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Cablegate: Gas Prices the Morning After

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ABUJA 001762

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EPET PINS ELAB NI
SUBJECT: GAS PRICES THE MORNING AFTER

REF: A. LAGOS 2090
B. ABUJA 1737
C. ABUJA 1735


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR PUBLICATION ON THE
INTERNET OR INTRANET.


1. (SBU) Touring Abuja city, the Abuja Federal Capital
Territory, and neighboring state Niger on October 10, it is
clear the end of the proposed October 9 strike had an effect
on the gasoline retail market, but not what was agreed (Refs
A and B). Virtually all Abuja city gasoline stations were
open except ExxonMobil outlets. All of those that were open
-- independents and majors -- were charging well above 34
naira per liter, except ChevronTexaco outlets were charging
34 naira per liter plus a fill-up fee of 100 naira. In Abuja
city Agip was selling at 41.5 naira, Total at 36.9 naira.
PolCouns asked one Mobil station manager why her station was
not selling gasoline when there were long lines at the
independent station next door selling at 38 naira and at the
Total station just up the street. She answered that
ExxonMobil would be delivering to her station that evening
and she would be selling for 37-38 naira per liter.


2. (SBU) There were long lines of motorists at every station.
Nigerians on radio talk shows said they were buying up ahead
of what they thought was a certain rise in gasoline prices
next week, and people PolCouns talked to in some lines said
they were buying while gasoline was available. One FM radio
talk show host asked why there were such long lines if all
the stations had gasoline to sell and were supposedly selling
at 34 naira; apparently Nigerians thought those might be two
excellent reasons to stock up.


3. (SBU) Outside the city was somewhat different. Inside the
Abuja FCT and for tens of miles beyond its borders in Niger
State most highway gasoline stations were closed October 10,
with no supplies to sell. That is usual for the
independents, but very unusual for the national and
international chains. Most Mobil, Texaco, Total and Agip
stations were empty. Of the few stations that were open on
the Abuja side of the state line, one AP station was selling
at 38.5 naira, one Texaco station at 34, one Agip station at
41.5, and one Conoil station at 38.5; on the Minna side of
the state line a Total station was selling at 36.9, Nana at
41, and Oyoyo at 40.


4. (SBU) The prices were pretty much the same as in the city,
literally the same for the major chains, but the lines were
far shorter. All but one of the stations required purchase
of at least 20 liters, the exception being Texaco although it
did not mention the surcharge when we inquired about price.
There were many individuals along the sides of the highway
selling gasoline from jugs, asking from 70 to 100 naira per
liter. Just as it was not apparent why there would be short
lines at rural filling stations less than five minutes drive
from their city counterparts charging the same price with
lines stretching several blocks, it is unclear why motorists
would by from jug-wielding individuals less than a kilometer
away from stations where the line was less than five cars.


5. (SBU) While the city stations were not embarrassed either
by charging over the 34 naira agreed or by the long lines,
the highway stations were much more tense. One Unipetrol
station turned off its pumps and the few cars in line
scattered when our Embassy-plate vehicle entered. We parked
next to a tanker with a NUPENG (the national oil union)
sticker on its door offloading fuel into a Texaco station's
tanks in Minna state; its driver seemed unconcerned but most
of the management at the station promptly disappeared. The
few pumpjockeys who remained said nothing, but pointed to the
34 naira price on the pumps. At the Oyoyo station above,
four irate motorists were busy beating up another, apparently
for cutting ahead in the longest line (11 cars) we saw
outside the city -- a piker compared to over 40 in lines at
many city stations. But at one in Minna there was a very
orderly line of cars crossing the highway under the calm and
smiling direction of a policewoman into a station with the
brand name Hansel. We did not enter the station to check the
price, or see if she was Gretel.
ROBERTS

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