possible that a country that last boasted 1.6 million barrels of oil in March produced by the OPEC, is devoid of gasoline? The answer is shocking. The bulk of the crude oil goes abroad.
The four refineries of the national oil company NNPC that counts Nigeria, running only a fraction of their assets through deferred maintenance, sabotage and corruption. They produce nearly enough gasoline to meet its own needs in Nigeria, but the West African country is largely dependent on imports.
When petrodollars flowed more freely, importers were willing to provide the thirsty land of gasoline. Due to the depressed price of a barrel of crude oil Nigeria suddenly gets much less dollars inside. This is exacerbated by President Buhari, elected last year for his anti-corruption agenda, he refuses to devalue the naira.
Private parties can hardly get the dollars to purchase the gasoline abroad and have pulled out of the import. Since then Nigeria, from northern Kano to southern Port Hartcourt, is queuing for petrol.
In Yenagoa, in the Niger Delta where Nigeria’s oil comes from the ground, taxi drivers stand in line to fill their tank, to later transfer the content in cars of customers who pay for it at quadruple the original purchase price. IT professionals already created apps like FueledUp – a service that delivers the fuel at home – and FuelDey! – Indicating which are currently selling petrol stations.
The scarcity puts enormous pressure on the already declining economy. Businesses and households are also dependent on fuel for generators to generate their own power, because in the most populous country in Africa, a fraction of the electricity currently produces what is needed. Hotel Owner Peter Ogoboru in southeastern Calabar says he spends twice as much as otherwise in order to keep his generator.
“My costs are increasing, but I can not ask for a double room.”
The customers of gym owner Ibrahim Bello in Lagos run away because he does not always know where to find gasoline for his unit. “This is the hottest time of the year, then athletes can not [exercise] without a fan.”
NNPC says, its aim is to, as quickly as possible, produce enough fuel for the entire thirsty land, but the question is what levels of production the national oil company can reach in a short time.
Meanwhile, confidence in the new president, the opposition candidate who Nigerians May last year welcomed so hopefully, has sustained a bite. Gym Holder Bello voted for Buhari, and gives the benefit of the doubt him. “We wanted to change and knew it would not be easy,” he says.
“But this should not take more months. Then we all go bankrupt ”