Frustration as Nigerians scramble for petrol, new banknotes

Tuesday January 31 2023
Motorists queue for petrol at a filling station in Nigeria

Motorists queue for petrol at a filling station in Nigeria's capital Abuja. Nigerians are in anguish and frustration caused by an acute shortage of petrol and new banknotes as well as erratic electricity supply. PHOTO | MOHAMMED MOMOH NMG



Burdened by the electioneering peak ahead of national elections, Nigerians are in anguish and frustration caused by an acute shortage of petrol and new banknotes as well as erratic electricity supply.

Long queues at filling stations have been the norm in the last two months but the scarcity of the new banknotes introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently has added to the woes Nigerians are facing.

While politicians from 18 political parties are jostling and criss-crossing the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) canvassing for votes, Nigerians are awash with more serious problems that may distract them or sway the polls.

The prevailing scarcity of petroleum products — including petrol and aviation fuel — the inability to access the new banknotes just two days to the expiration of the old currency and the acute low power supply have combined to hamstring the well-being of the people.

Nights at filling stations


Residents and motorists across have continued to lament the hardships they face in accessing petrol with many spending days and nights at the few filling stations that have fuel.

“I usually queue till 12 midnight to get fuel. If not, my taxi business will suffer a loss,” said Mr Ismaila Jimoh, a taxi driver.

My Sadiq Yakubu said although he was on Coupon Queue, to be charged through his credit card, it had not been easy.

Mr Peter Okpe, a manager at one of TotalEnergies station, appealed to the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis. He said although they always serve motorists for 24 hours, queues have become too long because there is no enough fuel.

As authorities attribute the scarcity to cross-border smuggling, President Muhammadu Buhari on January 26 constituted a 14-member steering committee on petroleum products supply and distribution management that is tasked with to find a lasting solution to disruptions in the supply and distribution of petroleum products.

New banknotes

Amid the agony and frustration as Nigerians search for petrol, the situation has been compounded the scarcity of new banknotes barely two days to the expiration of the old naira notes.

The tension created by the January 31, 2023 deadline for the expiration of the old naira notes has forced President Buhari to extend it to February 10, 2023 while the deadline for the deposit of the old notes would be on February 17, 2023.

Many ATMs in major parts of Nigeria are shut because they do not have enough banknotes to dispense, leaving customers stranded.

The situation is further compounded by the fact that markets and traders have started to reject the old notes.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) fixed January 31, 2023 as the deadline for the use of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations.

The new notes became legal tender when they were unveiled by President Buhari on November 23, 2022 in Abuja.

On the instruction of CBN, commercial banks and other financial institutions have started working on weekends to accept deposits of old notes.

Some of the banks are still dispensing old notes, contrary to CBN’s instructions, saying they do not have enough new banknotes to give to customers.

Restive Nigerians are lining at ATMs across the country seeking to access the new notes.

Darkness at home

As disappointed Nigerians return from queues at fuel stations and banks, back home they are confronted with darkness.

Power distribution companies have confirmed that there is no enough electricity to distribute.

There have been persistent complaints from Nigerians over the deplorable state of power supply.

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) has issued a statement on the situation in its franchise area saying it is currently receiving a significant reduction in the allocation of electricity form the national grid.

"This has led to massive load shedding in our franchise area, especially Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria.”

Electricity generation had since January 26, 2023 declined from 4,017 megawatts to 1,892.30MW. This is according to the Independent System Operator of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

Twenty power plants were in operation when the grid recorded 4,017MW and later dipped by 2,125.66MW.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria needs to generate at least 40,000MW to satisfy electricity demand.