In parts of Cameroon, the price of gasoline has doubled since Nigeria’s new President Bola Tinubu scrapped a government fuel subsidy in the oil rich nation.
Nigeria is one of Africa’s leading oil producers and subsidized petroleum products are routinely smuggled into Cameroon and sold by the roadside. Now, with the subsidy in place, business people in Cameroon say they are struggling to cope as fuel prices rise.
Traders in towns and villages on Cameroon’s border with Nigeria say business has suffered since Nigerian President Bola Tinubu announced the end of fuel subsidies on May 29. Thousands of Cameroonians and Nigerians trade cattle, cotton, foods and other products across their countries’ 2,000-kilometer long border.
33-year-old Alphonsine Ngaba buys body lotions, perfumes and cosmetic products in Nigeria for sale in Limani, a town in northern Cameroon.
She says the end of the fuel subsidy has led to a fuel shortage, hampering business on both sides of the border. Ngaba says at least a hundred merchants returning from Nigeria have been stranded for three days in Limani, where several dozen transport trucks, vehicles and motorcycles are grounded by fuel scarcity.
She says within the past two weeks a fuel shortage has hit towns and villages on Cameroon’s border that solely depend on Nigeria for petrol.
Ngaba said a few drivers entering Cameroon complain that fuel is expensive in Nigeria and have more than doubled the fares they charge to transport goods.
Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics reports that in 2022, more than 30 percent of Cameroonians bought petrol from Nigeria. A liter of Nigerian petrol sold for about 50 cents, while petrol supplied by Cameroon’s state oil firm SONARA sold at more than one dollar.
Nigerian President Tinubu cited heavy smuggling of petrol into Cameroon, Chad, Benin and other countries as a reason for halting the subsidy.
Donatus Manga imports petrol from Nigeria and sells in Buea, a town near Cameroon’s southwestern border with Nigeria. He says the price of petrol from Nigeria has more than doubled in the past 10 days, cutting deeply into his business.
“Business is quite slow and difficult,” said Manga. “At first, I could sell up to 2,000 liters a day, but as of now, I hardly sell up to 200 liters a day due to the rise in the price of petrol from Cross River state, Nigeria.”
Manga said his supplier has been unable to import petrol from Nigeria’s Cross River state for two weeks. Civilians in Cameroon’s border towns and villages say the fuel situation has also caused a 15 percent increase in prices of basic commodities and motor spare parts imported from Nigeria.
To ease the fuel shortage, the government of Cameroon says it will supply petrol to towns and villages in need.