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Anger as Nigeria, Angola face fuel shortages ahead of Christmas

Anger as Nigeria, Angola face fuel shortages ahead of Christmas

Angola

All is not well in two of Africa’s biggest oil producers as Nigerians and Angolans protest the long fuel shortages that have hit their countries this week.

For almost a week, petrol stations in both countries have been selling fuel at high prices, with many eventually ‘closing shop’ when the fuel supply they have runs out.

“We don’t have any more,” said Henriques Carvalho, a pump attendant in Angola’s capital, Luanda.

Some marketers, in their quest to cash in on the situation, suddenly started hoarding products

“They came here to refuel but demand has been so great that we sold our last few litres tonight. I’m waiting for the next tanker.”

In Nigeria, the fuel is being sold at as high as N400 ($1.1) up from N145 while in Angola, prices are reported to have tripled to as high as 500 kwanzas ($3)

“I’ve been queuing for two hours,” said Gisela Manuela from behind the wheel of her sedan in Luanda, Angola.

“I’ve already tried three other petrol stations — all in vain. Hopefully it will be better here.”

Authorities in both countries have issued several reassurances and statements over the course of the week, but none of the government’s actions seem to be bearing fruit in resolving the shortages.

Nigeria’s state oil firm said on Thursday it had more than doubled the daily supply of fuel for motorists to 80 million litres, attributing the shortage to a “hiccup in the supply chain”.

“Some marketers, in their quest to cash in on the situation, suddenly started hoarding products,” the state oil firm said in a statement, again calling on motorists not to panic buy fuel.

While in Angola, the state oil company, Sonagol, acknowledged ‘delays in processing fuel at the country’s ports because of minor issues around the payment of certain suppliers’ but insisted that it was ‘not short of fuel’ and that there was ‘no reason to be alarmed’.

Nigeria has particularly experienced fuel shortages in recent years, which usually result in long queues for fuel, wide spread power cuts at businesses that rely on petrol-driven generators to withstand frequent power outages and grounded planes.

Understanding the fuel shortages

Market forces

Despite being Africa’s largest oil producers, Angola and Nigeria import most of their fuel because of limited refining capacity.

Fuel shortages are usually blamed on supply glitches that include delayed payments to suppliers, but in Angola this year, many are saying its a deliberate move to undercut the authority of new president, Joao Lourenco.

“All of this is an attempt to obstruct the government of President Joao Lourenco,” said Agostinho dos Santos, a political analyst with close ties to the opposition.

“The majority of filling stations in Angola belong to or are controlled by the generals who were in the regime of the former president (Jose Eduardo dos Santos) and his daughter Isabel dos Santos. These owners want to avenge the old president.”

Lourenco became president in August this year and pledged to fight corruption. He has since fired several government officials including the former president’s daughter, Isabel Dos Santos from her post as Sonagol’s chief executive officer.

Political fumes?

Many Nigerians also attribute the fuel shortages to politics and not the market forces of demand and supply.

Nigeria’s ruling APC on Friday reacted to the petrol scarcity, saying there was no basis for it.

“There’s no ‘actual scarcity’”, the APC said in a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon.

The party blamed marketers and panic buying amidst Yuletide holidays for the lingering scarcity.

The opposition on the other hand have called out President Buhari who also doubles as the country’s Petroleum minister to fix the situation since ‘the buck stops with him’.

One of the governors in Nigeria, Governor Ayodele Fayose went as far as asking the president to resign arguing that ‘since the scarcity is largely inexplicable, it’s only logical to conclude that federal authorities are behind it.’

With just 1 day to the festive Christmas holiday that is celebrated in both countries, there will be even more pressure on the authorities to quickly and conclusively solve the fuel shortages.