Fuel strike that shut down Nigerian economy to end, official says

Energy shortages affecting daily life in Nigeria
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Energy shortages affecting daily life in Nigeria 02:48

Story highlights

  • The fuel strike is ending, says an official with the petroleum association
  • Plenty of fuel is warehoused in Nigeria's ports, sitting untapped
  • But importers were not distributing since the government stopped payment on subsidies

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)A strike that brought Nigeria's economy to a standstill appears to be ending.

"We have suspended (strike) action for now," Olowoshile Bayo of Pengassan, the nation's petroleum and natural gas association, told CNN on Monday. "We did not want to create the impression of conflict with the incoming administration and people. We will take up issue with the new government when they arrive."
Nigeria is about to install a new president. In March, former military leader Muhammadu Buhari defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.
    The companies that import fuel say they haven't been paid by the Nigerian government, so they held back their massive supplies, which sit warehoused and untapped at Lagos' expansive seaport.
    Nigeria is an oil-producing nation but has to import fuel because it doesn't have the capacity to refine enough of its own fuel to serve the population.
    There was immediately one good sign, with a gasoline tanker being seen on the road for the first time in weeks.

    Epic gas lines

    Fuel strike that shut down Nigerian economy ends
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    Fuel strike that shut down Nigerian economy ends 01:44
    The strike shut down the economy in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city and a metropolis of 15 million. Cars stand silent, radio stations are switched off, and cell phone providers have shut down.
    At the Capital Oil gas station on the expressway connecting Lagos with the city of Ibadan, vehicles stood in line for gas backed up four lanes wide as far as the eye could see. Since they weren't moving, drivers exited their cars to chat with each other.
    In the other direction from the cars and trucks, pedestrians lined up with their gas canisters at the pumps one behind the other, stretching out of eyeshot. It was one of many such lines.
    Ochi Ogbuaku tweeted out photos of the station.

    Electricity out

    The clampdown on fuel choked off electricity. Since the nation's electrical grid is spotty, many buildings and businesses supply their own power with diesel generators.
    Air conditioning units, cell phone towers, transponders and other trappings of modern civilization are out.
    Three major mobile phone providers warned Monday that they may cut services soon, and Guaranty Trust Bank will shutter all branches around lunchtime. It apologized for the inconvenience in a tweet, following that message with a video animation that kindly explains how to drive and save gas.
    "Ok. So, it's one of those times when there's a fuel scarcity," it begins to soothing and playful background music, while a hand fashions cute line drawings with a black marker on a white background. A voice advises: Check the tires. Don't pile the roof high with baggage. Don't speed. Stop and start slowly. Run the AC less.

    Inconvenience and danger

    In the building that houses CNN's Lagos bureau, the elevator is out. The bureau is on the top floor, leaving a long march up about a dozen flight of stairs.
    But beyond such inconvenience lurks real danger. Critical services such as hospitals could run out of gas.
    And with many planes grounded, there may be little way out for people wanting to escape the crisis.
    People line up to buy fuel last week at a Mobil gas station in Lagos, Nigeria.
    You can either laugh or cry and many Nigerians opted for the former: the setback led to a stream of comical tweets, tagged with #AintNobodyGotFuelForThat.
    Even at a deserted airport, someone spotted the funny side.