No fuel, no cash: conjunction of crises weigh on Nigerians | ANG
  • February 24, 2024

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Petrol shortages, chaos at banks, in addition to insecurity and the chronic lack of water and electricity, have added to the plight of many in Nigeria.

Muhammed Bazza has been queueing for petrol under the blazing sun for four hours, while Alexander Okwori has spent the last two waiting at a cash dispenser.

And these days Awolowo, a main commercial road of Lagos, Nigeria’s megacity of 20 million people, is constantly blocked by traffic jams worsened by the waits for fuel, spelling further misery for residents.

From north to south, the country of about 215 million people is facing a cunjunction of crises.

It’s a volatile mix as Nigeria gears up for presidential and general elections next month, with President Muhammadu Buhari stepping down after the two terms allowed by the constitution.

Bazza said he had woken up at 4:30 am to try to avoid the petrol queues, but it didn’t work — Shortly after 10 am, and just 10 metres (30 feet) from the petrol pump, he was told to leave.

“It’s over! No more fuel,” the station attendant said. “My day is wasted,” Bazza lamented. “Every day is the same problem, it’s ridiculous.”

While Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest crude oil producers, it has almost no refining capacity and must import fuel from Europe and elsewhere.

“We are tired,” Bazza said before driving off. “Everywhere people are fighting.”

No cash

On the other side of the road, fifty or so people are huddled outside a bank, with more people continuously joining the crowd.

Like everyone else, Alexander Okwori is trying to get his hands on new bank notes unveiled last October to replace the old naira, with a January 31 deadline to make the swap.

But days before the deadline, only a few banks were distributing the new notes, leaving many Nigerians, who are overwhelmingly poor and without bank accounts, without access to cash.

Under pressure, the government agreed to push the deadline back to February 10, but on Tuesday many banks were still unable to distribute the new notes.

“No ATM are giving money. I went to 10 banks, there are no new notes,” said Okwori, who wonders how he will manage to buy food for the day.

His anger has reached the point where he has no intention of casting a vote on February 25.

“To get my PVC (voting card), I have to queue again. For what? They (politicians) are all the same,” the 21-year-old said.

The two main candidates vying to replace Buhari are Bola Tinubu of the president’s governing party, and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition group.

The two are old political hands, wealthy but also dogged by corruption suspicions in the minds of many voters.

‘Getting worse’

Outside another petrol station on Awolowo, a queue has completely blocked the traffic, leaving Vanessa Ifejitah stuck in her car for three hours with her children on their way to school.

Wearing an elegant orange dress, the mother of two steps out of her car and starts shouting at military officers standing nearby.

“You are the cause of our problems!” she shouts, pointing at their vehicle parked in the middle of the queue, making things even worse for those trying to drive through — so Ifejitah starts directing the traffic herself to sort out the mess.

“The queue is getting worse every day… I don’t know what is happening in Nigeria,” she says, getting back into her car, on the verge of tears. “My children are two hours late for school.”

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