Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2022:
Last Monday Sierra Leone government officials representing the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, and the Petroleum Regulatory Agency, held talks with the leadership of the Sierra Leone Petroleum Dealers and Transporters Union (SLPDTU) to resume sale of petrol and diesel in the country, after filling stations were shut and road transport companies took their vehicles off the road in response to rumours that the country had ran out of fuel.
Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Hinga Sandy, assured the dealers that there is enough fuel in the country and that they should open their gas stations. He reiterated government’s commitment to support oil marketing companies, dealers and transporters in whatever way to continue their trade unhindered.
“As a government we are ready to listen and do what is best for the consumers. We will now take control of the relationship between the dealers and OMCs to ensure everyone benefits equally and stop the pressure on consumers,” the Minister said.
President of the Sierra Leone Petroleum Dealers and Transporters Union, Alhaji B.S Makasuba, called on dealers to resume their normal business across the country. “We have met with the Government and negotiated on a good note. The outcome was successful, and we are calling on our dealers to sell their products as we don’t want to make it a political commodity. When you have it, you only have the right to your money as you are obliged to sell to the public. There has been no price change, and no one should be above the law,” he appealed.
The Deputy Minister of Finance 1, Sheku Fantamadi Bangura, noted the concerns of dealers and said that some adjustments have been made that show the concerns of the Government. He noted that the Government has heeded to some of their demands.
Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Regulatory Agency, Brima Baluwa Koroma said that fuel price remains Le15, 000 per litre throughout Sierra Leone and therefore called on dealers and Oil Marketing Companies to serve the people.
Following intense discussions, the following was agreed by all sides:
• That there is adequate stock of petroleum products in the country, that there is no imminent increase in the prices of petroleum products and no need for panic buying by the Public.
• That Government has noted the concerns raised by the TDU and is committed to addressing them as soon as possible; all Dealers were urged to resume the sale of petroleum products with immediate effect.
• That the public is assured of Government’s commitment to ensure the sustained availability of petroleum products in the domestic market, in spite of current global challenges affecting the Petroleum Industry.
A statement published by the Sierra Leone Petroleum Dealers & Transporters Union (SLPDTU) immediately after the meeting, stated that the government has committed in the interim to do the following:
• Increase dealers’ margin and transporter’s’ Tariff by Le25.00 each, applicable retrospective to the recent fuel pump price increase; that the rumoured price increase to Le 18,000 is untrue and that government has no plans to increase fuel price in the immediate future
• ensure a representative of the Union is present when discussing future fuel pump price revisions
• engage other key stakeholders considered relevant in resolving their concerns and to convince the OMCs to ensure operations at their depots are extended to weekends and late nights if the need arises.
The Union also stated that in light of the above actions and the commitments by Government to address the issues raised at the meeting, it is asking its membership to immediately resume their normal buying, transportation of petroleum products and the countrywide reselling of such at filling stations, whilst negotiations between the Union and Government continue.
Yesterday the ministry of information and communications published what it referred to as the government’s “stabilisation measures and preparedness for the fuel crisis” strategy. This is what it said:
“Over the past week, the nation has been going through an unprecedented scarcity in the fuel market, leading to a lot of speculation from the general public. Today, the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, gave an interview to a radio station, in a bid to dispelling the rumours and allaying fears. He dilated on several issues about strategic positioning to handle the crisis and categorised government’s preparedness under the following: 1. support Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to import the product for product availability. 2. support OMCs with forex so they can pay direct cash for product offshore. 3. support dealers and transporters to ease supply chain issues
“On product (fuel) availability, the government is giving forex support to OMCs (NP and Leone Oil) so they can import enough fuel. This would entail ensuring the relationship OMCs have with our main oil suppliers in Switzerland and who have been asking for direct cash for oil since the Ukrainian crisis began, is maintained. Before this time, they used to supply our OMCs on credit, which they sell and pay later but that has stopped because of the crisis. As things stand now, OMCs have to pay cash but not all of them have the money, so government has come in to help.
“This also related to the availability on the domestic front, where Government has raised distribution profit margins for local dealers from Le. 220 per litre to Le. 250 per litre, although the domestic dealers were asking for Le. 1, 500, per litre. The government considered the Le. 1, 500 margin as unrealistic and therefore settled for Le. 250, as a temporary arrangement to placate them. This encouraged the local dealers to go buy the product and open their stations to the public.
“Also, as a result, the two OMCs were able to bring in 10, 000 metric tonnes to cushion the previous scarcity. This past weekend, they brought in 6, 500 metric tonnes of diesel. In the next 5 days, NP will bring in another 5, 500 metric tonnes of product, all of which will eventually give us a total of 12,000 metric tonnes of product.
“Other players in the sector such as CONNEX (formerly TOTAL) already had about 8,000 metric tonnes of product and they are expecting an additional 7, 500 metric tonnes in the next five days. In total, all these available stocks will give us enough product that will result in the disappearance of the long queues at fuel stations.
“On storage and distribution, government is now looking at the country’s resilience in the face of such shocks in the future and how much fuel we can hold in storage at any one point in time. This is where the newest player in the market, All Petroleum Products (APP) has come in with a commitment to enhancing our storage and distribution capacity. APP has already completed the refurbishment of a 60,000 metric tonne storage capacity, which they have tested and is now available for use by all players in the sector.
“The stabilization measures will be maintained throughout this unpredictable period, including continuing to subsidise the product so that the prices will be kept low and constant. This also underlines the fact that Government has spent a total of 99 to 110 billion Leones just to keep the prices low.
“In effect, this is revenue that government has sacrificed for the benefit of consumers, and it is prepared to do more to keep the prices where they are and ensure no further hardship is brought onto the people during this crisis.”
With that promise by the government yesterday, hopes have been raised. But critics are accusing the government of incompetence in managing a crisis that many believe the government was ill-prepared to manage.
Last week, major roads across the city of Freetown were blocked by fuel protesters and angry youths, preventing commuters and shoppers from going about their business. But this was later brought under control by the police.