No Fuel to Campaign Between Seyi Makinde’s Campaign Suspension and Nigeria's Fuel Shortage

Seyi Makinde’s campaign suspension in Oyo paints a grim picture of Nigeria’s fuel scarcity and the elections just weeks away. 

On Friday, Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde, suspended his re-election campaign over Nigeria’s double dilemma: arguably the country’s worst fuel scarcity run and a shortage of the naira following the central bank’s controversial redesign and recall.

In a statement through the state’s commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Wasiu Olatubosun, Makinde said his campaign was suspended in solidarity with the people.

According to the statement, Makinde:

directed that all campaign activities be suspended, noting that the people’s suffering was too much. The decision was taken because he was elected to protect the interests and well beings of citizens of the state. Makinde, who flagged off the Omi-Adio-Ido Road in an emotionally laden voice, also directed leaders of the party in the state to suspend further political activities.

The situation in Oyo belies the bigger question—is there enough fuel for Nigeria to carry out its general elections?

The Independent National Electoral Commission asked the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) the same question. On 03 February 2022, the commission’s chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, warned that it could affect the transportation of materials during the general elections. In response, the NNPC allayed the commission’s fears, saying there would be enough fuel for the commission’s proposed 100,000 vehicles and 4,000 boats.

It is make or break time for the electoral body, which has reiterated that the 25 February presidential election and the 11 March gubernatorial election will hold as scheduled.

The issue of logistics has been a long-running problem in election administration in Nigeria and has historically led to the postponement of polls. In 2019, INEC postponed the presidential and national assembly elections hours before Nigerians were set to head to the polling units. The electoral body cited ‘logistics and operational problems’ as the reason for its postponement. Similarly in 2011, the national assembly elections scheduled for 02 April had already started in states like Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu when then-INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, announced the postponement over the late deployment of electoral materials.

With about 20 days to the tightly contested presidential elections, candidates like Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress have accused President Muhammadu Buhari—who doubles as the minister of petroleum, of creating the scarcity in a bid to ruin his chances at the polls. The NNPC shut down these claims, saying it stands to benefit nothing by creating a fuel scarcity to influence the oncoming general election.

Fuel queues made a reappearance on Nigerian roads in late November 2022, months after the scarcity occasioned by the floods that affected 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states, killed over 600 people, displaced 1.4 million people, destroyed properties and halted the supply chain. Consequently, fuel prices increased from the government regulated price of  170 per litre and fuel stations owned by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria sold fuel between  200 and  210 respectively.

In December 2022, between hoarding by retailers and panic buying by Nigerians, the government stepped in to resolve the scarcity. The State Security Service (self-styled as the Department of State Services) issued an ultimatum to the NNPC and oil marketers to make petrol available for Nigerians. This provided a brief interlude to the crisis. The fuel queues returned in January 2023, as the federal government approved a hike in the official retail price of petrol from a range of  165-170 to  180-N185 and the situation continued to deteriorate, leading to protests in Benin City, Edo State.

On 25 January, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a 14-member steering committee to address the lack of petroleum products across the country, though it’s currently unclear how effective this decision is.  The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority claimed that there were over 1.6 billion litres of fuel available, attributing the disruption in supply to ‘the heightened activities of cross-border smugglers, who divert PMS meant for the Nigerian market to neighbouring countries where PMS prices are significantly higher than Nigeria’s regulated price’.

On Friday, the Nigerian Ports Authority announced that fuel-laden ships are set to berth at the Lagos ports, but the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria say the NNPC lacks the capacity to supply and distribute the volume of petrol that would serve all Nigerians. This is a sentiment shared by the NNPC, as Chief Executive Officer Mele Kyari clarified on Thursday that Nigeria’s fuel scarcity challenge is a supply/distribution problem.

According to Kyari:

We do not have a supply problem because as we speak now, we have over 28 days of supply even if we evacuate up to 60 million litres of PMS every day. We have a distribution problem that comes up as a result of the shift in the cost of logistics in our business taking fuel from the mother vessels to the terminals into trucks to the fuel stations.

The fuel queues have persisted with no apparent end in sight; the government is skirting around the issue, insisting it has enough petroleum in stock for its estimated 220 million citizens. As the situation continues to develop, one thing is clear: Nigerians may keep queuing till the polls

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