Nigerian officials reached a preliminary agreement with multinational oil firms to pay back the $800 million Nigeria owes the oil suppliers in an effort to bring an end to the country’s dire fuel shortage.
At the same time, however, the Nigerian finance minister accused the oil suppliers of holding the nation to ransom and complained of “so much fraud allegations and scams in this business of oil marketing.”
Even though a preliminary agreement has been reached, months of backlog mean that demand will still be extraordinarily high this coming Friday during president-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the African nation, along with nearly fifty other world leaders.
Officials from Buhari’s party described Nigeria as a “nation in crisis.”
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has been brought to a screeching halt by this shortage, and the situation has only been made worse by the strikes initiated by fuel marketers and transporters in the region.
A top Nigerian bank, the Guaranty Trust Bank, closed its doors earlier this week, due to a lack of fuel to run generators. Nigerian airlines are grounded, and travel into the country moves at a snail’s pace. MTN Nigeria, a large telecommunications company, told its customers to expect outages in a tweet this week. Public transit has also been hit hard; LAGBUS, the public transit authority in Nigeria’s most populous city, may have to halt all operations in response to the crisis.
Outgoing Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan dramatically cut the price of fuel in the country, in a move some say was cynically calculated to win the votes of Nigerians in a difficult election earlier this year.
Jonathan lost that election, the first time an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate in Nigerian history. His successor, president-elect Muhammadu Buhari, is set to be inaugurated on Friday.
Buhari’s party blames the fuel crisis on Jonathan’s price cut. They say that his meddling caused increased demand and that oil reserves would be unable to keep up with the dramatic shifts.
The incoming president tweeted, “The countless man hours that will be spent at the pump today, will reduce our productivity as a nation. This should not be so.”
Somewhat ironically, Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer. However, because Nigerian oil refineries are ill-maintained, the country must resort to importing oil from elsewhere in the world. Although Nigerians face frequent fuel shortages as a result of this policy, the latest is of an unprecedented scale.