ABUJA – Fuel lines stretched for more than a kilometer (half-mile) on Friday in Nigeria’s capital because of a fuel shortage in sub-Saharan Africa’s top oil-producing country.
Drivers in Abuja groaned and shouted in frustration when one station closed because it was apparently out of fuel.
Smaller lines formed outside private gas stations charging higher than the government rate, and young men lined highways waving cans of fuel that is often adulterated and damaging.
Nigeria’s oil minister, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, apologized on Tuesday for the shortage which has left many travelers stranded on highways this week.
Kachikwu told the Senate that the government is “pained” by the crisis and promised to bring an end to the disruption by the second week of April. Analysts, however, say it will take longer to resolve a shortage they say is the product of longstanding refinery issues and pipeline outages.
During his Senate appearance, Kachikwu also apologized for responding to earlier questions about the fuel shortage by stating that he was “not a magician.”
He said, however, that the energy problems Nigeria’s government inherited when it took over last year were “unbelievable.”
The problem lies primarily with Nigeria’s aging refineries “which are not functioning effectively even when they are well supplied,” said Charles Swabey, oil and gas analyst at London-based BMI Research.
These deficiencies have been exacerbated recently by unplanned pipeline outages that have created more uncertainty in domestic supply, Swabey said. The outages include those caused by attacks on strategic oil and gas installations in the southern Niger Delta.
Some consumers suspect some oil marketers in Nigeria are creating the shortage for profit.
“There’s fuel, they just refuse to sell it,” cab driver Muhammadu Jakawa said.