Commerce and Industry Minister (MOCI) Wilson K. Tarpeh over the weeked disclosed that additional petroleum product arrived in the country, and it is expected to last up to February 19.
Making the disclosure on Friday, January 31, Minister Tarpeh called on Liberians to remain patient as efforts are being initiated to address the gasoline saga across the country. He indicated that additional gasoline will be arriving in mid February.
Over the last two weeks gasoline shortage has impeded businesses and movements across the country with vehicles, motorcycles and tricycles lined up at a few supplying stations to purchase a few gallons. Although the price was normal or in some instances reduced to L$605 per gallon, street vendors (otherwise known as Can Boys) who sell along roadsides inflated the price to L$1,200.
In response, commercial drivers and motorcyclists increased their fares based on the price offered by Can-boys and their own experiences with petrol stations where they spent hours or sometimes the entire night, in queues, waiting to be served just a few gallons of gasoline. “We ourselves too can sleep at the station just to get gas, and so we have to charge in the way that what we lost yesterday will be regained today,” said a taxi driver while driving to town.
In reference to Liberia’s consumption rate of gasoline, Minister Tarpeh reiterated that Liberia consumes an average of 4.5 million gallons of gasoline monthly, thereby forming part of the essential basket of commodities for the ministry. Mr. Tarpeh said the ministry will continue to go after people who are involved in artificially inflating the price of gasoline.
“We confiscated 1,500 gallons and the owners of those stations are now undergoing investigation and a subsequent administrative hearing. The due process is established by the Ministry of Commerce. Again, the support of the public has been very helpful,” Minister Tarpeh said.
Minister Tarpeh said five gas stations that were involved in artificially inflating the price of the petroleum product will be banned, but the ministry intends to give them due process, which is an administrative hearing, before any action is taken.
“We have received 1.2 million of of the three million gallons of gasoline announced to you earlier, and due to Liberia’s shipping schedule, it has been put to the weekend to arrive,” Minister Tarpeh said, referring to the weekend of February 1, 2020.
According to him, an additional 6,000 gallons of gasoline will be coming February 3 and will help greatly to improve the ongoing supply issue. He said his ministry will communicate with the transport ministry to address the increment in transport fares.
Mr. Tarpeh said MOCI, Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), National Port Authority (NPA) and all of the importers continue to work together as a team to address the shortage of gasoline on the Liberian market. According to him, all is being done to end the reoccurrence of the shortage of petroleum products, something he said remains a serious concern of the administration of President George M. Weah.
In regard to this concern, Minister Tarpeh on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, stated that three million gallons of gasoline would be available for distribution beginning Thursday, January 30, 2020. Since that promised Thursday, the long queues for gasoline have gradually reduced, though the price remains high in the rural areas, many of which rely on ‘Can-boys’ to get the product.
Mr. Tarpeh said the ministry has made significant progress in addressing the long queues at various filling stations across the country and will continue until lines or queues at filling stations are a thing of the past.
“The government is committed to providing services to the people of Liberia through the business sector by creating the environment for the private sector. We remain grateful to the importers, particularly Total and Petro Trade, for their cooperation,” Minister Tarpeh said.
According to him, additional consignments of petroleum product are due to arrive in Liberia in a couple of days, making it a total of six thousand metric tons, which is approximately 2.1 million gallons.
As a way of mitigating the intensity of the supply shortage, Minister Tarpeh said “We announced and directed keh-keh riders and motorcyclists to particular stations, and it is helping to address the long queues experienced in the last few days.”
“We still have enough of our essential commodities that include rice, salt, sugar, flour, water, kerosene, drugs, and onion among others,” Minister Tarpeh said.