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Fuel Scarcity: Telecom Operators Risk Services Shut Down Nationwide

Except the lingering fuel scarcity is stopped, telecom operators face the risk of having their networks shut down

Taiwo Hassan

There are fears that the continuous scarcity of fuel in the country may paralyse businesses in key sectors of the economy, particularly telecom operators.

Since the fuel scracity started few weeks ago, telecoms operators have warned that its networks faces shutdown due to fuel shortages.

MTN for instance, has warned that Nigerians are bound to experience network challenges soon as there is no Automotive Gas Oil otherwise known as diesel to power its telecoms equipment any longer unless fuel availability improves.

The company, the biggest subsidiary of the South Africa-based MTN Group, said it needed a “significant quantity of diesel in the very near future to prevent a shutdown of services across Nigeria”.

“If diesel supplies are not received within the next 24 hours the network will be seriously degraded and customers will feel the impact,” it added on its Twitter account @MTNNG on Saturday evening.

Nigeria has been increasingly hit by fuel shortages in recent weeks because of a long-running row over controversial subsidy payments.

Despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer, Nigeria lacks domestic refineries, forcing crude to be exported and products such as petrol and diesel to be imported.

To keep costs to consumers low, the government sets prices below the market rate and pays the difference to importers.

But the global slump in oil prices has hit Nigeria hard and oil marketers claim they have not been paid in full.

Fuel depots have closed as a result pending payment of the arrears, with the situation worsened after oil and gas union workers walked out over the sale of two oil blocks.

Many petrol stations have now run out of fuel both for vehicles and generators, on which most people and businesses rely because of the woeful public electricity supply.

On Friday, the Ministry of Power said electricity production was at an all-time low of 1 327 MW.

Diesel generators power most of MTN’s base stations and switches across the country, but supplies were running low, said the company’s corporate services executive Akinwale Goodluck.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry earlier this week warned the crisis could force firms to lay off staff.

The warning from MTN, which has more than 55 million subscribers, is a sign that businesses were now being hit.

Some domestic flights have been cancelled while international airlines have re-routed services into and out of Nigeria to pick up aviation fuel.

Virgin Atlantic flights from Lagos to London Heathrow have diverted to Ghana’s capital Accra and Majorca off southern Spain, while Air France services from Paris have stopped in Dakar, passengers said.

At least three Nigerian radio stations announced on Twitter they would be going off the air to ration fuel that powers its generators.

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