Josephus Koroma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 June 2019:
It is a sad story that today, National Petroleum (NP) which is, or should be a national petroleum company, is collaborating with other international petroleum companies based in Sierra Leone, to blackmail Government into increasing the pump price of fuel.
Despite the fact that all Sierra Leoneans know NP is managed by die hard APC loyalists, national interest should be paramount rather than party interests.
So as a strategy to distract government’s attention from implementing its flagship program of free quality education, the APC party has now turned to their surrogates to blackmail Government and hold the people of Sierra Leone to ransom.
How can one be so petty to wish evil on the country of your birth just because your party is not in power?
But this is exactly what the APC and their cohorts have been manifesting since President Bio won the elections of March, 2018.
It is now evidently clear that NP is so deceitful in its approach that they are currently using the dubious fuel deal that was in operation between NP General Manager and former Energy Minister – Henry Macauley (Photo), during the days of APC to blackmail Government.
When Alhaji Kanja Sesay took over as Minister of Energy, he inherited fuel debt between NP and the Electricity Distribution & Supply Agency and Electricity Generation & Transmission Company of over Le40.0 billion, plus debt owed to the famous Aggreko, Salcost Salini.
All Sierra Leoneans knew the debt of NP was dubious in more ways than one. When requested to show documentations of their accumulated debt, not a single document was provided by the management of NP. All they could provide was a mere invoice paraded by the General Manager.
In fact, out of good customer relationship the current Minister was able to reduce the debt and make some savings for Government.
Another dishonest business behaviour of NP is the secret relationship between NP, Leonco, ADDAX and a company called Oxgy. With all their claims of being a giant in the industry, NP does not import oil into Sierra Leone despite the huge foreign exchange availed to them occasionally by the Government of Sierra Leone.
Instead, NP and Leonoil buy fuel from another family company Leonco. It is also reported that Leonco actually imports fuel oil from another company called Oxgy. In all the deals, Government and the people of Sierra Leone are the losers.
The present fuel crisis is championed by NP General Manager, Kobi Walker, a proud financier of APC to blackmail Government. From published stories, NP is complaining about ASYCUDA, debt and foreign exchange problems.
Citizens can recall that NRA, in its automation drive to make tax collection fraud free, installed a web based ASYCUDA-World in January 2019. Before then, oil marketing companies import of fuel products were dubiously stated, and as a result, wrong taxes were paid.
According to sources from customs department, NRA rolled out the ASYCUDA World to all oil marketing companies in May. Because the software eliminated the dubious measurement of fuel imports and paying correct taxes and duties, NP is leading their subsidiary, Leoneoil managed by the son of the owner of NP Tunde Cole to blackmail Government.
It is also claimed that the formula used by Petroleum Regulatory Agency (PRA) is not correct. This is false. The current PRA Chief Executive is an expert in the oil industry. Since his appointment late last year, he has discovered a lot of hidden charges that disadvantaged government.
The pump price of fuel is determined by many factors including exchange rate, international fuel prices and freights. The exchange rate since January has depreciated by 4.5%.
But NP is using black market exchange rate of 9,000 Leones per $ dollar to compute its price and call for price increase.
We challenge NP to produce a bank rate of Le9,000. Even black market is not Le9,000.
Besides, Government through the Bank of Sierra Leone has provided over $15.0 million to oil marketing companies, so NP is not saying the truth.
Another discovery the head of PRA has discovered is the freight price. It is discovered that the freight price used by NP and others is $85 per metric ton – a charge that was set in 2015.
Despite all efforts, oil marketing companies have vehemently insisted that freight prices never change despite the fact that Sierra Leone has been removed from the list of fragile states, and all international insurance premiums are expectedly reviewed downwards.
Asked to give evidence of the freight from their suppliers, the companies, according to our sources say their suppliers don’t provide them freight prices.
A leaked document from one of the companies shows that the freight for petrol is less than $60 instead of the exorbitant $85 per metric ton they actually use to defraud Government of meaningful resources.
In fact, the disclosure of the dubious deal is not unrelated to the immediate withdrawal of the Country Manager of Total from Sierra Leone.
Now the General Manager of NP, a Sierra Leonean who is drunk with the politics of SLPP vs APC is doing someone’s bidding by attempting to blackmail government.