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Commuters in Nigeria's Capital Struggle with Gasoline Shortage


A motorcyclist passing through vehicles in traffic caused by fuel queues in Abuja Nigeria, Feb. 16, 2022.

Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, is experiencing an acute fuel shortage, causing long lines of motorists at gasoline stations. Commuters are frustrated as some wait hours to fill up their tanks.

Lost amid hundreds of vehicles waiting to gain access to a petrol station in Abuja is Yvonne Francis's silver-colored Toyota Camry.

She was in line overnight to fill up her car, she says, but has yet to get fuel.

"I have not experienced anything of this sort in terms of the fuel scarcity going on in Abuja. It keeps getting worse by the day and the past few days have been horrifying."

Black market dealers line the road nearby hawking the precious commodity. But Francis says the petrol is overpriced and a ripoff.

Francis is among millions of commuters having a tough time getting around since fuel became scarce in Nigeria in late January.

Nigeria's oil regulator, the National Petroleum Regulatory Commission, or NNPC, last week announced it had recalled some 170.2 million litres of tainted petrol that was imported from Europe by four Nigerian oil companies. The NNPC has acknowledged the recall is the cause of the fuel shortage.

Many vehicles lockheads as they try to gain access into a fuel station as fuel shortage grips Abuja, Feb. 16, 2022.
Many vehicles lockheads as they try to gain access into a fuel station as fuel shortage grips Abuja, Feb. 16, 2022.

Authorities said the petrol contained higher than normal levels of ethanol and had damaged many vehicles before it was recalled. The move has disrupted transportation in Abuja and other cities like Lagos and Port-Harcourt.

Abuja resident Oreva Okoro has been waiting in line for nearly 12 hours.

"It's just unbearable,” he says, “I've not gone to work for two days, today is the third day. It doesn't make sense."

Nigeria’s government has promised to fix the problem by importing clean fuel to replace the tainted petrol.

On Tuesday, the NNPC said in a statement that it has over one billion barrels of petrol stored and ready for distribution. It said it has ordered its outlets across the country to commence 24-hour operations to ease the chaos.

But energy expert Odion Omanfoman says it may take time before the fuel situation returns to normal.

"Give or take, this might last a couple of days or at worst a couple of weeks.”

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and ranks sixth globally. But the country depends heavily on imported refined petroleum to meet its huge demand for gasoline.

Nigeria’s refineries have been shut down for more than a year despite pledges by authorities to restore functionality. Critics say systemic corruption may keep the refineries shut longer.

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