An investigation has been launched by the Petroleum Distributors Union of Liberia about a petroleum scandal that involved dozens of importers and distributors throughout the country.
Making the disclosure on Thursday, February 27, the President of the Union, Musa Sheriff said, during the period of December 2019, several petroleum retailers paid an amount of over US$490,000 for 137,500 gallons of mixed products of fuel to giant petroleum importers and distributors in the county and from whom, up to present, the retailers yet to receive their consignment.
“We are conducting the investigation to establish the number of distributors and importers of the petroleum involving the clandestine activities that, if not taken care of, could cause serious problems to the sectors,” Sheriff disclosed.
Sheriff also used the occasion to call on one of the retailers that were victimized through the transaction to remain calm because, according to him, they are not taking the issue lightly.
“Those distributors and importers that are involved with this scandal will be dealt with drastically by the law,” Sheriff assured the retailers, most of whom have resolved to stage a peaceful protest at the compound of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC).
Sheriff also said any distributors or importers involved with this unwholesome business practice of receiving money under the pretense of supplying petroleum products in exchange, those individuals or entities would be made to account for any amount received from the retailers.
“You have the retailers out of business and they cannot cater to their families because they cannot get the product or their money since December 2019, which is very much bad for the country, if they were to stage their demonstration,” Sheriff angrily said. Though he failed to state when his institution would release the investigative report, he stressed that anyone caught in such practices would be dealt with drastically.
According to Sheriff, nobody should blame the LPRC for not having received their pay for petroleum, because the entity is not involved with the sale and distribution of the product as it is the importers that are responsible for the sale of the petroleum products.
“LPRC is only a custodian of the petroleum product for the importers and not responsible to sell the product, so you cannot directly hold them for the situation you find yourself with,” Sheriff added.
It can be recalled that in the wake of the recent gasoline shortage crisis, President George M. Weah commissioned a special taskforce, headed by Trokon Kpui, Minister of state Without Portfolio, to investigate and establish what caused an estimated 60 percent discrepancy between importers’ inventory reports of products at the LPRC’s actual stock of products at its petroleum facilities.
Prior to the establishment of the presidential taskforce, the Minister of Commerce, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh and the LPRC Managing Director, Marie Urey Coleman, appeared before the plenary of the House of Representatives and denied reports of the shortage of gasoline on the market.
House Speaker Chambers, acting upon a decision by plenary, constituted a 21-member specialized committee to verify whether their assertions were true and, if contrary, the committee should establish the factors behind the shortage of gasoline in Liberia.
The Committee, headed by Rep. Zoe Emmanuel Pennue (District #1, Grand Gedeh County), in its preliminary report, debunked the two officials’ claims and hinted the acute shortage of gasoline to several underlying factors, requesting for more time to fully complete its investigation.
This prompted majority members of the House to back a popular motion giving the committee the added time requested, as well as to hold Minister Tarpeh and Director Coleman in contempt for lying under oath and misleading plenary.