“A tanker loaded with fuel fell yesterday [Monday] and people were scooping its products when it caught fire, killing over 50 persons,” the governor in central Benue state said.
Others were badly injured and taken to hospital, he added.
The tanker flipped after the driver tried to dodge a pothole, eyewitnesses told the BBC.
An 18-seater bus then collided with the burning vehicle and also caught fire.
Such accidents are relatively common in Nigeria, though the death toll has rarely been so high. Although fuel in the west African country is cheap, many live in extreme poverty.
In October last year, 60 people were killed when a spill at an oil pipeline in the southeast caught fire.