Nigeria fuel crackdown

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Wed Mar 14 11:29:18 MST 2001

The intended rise in prices for fuel products as a result of deregulation
might be a trigger for major social protests in Africa's most populated
country. Nigerain unions are calling for rallies next week.


>From the BBC website at:

Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 12:55 GMT
Nigeria fuel crackdown

The Nigerian Government has announced measures to tighten the flow of oil
reaching the black market as it seeks to end its worst fuel crisis in more
than a decade.
Petrol stations have run dry across the country, although fuel is readily
available at much higher prices on the black market.

Information Minister Jerry Gana said in a special national television
broadcast that those diverting supplies to the black market or abroad were
sabotaging the economy.

"This is no longer a question of supplies... It's a question of diversion.
It's a question of sabotage," he said.

Nigeria suffers persistent shortages despite being the world's fourth
largest oil producer.

Many Nigerians are involved in smuggling the subsidised fuel across borders
or selling it on the streets where they can get a much higher price, but Mr
Gana has now ordered the closure of any petrol station or fuel outlet found
to have been diverting fuel.

"If within three days the fuel lifted from depots does not arrive at the
station it is meant for, the Department of Petroleum Resources is mandated
to close such a station," he said.


Fuel shortages are also blamed on pipeline thefts, corruption and the poor
maintanence of domestic refineries.

But the government believes that removing subsidies on petroleum products as
part of reforms of the energy sector will help to resolve the country's
pressing fuel problem.

However, reforms are not popular either. Ordinary people consider cheap fuel
as one of the few benefits they have and are reluctant to give it up..

The Nigerian Labour Congress has organised a series of mass rallies to begin
next week.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has said the present fuel subsidy makes no sense
as it fails to benefit the majority of Nigerians and he would instead
subsidise education, health and water services.

The deregulation plans would see oil refineries in Nigeria pay international
market prices for crude oil.

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