Fuel crisis threatens Nigeria's telecoms operators


The current fuel shortage in Nigeria is set to threaten telecoms operations across the country even as the strike action embarked upon by petroleum transport workers enters the second week, and the face-off between oil marketers and the Nigerian government over unpaid subsidy claims, running into several billions of dollars, remains unresolved.

Tech companies, especially telecos operating across the country, have communicated with subscribers warning them of the potential impact of fuel shortages on services.

In separate statements, Airtel and MTN said the scarcity of petroleum products, especially diesel, in various parts of the country threatens their ability to provide optimum services.

Akinwale Goodluck, MTN Nigeria's corporate services executive said MTN's operations would be affected because the network's base stations and switches are entirely powered by generators that run on diesel.

"Most of our base stations and switches are powered round-the-clock by diesel generators and the current fuel shortage has drastically reduced the ability of diesel supply to key locations," he said.

He added the network's diesel reserves are getting depleted, necessitating the need for the network to source for diesel to avert shutting down its services across the country.

"If diesel supplies are not received within the next 24 hours (end of today), the network will be seriously degraded and customers will feel the impact," he said.

Airtel also stated that its subscribers could experiences challenges in both voice and data services if it continues to find it increasingly difficult to replenish its current stock of diesel.

"We are concerned that if the situation persists, it may have adverse effects on our network. We will continue working with all our partners and stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact as we remain committed to our promise of providing exceptional services just as we seek the cooperation and understanding of all whilst apologising for any inconvenience at this time," Airtel management said in a statement.

An indication of what could happen in the telecoms industry emerged over the weekend as companies operating in the media and financial sectors announced austerity measures.

Several 24-hour Nigerian media stations, including Lagos-based The Beat FM and Classic FM, announced they would be shutting down at 20:30. Several financial institutions, including one of Nigeria's tech-pioneering banks, Guaranty Trust Bank, announced they would be closing their branches at 13:00 instead of 16:00 to reduce the volume of diesel being used.

The banks are urging their subscribers to use their online channels, including ATM, POS and other tech-driven mediums, instead of the banking halls.

Discussions related to the fuel scarcity are trending on social media as Nigerians share their experiences and have called on authorities to urgently rollout strategies to tackle the problem.

So far, there has not been any official statement by the Nigerian government on the fuel scarcity.