ONE of Nigeria’s biggest banks on Monday announced it was shutting branches early due to a lack of fuel, in the latest sign of shortages hitting businesses.
“The current shortage of petroleum products in the country has limited our ability to supply diesel to all our branches in order to continue normal branch operations,” GT Bank said in a statement on Twitter.
“Due to this we unavoidably have to close our branches nationwide at 1pm (1200 GMT) from Monday 25th May, 2015.”
Guaranty Trust Bank plc has branches across Nigeria, as well as Anglophone and Francophone West Africa, East Africa and Britain, with an overall staff of more than 10,000.
Nigeria has been brought to a virtual standstill by fuel shortages, caused by a row between the outgoing government and importers, as well as strikes by petrol tanker drivers and oil and gas workers.
Despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer, petroleum products have to be imported to Nigeria because of a lack of functioning domestic refineries.
The government keeps the price at the pumps below the market rate for consumers and pays the difference to importers and marketers.
But they say they are owed $2 billion in arrears and have shut fuel depots until the balance is paid.
The government maintains the money has been paid and the importers are holding the country to ransom by demanding losses from the slump in the naira currency caused by the global drop in oil prices.
Telecoms operators warned they may be forced to shut down networks if no fuel supplies are found for generators that power base stations and switches.
Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat, which has massively expanded its operations in Nigeria in recent years, informed customers of “possible disruptions” to services in the days ahead.
“The scarcity of petroleum products has impacted every sector of the economy and the provision of telecommunications services is no different,” a company statement said, asking customers for “understanding” as they try to minimise disruption.
The Etisalat announcement followed a similar warning by South Africa’s MTN, the largest telecom provider in Nigeria, and Airtel.
Nigerian homes and businesses are forced to use generators because of poor to non-existent grid supply.