Amid the shortage of diesel or fuel here, commercial drivers have begun to hike transport fares, particularly in Monrovia and its environs, leaving commuters stranded, as the fear of an imminent shutdown (not eminent as was published Wednesday) deepens.
The Liberia Petroleum Refining Company or LPRC announced on Monday that SIR, the national refinery in neighboring Ivory Coast, where the LPRC gets more than 90 per cent of its supply is currently down until further notice.
In the densely populated commercial district of Paynesville, commuters were seen stranded as transport buses, most of which consume diesel/fuel are charging 60 Liberian Dollars for a one-way trip, nearly 100% increase of the previous 35LD stipulated by the Ministry of Transport to come to central Monrovia.
One commercial bus driver blamed the hike on the rocketed price for fuel in the black market, which according to him as of Wednesday, was being sold at 700 Liberian dollars per gallon, that is, if you are lucky to find it.
A heated argument ensued between passengers and a bus driver at Redlight, who demanded 60 Liberian dollars or else, his car would not leave for Monrovia. With no choice, the commuters were constrained to comply, as not even the transport union could intervene.
Two students from the Fendell campus of the University of Liberia enroute to Monrovia, who paid the 60 Liberian dollars in compulsion, reported the bus driver to police in the Bassa Community-Jallah Town intersection and the driver was held for investigation.
Along the Somalia Drive, a suburb of Monrovia, commuters waited under the burning sun and in severe heat for transport vehicles, which were scarce, particularly buses. However, taxis, which consume gasoline, are plying the streets as the LPRC has assured the public of sufficient gasoline in the country.
Major distributors in Monrovia, including Total, are currently out of diesel fuel supply until probably this weekend. Most filling stations across Monrovia on Tuesday were without fuel despite the announcement of the LPRC's management that fuel would have been supplied at 80% to key institutions and filling stations.
The prevailing situation has a potential to cause a complete shutdown of the economy with the LPRC saying it was now sourcing petroleum from offshore Cameron and Europe.
"The expected shipment that should have arrived on the 10th of February is delayed until, the 15th of February; as such, the present stock is running low", the Company said in a release.
However, the Government has dismissed fears of an imminent crisis. Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson said the situation is far from crisis level, adding that steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of the shortage.