Last updated: 03:32 PM ET, Sat May 23 2015

Fuel Shortage Forces Nigerian Airlines to Cancel Flights

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | May 23, 2015

Fuel Shortage Forces Nigerian Airlines to Cancel Flights

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Fuel shortage issues in the Nigerian capital of Lagos came to a head Saturday, as the nation’s airlines were forced to cancel flights, the Associated Press reported.

Having already endured months with fuel in short supply, deliveries disrupted by a strike have now caused supplies to completely run out.

Travelers became stranded at Lagos' Murtala Muhammad International Airport as cancellation announcements rolled in.

"All flights suspended or canceled. No fuel. Been sitting here since 6 a.m.," one flyer commented on Twitter.

Aero Contractors, a private airline that is one of Nigeria's largest, has canceled 80 percent of its flights, said spokesman Simon Tunde to the AP.

Passengers told the AP that this past week, Air France and Kenya Airways flights diverted to Dakar, Senegal and Cotonou, Benin for refueling on the way to Paris and Nairobi because Lagos had no fuel.

While it is true that Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, producing more than 2 million barrels of petroleum a day, the country has to import the refined fuel, lacking enough working refineries to process it. Fuel shortages are not uncommon in Nigeria, according to the AP, but the severity of the current situation is unprecedented.

And not just for aircraft, wheeled vehicles are feeling the shortage as well. The normally busy roads of Lagos were half-empty, and police are busting black-market fuel sellers, with going rate four times that of the usual 40 cents a liter.

The crisis began in March when oil suppliers had to deal with multiple issues: their credit lines tightened as international oil prices halved, the Nigerian naira currency slumped, and government debt to the companies, nearly $1 billion, remained unpaid, according to the AP.

The AP says oil suppliers fear the debt will not be honored by the incoming government administration, while opponents believe some of that debt is a fuel subsidy scam involving suppliers and corrupt government officials, with no reduced cost past down to ordinary Nigerians.

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