Tempers have risen in Nigeria along with prices after the oil-rich nation dumped a controversial petrol subsidy system in the face of a coronavirus budget crunch.
The cost of fuel at the pump has risen by around 15 percent in recent days, hitting a record high of 162 naira per litre ($0.42, 0.36 euros), or $1.55 / 1.36 euros a US gallon, after the government pushed on with deregulation.
While such prices may sound cheap in many countries, the hike is a major blow to cash-strapped consumers who see cut-price petrol as one of the few tangible benefits they get from their dysfunctional leadership.
“We feel it seriously,” complained engineer John Kayode as he drew up at a petrol station in central Lagos.
“Fuel is a necessity. And the price hike is affecting every sector.”
People in Africa’s most populous country, where almost half of the 200 million population live in extreme poverty, have for years relied on the artificially inexpensive fuel.
Despite being the continent’s biggest crude producer, Nigeria has almost no working refinery capacity and the authorities have spent tens of billions of dollars to subsidise imports.
Now the government says the global economic slump sparked by the coronavirus pandemic means it simply can’t afford it anymore.
Authorities announced an end to the subsidies earlier this year, as falling oil prices robbed Nigeria of a major chunk of its revenues.
Increasing the pain for average Nigerians, the government has also almost doubled the cost of electricity from 33 to more than 60 naira per kilowatt.