Cameroon Suffering From Removal Of Nigeria Fuel Subsidies

Fuel vendor takes fuel to a waiting customer at Muea, Buea, on June 22, 2023

By Babila Dorinda (UB Journalism Student On Internship)

Buea-based taxi driver, Tendong Alain, has been driving for 10 years but never did he go home each day without making up to FCFA 30,000. From his average daily earnings, he would pay the car owner FCFA 8,000, fuel the car at FCFA 10,000 and probably return home with a balance of FCFA 12,000.

Today, Tendong struggles to make FCFA 20,000 daily. This is because of a hike in the price of the Nigeria-imported roadside fuel (funge), which he and other drivers in Buea largely depend on. The price of “funge” has almost doubled since the Nigerian Government decided to remove fuel subsidies in May.

In Buea and other towns in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, the price of “funge” rose from FCFA 5,500 per 10 liters to FCFA 8,000.

Although the roadside fuel is illegally imported into Cameroon, drivers and other petrol users in the Southwest Region highly rely on it and now they are groaning under the price hike. Tendong says he fills his car at fuel stations, and it costs FCFA 730 per litre, which is quite costly for him, considering passengers’ reluctance to comply with the government-fixed taxi fare of FCFA 300 per drop.

“What pains me most is the fact that my customers do not agree to pay the amount I ask because they don’t care about this increase. All this weighs on me,” he said.

Aside Tendong Alain, 32-year-old Manga Fred, a commercial taxi driver who has been driving in Buea for five years now, says it is difficult to balance his boss every day. He does what is commonly known as “balance and take,” whereby he pays for a vehicle gradually until he owns it. But paying a daily balance of FCFA 8,000 to his boss has been difficult since the price of roadside fuel skyrocketed.

Fred says his daily income has dropped and his family’s living standard, too. After settling police controls, buying fuel at a high price and paying his boss, Manga goes home on some days with less than FCFA 5,000.

Many taxi drivers in the Southwest Region of Cameroon were not affected by the Cameroon Government’s official increase in fuel prices this year, because most of them fueled their vehicles with “funge”. The increase in the price of roadside fuel in Cameroon has been described by the general public as “adding salt to wounds”.

Fuel price hike has come to add to perennial living cost that plagued the country within two years, starting with the impact of COVID-19, and later the war in Ukraine. In Buea, the prices of fuel has doubled since Nigeria’s new President, Bola Tinubu, scrapped a government fuel subsidy in the oil-rich nation. Before then, the Cameroon Government had increased the price of Gasoline from FCFA 650 to FCFA 730 and Diesel from FCFA 575 to FCFA 720.

Effects Span Through Affecting Not Only Drivers, Sellers

The rise in fuel prices has not affected only taxi drivers but costumers as well.

 Twenty-eight-year-old Luma Elizabeth, a mother of two who lives in Buea, says she leaves every day from UB junction to Government Residential Area, GRA, where she works as a house help. She says she now spends FCFA 700 daily as transportation of which she was previously paying FCFA 500.

“My gastric problem has aggravated because I don’t feed well,” she says. “How will I eat to my satisfaction with the high cost of everything in the country?”

 She laments that the hike in fuel prices has not only affected her health, but her savings as well. Luma earns FCFA 70,000 a month, but spends close to FCFA 55,000.

The President of Fako Drivers Union branch in Buea, Munang Moses, says taxi drivers often complain to him about passengers hauling insults at them because they charge high for fair. Aside from that, settling numerous police and gendarme controls are some of the complaints.

Removal Of Fuel Subsidies In Nigeria Indirectly Affecting Cameroonians

Most of Cameroon’s Regions bordering Nigeria rely on Nigeria’s imported fuel. According to trading economics, Cameroon’s fuel importation from Nigeria in 2018 was valued at USD 295.52Milion (about FCFA176 billion).

That is why Bola Tinubu after taking power, removed the subsidies meaning Cameroon will now import at a higher price, unlike before and that is why the price of fuel in the Central African nation skyrocketed, indirectly increasing the cost of living.

Cameroon’s Oil Production Declines Over Years

According to Energy Information Administration, Cameroon, between 2016 and 2020, was producing crude oil, but it produces “no record of petrol or natural gas”. Following a fire incident that ruptured its National Oil Refinery, known in the French acronym as SONARA, the number produced by 2020 had dropped to 67mbpd.

In 2023, Cameroon’s production of crude oil stands at 58.01 thousand barrels per day, according to khoema, an online data site. But most of it is being exported, making the country highly dependent on imported light crude from countries like Nigeria.

Earlier this year, the Cameroon Government also reduced fuel subsidies and, as such, the price of fuel rose. Now, coupled with complete removal of fuel subsidies from Nigeria, which has indirectly affected the prices in Cameroon, the citizens can only complain while hoping for something to be done.

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