A Review of the Nigerian Energy Industry

Fuel Scarcity: MTN, Airtel issues 24 hours shutdown ultimatum

Fuel nozzle.
Fuel nozzle.

…Banks and domestic airlines activities disrupted


25 May 2015, Sweetcrude, Houston – THE lingering petrol scarcity in Nigeria which is swiftly grinding the economy to a halt is about to take a new dimension as major mobile telecoms operators in the country have announced a shutdown of operations in 24 hours if the situation is not reversed.

Their counterparts in the banking and aviation sectors have also commenced major disruption of activities due to lack of fuel to power their operations.

Several Nigerians have become apprehensive as a result of this turn of events as they took to social media over the weekend to express their displeasure over news making the rounds that MTN and Airtel, two major telecoms operators in the country have started notifying their subscribers of an imminent shutdown within the next 24 hours if the fuel situation remains the same.

Reacting to the lingering fuel crises, Airtel said yesterday that the situation was impacting negatively on its commitments to delivering quality services and seamless telephony experience to Nigerians.

“We are currently doing everything within our means, as well as going the extra mile, to ensure that all our base stations and switches are up and running.

“It is sad to note that it is becoming increasingly difficult to replenish current stock of diesel due to the lingering scarcity of the products.

“We are also concerned that, if the situation persists, it may have adverse effects on our network, impacting both voice and data services.

“Airtel, therefore, wishes to assure all customers that we will continue working with all our partners and stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact, as we remain committed to our promise of providing exceptional services just as we seek the cooperation and understanding of all while apologising for any inconvenience at this time.”

Similarly, MTN, Nigeria’s largest mobile telecoms provider has warned that its network faces imminent shutdown due to fuel shortages that have crippled the nation.

“If diesel supplies are not received within the next 24 hours, the network will be seriously degraded and customers will feel the impact,” it added on its Twitter account, @MTNNG, at the weekend.

“Diesel generators power most of MTN’s base stations and switches across the country, but fuel supplies are running low,”

Some Nigerians who responded to our inquiry opined that for the telecoms industry to shutdown would result in dire consequences for the already suffering masses.

Jerry Inyang, a Lagos based lawyer noted on his twitter handle that with the shutdown of every other means of living, the only practical aid that helps people get by in this emergency situation is mobile telephony. “The moment this subscribers shutdown it’s going to be horrendous for millions of Nigerians. Don’t forget that between MTN and Airtel alone they control about 80 million subscribers and this could lead to further discomfort as people will no longer be able to communicate especially during emergencies and that could lead to frustration and chaos.

Already Arik Air and Aero Contractors two leading Airline companies in the country disrupted flight activities for several of their passengers over the weekend as several of their scheduled flights from various airports in the country were suspended, while there are strong indications that their other counterparts have started canceling and suspending flights accordingly due to lack of Jet Fuel.

The Banking sector is not left out as not a few banks have had reason to alert their customer of an imminent shutdown in the next couple of days.

GT Bank, a leading commercial bank in the country has already notified its staff and customers of a 1p.m closure in all its branches with effect from Monday due to fuel scarcity.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Nupeng, Lagos state chapter has placed the blame of the scarcity at the doorstep of the marketers noting that they appear to have products in their various tank farms, but have suspended loading, hence tanker drivers are unable to load. Tokunbo Korodo, Chairman, Lagos state chapter confirmed this during an interview early Monday morning.

He noted that Nupeng members are not on strike except the NNPC chapter of the union and that their reason was quite different from the ongoing national crises. He affirmed that any marketer who opens its depot would have trucks trooping in with the willingness and readiness to load products.

He also chided Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah for not releasing products before this time, claiming he may have done that for political reasons, as the products Capital oil is distributing belongs to the federal government. He assured Nigerians that a major stakeholders meeting has been scheduled for Monday in Abuja with the intentions of finding a lasting solution to the lingering fuel crises.

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