Motorists in Cameroon are grappling with the repercussions of Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu’s decision to eliminate the government’s fuel subsidy in the oil-rich nation.
The price of gasoline has doubled in certain regions of Cameroon as subsidized petroleum products, traditionally smuggled from Nigeria and sold on the roadside, are no longer available.
This sudden surge in fuel prices is causing significant challenges for business owners in Cameroon.
Traders operating in towns and villages along the Cameroon-Nigeria border report a notable decline in business since President Tinubu’s announcement on May 29.
This border, spanning over 2,000 kilometers, facilitates the exchange of various goods such as cattle, cotton, and food products between thousands of Cameroonians and Nigerians.
Alphonsine Ngaba, a 33-year-old merchant from Limani, a town in northern Cameroon, highlights the adverse impact of the fuel subsidy removal on cross-border trade.
Ngaba, who purchases body lotions, perfumes, and cosmetics in Nigeria for resale in Cameroon, explains that the fuel scarcity resulting from the subsidy removal has caused significant disruptions.
She reveals that numerous merchants returning from Nigeria have been stranded in Limani for three days, as fuel shortages have rendered transport trucks, vehicles, and motorcycles immobile.
Ngaba further laments that the past two weeks have witnessed a fuel shortage in the border towns and villages that solely rely on Nigeria for petrol.
As a consequence, some drivers crossing into Cameroon have responded by significantly raising transportation fares due to the exorbitant fuel prices they encounter in Nigeria.
According to Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics, more than 30 percent of Cameroonians purchased petrol from Nigeria in 2022. Nigerian petrol was available for approximately 50 cents per liter, while petrol supplied by Cameroon’s state oil firm, SONARA, sold for over one dollar per liter.
President Tinubu justified the subsidy removal by citing rampant smuggling of petrol into neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Chad, and Benin as a major concern.
Donatus Manga, a petrol importer who operates in Buea near Cameroon’s southwestern border with Nigeria, bemoans the significant price hike that has impacted his business in the past 10 days.
He reveals that the cost of petrol from Nigeria has more than doubled during this period, severely affecting his daily sales.
Manga states, “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 adds that his supplier has been unable to import petrol from Nigeria’s Cross River state for two weeks.
The fuel scarcity has also led to a 15 percent increase in the prices of essential commodities and motor spare parts imported from Nigeria, according to civilians residing in Cameroon’s border towns and villages.
To address the fuel shortage, the Cameroonian government has announced plans to provide petrol to the affected towns and villages in need.