Amin Kef: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 November 2019:
It is really unfortunate that there are certain individuals, who out of ignorance have been unfairly and unduly blaming National Petroleum Sierra Leone (NP-SL), for the current fuel shortage in the country.
As a matter of fact, NP-SL, like other oil marketing companies in the country, is going through various challenges which are militating against its smooth operations.
One of the greatest challenges is that which has to do with accessing foreign currency, specifically the Dollar which it uses to purchase petroleum products.
The fuel companies convert the Leones they derive from sales to dollar, in order to be in a position to import petroleum products. But of late with the depreciation of the Leone to the dollar, it is no mean feat to do so.
It was against such a backdrop that in the recent past when summoned by a Parliamentary Committee, the Management of NP laid bare the huge debt, running into millions of Leones which the Government of Sierra Leone owes the company, and pleaded for the intervention of Parliamentarians to help remedy the impasse.
When this medium did a research to find out whether indeed fuel is available but is being hoarded as alleged, it discovered that the oil marketing companies are really finding it extremely difficult to keep on surviving amidst the high exchange rate of the dollar to the Leone; and what we are now seeing is a culmination of factors that have loomed for too long, and if not addressed, will further create future problems.
For many days now it has only been NP Sierra Leone that has been selling fuel to the public. However, it was learnt that other companies, including Total are not hoarding fuel but the fact of the matter is that fuel is not available and they are finding it very difficult to import at the moment.
It will only be prudent if Government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry act very smartly by addressing some of the constraints these companies are going through, particularly with that which has to do with accessing foreign currency with ease and at affordable price.
There has always been the misconception held by certain people that the National Petroleum Sierra Leone is owned by the Government of Sierra Leone. However, it will interest many to know that the company is privately owned by Sierra Leoneans who years back, established the company out of their end of service benefits and worked assiduously for it to become a towering business entity that is renowned for marketing quality petroleum products.
The company, although it keeps reminding the Government of its outstanding debt, is in no way disillusioned to discontinue serving members of the public diligently as it is a 100% indigenous company.
It must be reiterated that for the past few days vehicle owners as well as users of fuel generators were greeted by queues for fuel at the various fuel stations; and this has caused various degrees of inconvenience among residents in the country.
To make matters worse there was a statement issued by the regulatory body of petroleum products, the Petroleum Regulatory Agency (PRA) that there is no shortage of fuel.
Currently, NP-SL has its pumps open and is selling to members of the public. As an indigenous company, NP-SL is desirous of serving the nation.
Some economic analysts say that the statement issued by Total in respect of losses and request for the provision of foreign exchange to enable them import petroleum product, is in place, although the country’s indigenous petroleum supplier, the National Petroleum Sierra Leone Limited, has huge debt owed them by Government than that complained of by TOTAL, whose parent body is not in the country.
The oil marketing companies, from our findings, are not bent on undermining the Government; they are not anti- government; they have always maintained an apolitical stance, only focusing on their business ventures.
It will therefore be a great disservice to the fuel companies, if some people are blaming them whenever shortages do occur.