Is Nigeria on the brink of a shutdown?

VENTURES AFRICA – Despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer, scarcity of refined petroleum products has hard hit Nigeria’s major cities, including Lagos and Abuja. The scarcity, which started as a result of strikes by petroleum marketers and transporters intensified significantly in the last two weeks, resulting in the rise of black markets with prices more than five times the approved N87 ($0.44) per litre price for PMS products.

Importers have been in disagreement with the government over unpaid bills of nearly $1 billion of subsidised fuel prices in the nation since October 2014 on imported products.

This has forced a number of high profile companies to announce a temporary or complete shutdown as they have been unable to secure fuel to power their facilities. A number of radio stations took to social media last week to announce that they will be shutting down operations if the energy situation lingers on.

MTN and Airtel, Nigeria’s foremost and third biggest telecommunication companies respectively, also revealed plans to suspend several stations as they have limited stock of diesel to power their mast.

The aviation industry has also been affected. Over the weekend, its two biggest operators, Arik and Aero, were on the news for cancelling or delaying flights, leaving many commuters stranded, while GTBank, Nigeria’s third largest bank, has announced an early closure today.

All of these have led many, including the international community, to predict a possible shutdown should the crisis persist.