Muhammed Bazza has been queuing for petrol under the scorching sun for four hours, while Alexander Okwori has spent the last two waiting at an ATM.
Bazza said he had woken up at 4:30 a.m. to try to avoid the gas lines, but it didn’t work: Shortly after 10 a.m., when he was only 30 feet (10 meters) from the gas pump, he was told go away
“It’s over! No more fuel,” the station employee said.
“My day is lost,” Bazza told AFP. “Every day it’s the same problem, it’s ridiculous.”
These days, Awolowo Road, one of the main commercial arteries in Lagos, Nigeria’s megacity of 20 million, is constantly blocked by traffic jams made worse by waiting for fuel.
From north to south, the country of some 215 million people is facing a complex mix of problems: gasoline shortages and bank chaos over a new currency swap, plus chronic lack of water and electricity.
It’s a volatile combination as Nigeria prepares for presidential and general elections next month, with President Muhammadu Buhari resigning after the two terms allowed by the constitution.
While Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest producers of crude oil, its outdated refineries have little refining capacity, so it must import fuel from Europe and elsewhere, so fuel tails are common.
Frustrations grow as vote nears
Across the street, about 50 people are crowded in front of a bank, with more and more people joining the crowd.
Like everyone else, Alexander Okwori is trying to get hold of some of the new notes introduced last October to replace the old naira, the deadline to redeem was January 31.
But days before the deadline, only a few banks were distributing the new notes, leaving many Nigerians, who are overwhelmingly poor and have no bank accounts, without access to cash.
Under pressure, the government agreed to push the deadline to February 10, but many banks were still unable to distribute the new notes as of Tuesday.
“No ATM is giving money. I went to 10 banks, there are no new notes,” said Okwori, who wonders how he will manage to buy food for the day.
His anger has reached the point that he has no intention of voting on February 25.
“To get my PVC (voting card), I have to queue again. So that? They (the politicians) are all the same,” said the 21-year-old.
The two main candidates vying to replace Buhari are Bola Tinubu from the president’s ruling party and Atiku Abubakar from the main opposition group.
Both are political veterans, wealthy but also haunted by suspicions of corruption in the minds of many voters.
Outside another petrol station on Awolowo Road, a queue has completely blocked traffic, leaving Vanessa Ifejitah stuck in her car for three hours with her children on the way to school.
Wearing a fancy orange dress, the mother-of-two gets out of her car and begins yelling at nearby military officers.
“You are the cause of our problems!” she yells, pointing to her vehicle parked in the middle of the line, which makes matters even worse for those trying to pass, so Ifejitah begins directing traffic herself to fix the problem.
“The line is getting worse every day… I don’t know what’s happening in Nigeria,” she says, walking back to her car, on the verge of tears. “My children are two hours late for school.”
With less than a month to go until the day of the vote, frustration is growing across the country.
Protests broke out over fuel shortages in Benin City and Warri in the south on Monday and Thursday respectively, according to local media.
Angry crowds also protested a recent visit by Buhari to Kano, the largest city in the north, with many lighting bonfires and throwing rocks at police in a city that is traditionally one of the president’s strongholds.