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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 20:17 GMT
Nigeria fuel shortage hits planes
Anna Borzello
BBC correspondent, Abuja

International and domestic flights in Nigeria have been hit by a shortage of aviation fuel, with planes unable to leave the commercial capital, Lagos.

Planes were unable to find fuel on Thursday and the situation has now worsened while it is unclear what lies behind the shortages.

Nigeria has a thriving domestic airline industry with many people shuttling regularly between major cities.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights have also been disrupted.

BA flying from Abuja to London on Friday had to stop in Ghana to pick up enough fuel to finish the journey.

Virgin Atlantic, also heading for London, was delayed by several hours.

'No warning'

Worst affected, however, are the domestic airlines which provide the backbone of transport for many middle-class Nigerians.

Lagos domestic airport, normally a heaving mass of people was, early in the morning, eerily calm, with only a fraction of flights operating.

No-one seems to know exactly what has caused the problem.

Mohammed Tukor from Chang Changi Airlines told the BBC the fuel shortages began on Thursday.

The fuel market has told us they do not have the jet fuel, he said, but they gave us no advanced warning at all.

An official from one major independent fuel marketer told the BBC supply was low because of a delayed shipment and added the problem would soon be resolved.

However, the situation will do little to convince Nigerians of the wisdom of the government's already controversial economic reform programme which involves partially lifting fuel subsidies and allowing private companies to market fuel.

Prices of petroleum products have since sharply risen, prompting a number of general strikes.

Nigeria is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa but two-thirds of the population live in poverty.


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