Diesel famine in Nigeria threatens cell phones

Refined fuel crisis in Africa’s biggest oil producer brings country’s mobile operator to brink of shutdown

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Leading cell phone operator MTN Nigeria in Africa’s biggest oil producer country said Sunday that their network service is about to die countrywide if it is not urgently supplied with diesel.

The mobile industry will be the latest victim to be hit by the months-long diesel crisis. Some radio stations have stopped their broadcasts while aircraft are being kept on the ground.

The party of newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari, who will take office on Friday, blames President Goodluck Jonathan’s government for the crisis.

“The whole scenario reeks of sabotage,” spokesman Lai Mohammed said in a statement.

"Never in the history of our country has any government handed over to another a more distressed country: No electricity, no fuel, workers are on strike, billions are owed to state and federal workers, 60 billion dollars are owed in national debt and the economy is virtually grounded.”

Although Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in Africa, producing 2 million barrels of oil a day, it imports refined fuel since its refineries are dysfunctional due to lack of maintenance.

MTN Nigeria has more than 50 million subscribers in the country. The Company tweeted to its customers that mobile services will start to crumble in 24 hours if it doesn’t find diesel.

“MTN's available reserves are running low and the company must source for a significant quantity of diesel in the very near future to prevent a shutdown of services across Nigeria," MTN executive Akindale Goodwill tweeted.

Mobile is the only type of communication in Nigeria since the country’s landline network collapsed years ago.

The diesel crisis began when oil suppliers said that they could no longer supply fuel to the government. The oil suppliers say that the Nigerian government owes them more than $1 billion.

However, the government denies the debt.

Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Friday that she has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria to check the figures, and mentioned wrongdoing in the industry.

“There has been so much fraud allegations and scams in this business of oil marketing,” she said.

TRTWorld and agencies