Lingering Aviation Fuel Scarcity in Nigeria

The sub-Saharan African country which boasts itself as the best economy in Africa, Nigeria, has been recently hit by various crises; fuel scarcity stands among the most devastating of them all.

Nigeria’s petroleum scarcity problem is inimical and apparently ironic to the country’s petroleum reserves status. The country is ranked as the largest oil producer in Africa and the 11th oil producer in the world with an average of 2.28 million barrels per day as of 2006 and it has up to 37.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of 2011.

Despite the wealth of reserves, various episodes of the country’s fuel scarcity issues have been recorded, perhaps the recent scarcity of the Jet A1 or aviation fuel is the most critical.

The scarcity of Jet A1 has intensively crippled aviation and in fact economic activities in the country. Moreover, other petroleum products have been equivocally scarce in Nigeria. Products such as cooking gas, kerosene and even fuel are scarce and amazingly costly with the cost of kerosene reaching up to 300 NGN per liter, and therefore cripple both air and land transportation.

Attempts to remedy these issues have continuously proven abortive and this has led various concerned people especially businessmen and women who use aviation for their respective businesses to assume that the issue is political.

Virgin Nigeria A340

Founded in 2004, Virgin Nigeria replaced the defunct Nigeria Airways but ceased operations in 2012 (Photo credit: Aviation Tribune)

The scarcity of the Jet A1 came with frustrations, burden of financial losses due to the irregularities in the nation’s aviation system and the interruptions in flight operations. The repeated delays in flight and consequent cancellation of flights have made various passengers to take to the social media to air their hopelessness and seek for remedy which rarely come.

One would not totally blame the industry regulator, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, for the aviation quagmire, however, it is obvious that the issue requires a determined effort to control. Evidence reveals that the fuel marketers are not entirely guiltless because the fuel is not only unavailable but there have been a hitch in the supply chain of the Jet A1 in the last few months which resulted to the fluctuation in the price of the product.

Various airlines have called the government’s attention to intervene in the near hopeless situation as the cost of the Jet A1 soared as high as 200 NGN. Of course, the increased cost of Jet A1 not only affects the airlines but also the customers because the cost of air travels to destinations such as Lagos – Abuja soared as high as 45,000 NGN.

The Jet A1 scarcity affects every airline in Nigeria, however, Arik Air, the biggest airline in Nigeria, which operates primarily at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja has been seriously affected. The affected airlines have scaled down their operations on some air routes.

Perhaps, some of the major reasons for fuel scarcity in Nigeria are logistic problems and distribution challenges. Nigeria relies heavily on imported fuels and the unavailability of foreign exchange in the country results to a major unrest in the system. Moreover, distribution challenges are also a predominant issue because the imported petroleum products have to be loaded to various destinations in the country through tankers and other mechanisms. Poor infrastructure such as dilapidated road networks poses serious threat to transporting petroleum products in the country.

Aviation is of prime importance to every nation and no nation can afford to jettison it. It is critical to trade and economic development of any nation. The need for easy mobility can never be overemphasized.

Nigerian government should place utmost emphasis on improving aviation in the country and also completely eliminating the fuel scarcity quagmire, not only in aviation but also in every other aspect of the economy. Aviation fuel scarcity has dragged the country and its economy to the mud. The government can ensure a lasting solution by digging to the root of the crisis.

The former ministers of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah and Chief Osita Chidoka had set up ministerial committee to address the issue but their efforts did not yield any fruit.

The petroleum resource sector in Nigeria is said to be liberalized but with the teeming aviation issue, it is necessary that the government intervene in order to save the day.

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