Chronic fuel shortages in Nigeria brought phone firms, banks and flights to a standstill on Monday, just four days before Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration as president of Africa’s biggest economy and top oil exporter.
Besides airlines, which could not obtain aviation fuel, phone companies such MTN and domestic banks ground to a halt because the private generators that produce most of Nigeria’s electricity ran out of fuel.
“Services are already degraded and some of our customers are already feeling the impact,” Funmilayo Onajide, a spokeswoman for South Africa-based MTN, said.
Even though it is Africa’s biggest crude producer, Nigeria has to import nearly all its fuel due to old or inadequate refineries. Fuel importers say they are owed money by the government and have shut depots to press their case.
Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala denied this was the case, telling reporters the government had not failed to pay importers and adding they had received money as part of an agreed plan of rolling instalments.
Buhari, a former military ruler who last month became the first opposition candidate to defeat a sitting president in Nigeria, will be installed as head of state on Friday.