Nigeria apologizes for fuel woes as frustration mounts

By Haruna Umar, Associated Press

Nigeria's oil minister apologized this week for a fuel shortage that has created long lines at gas stations and left travelers stranded on highways in sub-Saharan Africa's top oil and gas producing country.

Cars queue to buy fuel at a petrol station in Abuja, Nigeria, Friday, April 1, 2016. Nigeria's oil minister apologized this week for a fuel shortage that has created long lines at gas stations and left travelers stranded on highways in sub-Saharan Africa's top oil producing country. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's oil minister apologized this week for a fuel shortage that has created long lines at gas stations and left travelers stranded on highways in sub-Saharan Africa's top oil producing country.

Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told the Senate that the government is "pained" by the crisis and promised to bring an end to long lines at gas stations by the second week of April. Analysts, however, say it will take longer to resolve a shortage they describe as the product of longstanding refinery issues and unplanned pipeline outages.

Fuel lines stretched for more than a kilometer (half-mile) on Friday in Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria. Drivers groaned and shouted in frustration when one station closed because it was apparently out of fuel.

Smaller lines formed outside private gas stations charging higher than the government rate, and young men lined highways waving cans of fuel that is often adulterated and damaging.

During the recent Easter holiday, hundreds of Christian travelers ended up stuck on highways due to lack of fuel.

During his Senate appearance, Kachikwu also apologized for responding to earlier questions about the fuel shortage by stating that he was "not a magician," but stressed that the energy problems Nigeria's government inherited when it took over last year were "unbelievable."

The problem lies primarily with Nigeria's aging refineries "which are not functioning effectively even when they are well supplied," said Charles Swabey, oil and gas analyst at London-based BMI Research.

These deficiencies have been exacerbated recently by unplanned pipeline outages that have created more uncertainty in domestic supply, Swabey said. The outages include those caused by attacks on strategic oil and gas installations in the southern Niger Delta.

Local consumers suspect some in Nigeria of trying to profit from the shortage.

Cab driver Muhammadu Jakawa accused marketers of hoarding in hopes the government would lift a fuel subsidy and double the value of their stocks.

"There's fuel, they just refuse to sell it," he said.

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