Queues are forming in Nigeria over fear of gasoline price hikes

LAGOS, March 2 (Reuters). Queues for fuel formed across Nigeria on Tuesday amid fears that gasoline costs could rise despite the state-owned oil company promising consumers that prices would remain stable.

Rows of cars waiting to go to gas stations confused traffic in Lagos, the crowded commercial capital, while some stations in the capital, Abuja, stopped selling fuel for fear of losing money as prices rose.

Nigeria said last year it had liberalized the sector and eliminated costly subsidies. However, the state-owned oil company NNPC has recognized that it remains the sole gasoline importer. It also sets prices in gas stations.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Petroleum Resources Fuel Inspectorate warned sellers against hoarding fuel.

“The DPR will not hesitate to impose appropriate sanctions on any sales point concerned,” said DPR director Sarki Auwalu in the statement. “The regulator has set up a special task force to step up the oversight and surveillance of all retail stores and depots across the country.”

On Monday, state-owned oil company NNPC said it had ruled out price increases in March while negotiations with organized labor on fuel prices continued. It also warned of “artificial scarcity”.

Experts said the decision not to raise prices even as global gasoline became more expensive meant the government incurred subsidy costs. (Reporting by Libby George in Lagos, Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa; editing by David Evans)

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