FUEL SCARCITY, POWER OUTAGES: Nigerian small businesses groan



– Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are worst hit in the present petrol and power crisis bedeviling Nigeria

– If not checked, businesses will begin to close down

– The crisis has made goods, commodities and services increase in terms of prices Korede runs a barbing saloon in Isheri Olowoora, a suburb in the outskirt of Lagos. He is one of the many Nigerians who is feeling the harsh reality of the fuel scarcity which, coupled with the drastic drop in power supply, has almost crippled his business.

He has resorted to buying fuel from the black market sellers, a development that has seen the price of his services increase from N300 to N500 for adult haircuts.

”I used to buy 30 litres of petrol for N2,600 when there was no scarcity. But now, I buy for as much as N5,000 from the black market boys. I have no choice because if I do not buy, I cannot run my business because there is no light”, he said.


The tale is the same for Mrs. Ajibade, who runs a frozen food business. She says she had no choice but to resort to buying fuel from black marketers after she almost made a loss of over N150,000 when the meat and fish produce in her freezers started going bad as a result of a prolonged power outage which lasted for days. She had initially tried to buy fuel from the filling station, but after her son had stood on a queue for hours only to be told that the filling station was not dispensing petrol into kegs, she had no other choice but to patronize the road side hawkers who were selling the product at twice the price. Semiu runs a small business center where he helps customers type and print their documents. He has also had to increase the cost of his services, with photocopying of a single document now costing N30, from N10. According to him, while he has added to pay more just to get fuel to run his generator, he is also paying more to get the paper he uses for his business.

The president of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a statement on Monday, disclosed that Micro, Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises in the country had lost as much as N30 billon in the last 30 days owing to the persistent fuel scarcity being experienced across the country, mainly as a result of their inability to get petroleum products to run their companies. Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum resources and Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) GMD, has come under intense criticism after admitting that the crushing fuel crisis could extend into May, a situation many Nigerians have found quite hard to swallow and which has led to calls for his resignation as the Junior Mister of Petroleum.

While the focus has primarily been on the fuel crisis, the case has been further worsened by the incessant power outages as power supply further dropped to 2,600 MW, with the supervising agencies unable to give cogent reasons for the continued drop in power supply. The situation has left many parts of the country in perpetual darkness as some electricity distribution companies, popularly known as Discos, get as low as 91MW for onward distribution to households. A manager at an indigenously owned filling station in Lagos, who spoke anonymously, said the fuel scarcity was mainly caused by the inability of oil marketers to access the much needed foreign exchange to import petroleum products.

While the NNPC has come out to say that it is implementing strategies to ensure that the fuel scarcity comes to an end in the next few days, many would likely take this announcement with a pinch of salt given how the organization said the same in the first few days when the fuel crisis started. ‘They should just give us fuel. We are suffering too much. No light from ‘NEPA’, no fuel to put in gen. do they want us to die? All we want is fuel’, Korede laments. Hopefully, the NNPC will get its act right in the next few days, and small business owners, like Korede, will have all the fuel the want.