25 May 2015, Lagos – The major companies and unions that distribute petroleum products across Nigeria agreed on Monday to end a devastating fuel strike that has largely shut down Africa’s biggest economy.
The main unions and industrial groups who are collectively responsible for supplying and distributing the majority of petrol and diesel in Nigeria made the announcement after a meeting in Nigeria’s Senate.
“We have agreed… (to) commence lifting of products from all available depots within the next six hours,” said Babafemi Olawore, Executive Secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria.
Kassim Bataiya, of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), said his body “fully endorsed” the statement.
It has been nearly impossible in recent days to purchase petrol from licensed stations across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and leading oil producer.
Black market sellers have sold jerry cans of fuel by the roadside at inflated prices, sometimes offering a tainted or diluted product that destroys engines.
Most companies rely on a steady supply of diesel to power generators given the massive shortage of public electricity in Nigeria.
Banks closed early on Monday because of the diesel shortage, while telecommunication companies warned of service disruptions to their networks.
The shortages were caused by a row between the outgoing government and importers, as well as strikes by petrol tanker drivers and oil and gas workers.
Despite producing some two million barrels of crude per day, petroleum products have to be imported to Nigeria because of a lack of functioning domestic refineries.
The government keeps the price at the pumps below the market rate for consumers and pays the difference to importers and marketers.
But they say they are owed $2 billion in arrears and shut fuel depots to force the government to pay.
It was not immediately clear what, if any, deal was offered to help break the deadlock.
The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, which leaves office on Friday, has had sporadic battles with fuel importers over the last five years.
Jonathan’s successor Muhammadu Buhari has not yet indicated how he plans to handle the subsidy issue after taking office.