ABUJA: Fuel shortages in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, have caused two of its largest domestic airlines to cancel some internal flights and delay others this week as jet fuel prices have hit a near-14-year peak due to Russia-Ukraine conflict.
In a statement, Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest carrier by passenger numbers, flying to Dubai and Johannesburg, said it was likely to experience flight disruptions on Wednesday and in the coming days due to jet fuel scarcity.
“Unfortunately, the fuel scarcity is starting to seriously impact our operations,” it said.
Another carrier, Arik Air, delayed almost all its flights on Tuesday and cancelled others, it said, adding that there was no certainty on the situation in the coming days.
Three other airlines, Dana Air, Ibom Air and United Airlines, also released statements about facing challenges in sourcing jet fuel after their customers complained on social media.
Despite being Africa’s largest producer, Nigeria imports nearly all its jet fuel, which has nearly doubled to as high as 625 naira ($1.50) a litre since December, Arik Air said.
Global jet fuel prices have hit a near-14-year peak as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a surge in the crude oil market, hitting airlines and passengers with steep cost increases.
The latest crisis marks a further blow to an airline sector still recovering from the effects of Covid-19 restrictions.
Airline passengers in Nigeria pay their fares in naira, which has weakened sharply due to devaluations. Fuel suppliers, however, are paid in dollars, a scarce currency in Africa’s top economy.
The fuel crisis has also been exacerbated by imports of sub-standard petrol and created a ripple effect for small businesses nationwide.
It has especially angered motorists, who have been spending hours in lines to fill their tanks, while some public transport fares have gone up.