Nigeria hit by severe fuel shortage amid payment row

A severe fuel crisis has hit Nigeria with long
queues of angry motorists waiting for hours
outside petrol stations in major cities to fill up.
Importers are accused of withholding petrol
because of a payment dispute with the
government, which they deny.
This is the biggest fuel shortage in Nigeria since
President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May.
Nigeria is Africa’s main oil exporter but imports
most of its petrol because it lacks the capacity to
refine it.

The fuel is imported at a subsidised price under a
scheme operated by the state-owned Nigerian
National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Earlier this month, the government approved the
payment of $2.1bn (£1.4bn) to the importers, or
wholesale fuel sellers, to settle subsidy claims.
However, payment has been delayed because
parliament has not yet approved it.
The BBC’s Bashir Sa’ad Abdullahi in the capital,
Abuja, says previous governments tended to pay
the wholesale fuel sellers without parliamentary
approval.
But it seems that President Buhari is trying to stick
to the law by refusing to release such a large sum
of money without parliamentary scrutiny, he says.
Mr Buhari took office partly on a pledge to curb
corruption in the oil sector.
‘Huge scam’
One motorist in the main northern city, Kano, told
the BBC Hausa Service that he spent the night in
his car while waiting in a queue to fill petrol.
“I have been here for more than 12 hours and I
don’t know if I will get the fuel at all,” he said.
Another motorist said he was in the queue for
about eight hours and “only people with
connections were being allowed to buy the fuel”.
The fuel subsidy scheme has become an
enormous scam, our correspondent says.
The wholesalers often pretend to bring in a lot
more oil than they do and pocket the money they
get for the petrol that is not delivered, he says.
In May, the country was brought to a standstill
when the importers went on strike following a
row over payments with the outgoing government
of President Goodluck Jonathan.

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