Nigeria not merry as gas queues grow

LAGOS - Residents in Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital, spent several hours on Christmas Eve in front of filling stations as a petrol scarcity bit harder and queues of motorists became longer.

Long and unruly queues formed at petrol stations on Sunday in many parts of the city as the scarcity grew worse, but the state-run oil firm said the queues were a result of panic buying.

A woman who had intended to travel out of Lagos on Sunday said that she has put off the trip indefinitely because of her inability to pay transport fares, which have been hiked by more than 100percent.

A university undergraduate said he paid R42 for a taxi trip that normally cost less than half that amount.

"From what we have noticed, the queues are just in the spirit of the season," said Levi Ajuonuma, a spokesman for Nigerian National Petroleum.

He said there was a high demand for fuel by people who were travelling the country for the festive season celebrations.

The petrol company "had enough" stocks to meet the demand, but Ajuonuma advised users against panic buying.

After spending an hour in a petrol queue, an AFP reporter was not able to buy fuel. A taxi driver said he spent four hours in vain in front of a petrol station at the weekend.

Nigeria is Africa's largest producer of crude oil but depends on imports of petrol for its domestic use.

The country's four refineries produce less than 30 percent of their installed capacity, creating a shortfall in supply. - Sapa-AFP