-Despite Gov’t reports that there is “enough Gasoline” in-country
Barely four days after the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) announced the availability of enough gasoline and the arrival of additional products, several filling stations — both smaller and larger ones, are noted to have run short of petroleum, mainly gasoline.
The situation is causing motorists and petroleum dealers to continue to experience severe hardship in getting gasoline which is adversely affecting transportation fares across the country.
Late in the evening yesterday, vehicles and motorcycles formed long queues for gasoline at the SKD Boulevard Junction and remained there until late during the night — some remained there until the next morning.
MOCI had assured earlier that some huge consignment of petroleum was coming into the country by January 31, a statement that gave hope to all who have been affected by the nightmare over the last two weeks.
Unfortunately, such hopes have yet to materialize.
“The government is lying to us that enough petroleum product is now available in the country and various filling stations would begin distribution today, Monday, February 3, 2020,” a Keh-Keh (tricycle) rider said.
“TOTAL gas station is bluffing to serve us now. I took three hours today just to get two gallons of gas and I paid L$605. I even prefer to buy gas from Can-boys (middle dealers) for L$800.00 or L$900 than to spend the entire day in a queue to get two gallons,” he continued.
According to Daily Observer correspondents, the gasoline shortage is affecting leeward counties as well as continues to contribute to increment in transport fares.
For the past one week and a half, drivers and petty traders of gasoline (can-boys) lined up in long queues at major petroleum stations to purchase gasoline for use in the vehicles or resale at their local stations.
For the past week, the Can-boys have not been supplied by the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and, because of that, they form a party of the queues to purchase at TOTAL, NP and other service stations.
Despite the shortage of gasoline across the country, the big petroleum dealers continue to sell the gas at L$605 and L$610, while some of the small dealers have been selling it for L$1,200 or more.
But at a news conference on January 29, and 31, 2020, in Monrovia, the Minister of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Wilson K. Tarpeh, said the new decision to serve everybody is expected to handle or end the long queues for petroleum that Liberians have witnessed in recent days, expressing the hope that by the current week, the gasoline nightmare would end.
“We have three million gallons of gasoline available for distribution beginning tomorrow and we expect that it will ease the current situation in the country,” Minister Tarpeh said.
According to him, Liberia consumes on average of 4.5 million gallons of gasoline monthly, thereby forming part of the essential basket of commodities for the ministry.
“This essential basket is monitored daily. It includes rice, salt, sugar, flour, water, drugs, and onions, among others. This is intended to help us address situations whenever there is a need for it,” Minister Tarpeh said.
He emphasized that the current situation was developed about a week ago, in which the government made a position of having enough gasoline based on the information provided to the government by the importers.
According to him, the government has set up a crisis committee, including MOCI, Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), National Port Authority (NPA) and all of the importers and have been meeting to discuss the way forward.
“As of yesterday, close to 200,000 gallons were pumped into the market. We continued discussion on what led to this crisis so that we arrive at a solution that will prevent a recurrence. We also decided that Mayouba, who provides product to smaller gas stations be served so that our Kehkeh riders and motorcyclists can be served,” Minister Tarpeh said.
He added that various business organizations continue to work to address the situation. “Today, we will have at least three million gallons of gas. We have confirmed reports of other gasoline coming into the country already. I personally saw the product while visiting the NPA Wednesday, January 29, 2020,” Minister Tarpeh said.
In order to accommodate larger ships, Minister Tarpeh said, the National Port Authority has taken a decision to prioritize tankers that are coming, although the tankers cannot rest at the port due to their sizes.
“The port authority, APM Terminals, and LPRC have combined to create the possibility that a bigger boat can be unloaded into the smaller boats. LPRC has also refitted the jetty that was rebuilt with support from the World Bank. It was only meant to accommodate larger vessels. It is cheaper when four importers bring their products on one boat instead of each of them coming on a different boat,” he said.
He continued: “we stopped gas stations from selling to can-boys because they (can-boys) were involved in selling the gas three to four times the price purchased from gas stations. We will not allow anyone to exploit our people. Again, we have stopped the export of gas to neighboring countries until the government can have more gas for the people of Liberia.”
With the flamboyant promise, the situation remains the same or likely becoming worse than the last two weeks as witnessed last night where vehicles flooded one filling station with others emptied without any sign that it is being a filling station.