— MICAT boss says, as LPRC boss says crisis may continue thru Feb. 24
Joaquin M. Sendolo and Alvin Worzi
As the petroleum crisis enters the third week and reaches the point where vehicles and humans are waiting in days-long queues to receive just a few gallons of gasoline at only a select few service stations, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe has said that the problem is exacerbated by lack of adequate and truthful information about the crisis.
In a statement during the dedication of the new production studio at the headquarters of the Liberia Revenue Authority on February 10, 2020, Minister Nagbe, said: “Communication is very, very important. Today we have a crisis; crisis about the shortage of petroleum products. It’s a crisis, it’s a problem, but this problem is exacerbated by the lack of adequate and factual information about the crisis in the country.”
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company are two institutions of government that are responsible to provide regulatory and policy information about petroleum supply in the country.
During the first week of the gasoline shortage, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Wilson Tarpeh had, held a press conference in Monrovia, assuring that more gasoline consignment was en route to Liberia, which would alleviate the problem. Minister Tarpeh also said, besides the consignment of petroleum product that was expected at the end of the second week of the crisis, the month of February has its own quantity to arrive.
With that statement, the end of that week saw the elimination of long queues at petroleum stations and middlemen who sell gasoline in the streets were seen selling, but in the following week on Monday, the same problem ensued and commercial drivers slept in their queues for gasoline.
At the time, LPRC Managing Director, Marie Urey Coleman, blamed the shortage of gasoline on the fact that the Free Port of Monrovia was overdue for dredging, a problem which, she said, was hindering large vessels from docking at the port to deliver the product. According to her, the only other way around the dredging problem in the short-term would be for smaller vessels to go on high seas to collect the product from larger ships and to bring to the port; thereby causing the product not to be enough on the market.
“Do we have gasoline in the country for one month, do we have gas for two weeks or do we have gas for one day?” Minister Nagbe wondered.
He said the lack of truthful information to the public was worsening the crisis because people are not getting the true sense of information about having surplus gasoline in contrast with the reality on the ground.
According to the Minister, communication is an ‘indispensable’ tool to the government because the public needs to know what the government does and what is affecting its operation, as it is with the gasoline crisis.
Therefore, he said, without factual and adequate information on a crisis like what is unfolding concerning the petroleum supply, citizens will panic and develop mistrust in their government.
Relating the issue to the LRA, Minister Nagbe said not everyone in Liberia knows their obligations when it comes to taxes and, as such, it is good that the LRA is working to communicate effectively to the public to inform them of their obligations and benefits of paying taxes.
Another 14 days
Meanwhile, The Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Mrs. Marie Urey Coleman said the management anticipates to resolve the shortage of gasoline within 10 to 14 days.
Mrs. Coleman made the disclosure on Monday, February 10, 2020, at a news conference, while indicating that during this period, the country will experience a continual shortage of gasoline on the Liberian market.
“The management of the LPRC wishes to inform the Liberian people and the general public that the APM Terminals’ rescheduling of vessels at the National Port Authority (NPA) has caused extreme delay and inconvenience in getting petroleum products mainly gasoline on the Liberian market,” Mrs. Coleman said.
Mrs. Coleman indicated that the LPRC management wishes to express regret over the current scramble for petroleum products, amid these long queues at various filling stations and widespread shortages prompted by the rescheduling of vessels at the NPA.
“The Liberian Government through the LPRC is informing the Liberian people, our valued customers and the general public, that we are doing everything possible to resolve this unfortunate crisis that our beloved country and people are currently experiencing,” Mrs. Coleman said.
She emphasized that the supply of petroleum products, mainly gasoline, will be stabilized shortly. She also extended an apology to the citizens, customers, and the public to continue to exercise the patience they have exhibited during these challenging times.
Mrs. Coleman said while they are confident that these serious efforts will materialize soon, the current inventory of gasoline suggests that these challenges may continue through February 24, 2020.
“Our customers can be assured that we are doing everything possible to have sufficient gasoline on the Liberian market to effectively meet our domestic needs,” she maintained.