Nigeria subsidy fears threaten worse fuel shortage

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By Libby George and Julia Payne

LONDON/ABUJA,- Fuel shortages are set to worsen Nigeria as international traders and local marketers back away from imports over fears the cash-strapped new government will halt costly subsidy payments.

Already, lines at petrol stations in the major cities are blocking traffic as Africa’s largest crude exporter runs out domestic fuels. The shortage in some rural areas is even more acute due to a payment battle between independent retailers and the government.

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“We have exhausted our stocks,” said Stanley Yakubu, a worker at the Forte Filling Station in the Maitama neighborhood of Abuja. “We thought government and marketers have resolved their issues but is very slow in coming.”

Traders said new bookings for vital tanker imports of transport fuel into Nigeria have slowed to a trickle, and some cargoes offshore are being redirected to other regions.