Nigeria still hit by fuel shortages--huge refinery down : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday, March 3 3:18 AM SGT

Nigeria still hit by fuel shortages LAGOS, March 2 (AFP) - Most cities in Nigeria, a major oil-producing nation, were still suffering from fuel shortages on Friday as the government heightens a campaign for the deregulation of the distribution industry.

As the crisis worsened, state radio said production of petroleum products Nigeria's biggest refinery complex, near Port Harcourt in the south of the country, had stopped completely.

Refining stopped following the breakdown, late Wednesday, of the four electric generators serving the two refineries which make up the complex, the radio said.

The complex has a combined capacity of 210,000 barrels per day, a little less than half of the nation's total refining capacity of 450,000 barrels per day.

A top official at the refinery told national radio that he hoped the refineries would resume operations on Monday.

Meanwhile the stoppage is expected to worsen the fuel situation across the country over the weekend.

The fuel scarcity, first noticed more than one month ago, is crippling social and economic activities in many parts of the country, including Lagos, the nation's premier commercial centre, and Abuja, the federal capital.

The lingering fuel crisis is one of the major national issues which Catholic Bishops of Nigeria will discuss during their conference, which begins in Abuja on Tuesday, an official statement by the Catholic Secretariat said Friday.

Long queues formed in front of gas stations, blocking traffic flow in some places.

Officials attribute the scarcity to corruption and sharp practices by owners of filling stations, plus the smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries where they are sold for higher profit.

A litre of petrol which officially sells for 22 naira (18 cents) in Nigeria, goes for more than three times that price in the neighbouring state of Benin.

President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Monday that deregulation of petroleum products would eliminate scarcity, discourage smuggling and generate more revenue for government.

The central labour movement has accused government of deliberately causing the scarcity to justify its campaign for deregulation, and ultimately push through price increases.

The last increase in official prices of petroleum products took place in the middle of last year.

Meanwhile, shortages have led to a booming black-market trade in many Nigerian cities, including Lagos and Abuja.

While not available in many Lagos filling stations, fuel is openly hawked on the roadsides by illegal sellers.

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 03, 2001

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