Rumours over an increase in the pump price of petrol are commonplace in Nigeria—Africa’s number one oil producer and most populous nation, where the downstream and upstream oil market is still heavily regulated by government and where government has to offset huge sums in subsidy payments.

Nigeria imports the petrol it consumes because local refineries have become comatose or are functioning below optimal capacity.

A fuel queue in a Nigerian petrol station (NAN)

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration increased the pump price of petrol from N87/liter to N145/liter in 2016; as the newly inaugurated government came to grips with long queues at gas stations, a depreciating currency and huge debts owed oil marketers. 

Where did this latest petrol price increase rumour come from?

As has become the norm in Nigeria, no one can place a finger on where recent news of a petrol price increase, emanated from. 

However, residents of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, began noticing queues at gas dispensing stations on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. By Thursday, April 11, most gas dispensing stations in Lagos were running skeletal services or not dispensing the product at all.

One resident of Sokoto told Pulse that petrol is now being sold for N150/liter in the Northwestern state. 

In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, petrol stations open for business had long queues. The rest were shuttered. 

A fuel station attendant dispenses kerosene at a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega petrol station in Abuja January 23, 2015. REUTERS/ Afolabi Sotunde

Pulse can report that petrol queues have been getting longer across Nigeria all week long and that some petrol stations haven’t been dispensing the product as they anticipate a price hike.

What is the governments position on this matter?

In a press statement sent to Pulse, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) described rumours of an impending hike in fuel price as “fake news”. 

The state-run NNPC imports most of the petrol consumed by Nigerians and regulates the oil industry in Nigeria.

The NNPC “appealed to Nigerians to disregard trending social media report of an impending fuel scarcity due to purported refusal by some oil marketers to lift products from depots”.

The statement from the NNPC was signed by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu. 

Consumers mill around NNPC fuel station in Nigeria (Punch)

The NNPC further stated that “the tale was fabricated by mischief makers with intent to create undue panic in the prevailing sanity in the fuel supply and distribution matrix across the country.

The NNPC also stated that it “has over 1 billion litres of petrol in stock while imports of 48 vessels of 50 million liters each have been committed for April 2019 alone”.

The state-run oil company emphasized that there is no need for “panic buying or hoarding of petroleum products in anticipation of a phantom scarcity”.

Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Maikanti-Baru (The Guardian)

Two top government officials spoken to for this story, also dismissed speculations bordering on an increase in the price of petrol. The officials refused to go on the record for this story because they have not yet been permitted to speak on the subject.

Private oil marketers often share the petrol importing and dispensing duties with the NNPC.