Fuel prices in Nigeria more than tripled in some areas of the country this week after the government announced an end to the fuel subsidy. Iny Ememobong, a spokesperson for the National Association of Nigerian Students, says filling stations in the southern town of Yuo have become overwhelmed with demand for fuel due to price uncertainty.
“The public holiday has become nightmarish because there are long queues of fear. There is a lot of annoyance in the mind of people. People can’t move around happily, you know. People are annoyed. People are angry,” he says.
Adding to the confusion is the wide variation in new fuel prices says Ememobong. With the subsidy, prices were an average of 65 Naira, or 40 cents per liter, now they have increased to as much as 250 Naira in some places.
“It’s a free for all. The marketers are obviously extorting money from the buyers because there’s nothing you can do. Some places are selling for 150. I just bought for 200 Naira. On Facebook I have friends who have said they bought for 250 Naira. From 65 Naira to 200 naira you can’t imagine,” Ememobong says.
The student association as well as other groups throughout the country will stage massive protests if the subsidy is not reinstated.
“Labor is going on protest, students are going on protest, market women - everybody’s going because everybody is affected by what’s happening. It’s not just about students. It’s not just about labor. It’s about everybody. All of Nigeria except the very rich are going on protest. And like John F. Kennedy said, if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich,” Ememobong adds.
Despite being Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria imports most of its refined petrol while exporting its crude resources – a fact that speaks to capacity in Nigeria, says Ememobong.
“It’s unfortunate that we have many refineries in Nigeria that are not even working at optimal capacity. Why can’t they work? Why do we need to export the crude oil and re-import them and pay so much on them?”
The Nigerian government says the $7.5 billion used on fuel subsidies is needed for infrastructure projects and social programs throughout the country.