A crippling shortage of fuel now looms in the country, after petroleum distributors went on strike on Monday to protest introduction of the 16 percent increment tax on the product.
As many as 200 tanker owners and resellers affiliated to the Kenya Independent Petroleum Distributors' Association (KIPDA) and Petroleum product drivers aggregated on Nairobi's Nanyuki Road-the main source of the region's fuel.
Members said they would be on strike until the new tax, which has seen petrol products go up by between Sh11 and Sh13 from Sh114.90 for Super Petrol and Sh103.90 for diesel is shelved.
Members barred tanker drivers contracted to transport product from Mombasa to the Nairobi depots, from accessing the depot.
VALUE ADDED TAX
Slow operations were also reported at the Kenya Pipeline Eldoret depot after some fuel distributors refused to have their tankers filled, following the imposition of the 16 percent Value Added Tax.
"Today things were a bit unusual at the export section. We were unable to load tankers heading to Uganda, Rwanda and Congo as they were not happy with the new prices. They said it was very expensive compared to the market demands in their countries," said a loader at the export sector, who asked for anonymity due to fear of victimisation.
In Nairobi, Mr Abdul Kadir, a trucker waiting to offload product for Total said he had arrived from Mombasa on Sunday, only to be delayed by the go-slow at the gates of the depot yesterday morning.
"I don't know exactly what this is all about. But we have been warned against trying to go in. We are afraid of what might happen if we do. So we will just stay put and wait," he said.
A source that requested not to be identified said it was hard telling what could happen to those who tried to conduct business as usual. "Tankers have been stoned and products destroyed here before," the source said.
Makadara deputy OCPD, Pauline Muthoni later arrived and sent the striking distributors away in an attempt to contain the situation at the depot.
"Members will be on strike until this decision is reversed," said Mr Joseph Karanja, the KIPDA) chairperson.
"Kenyans know that what has brought about this increment is corruption. The government knows into whose pockets these monies went. So let them recover that money from the thieves, instead of squeezing the ordinary Kenyan," he said.
RUN OUT OF STOCK
It is feared that most petrol stations will run out of stock by Wednesday if the strike persists. This, even as Kenyans coming from the weekend made a mad rush to refuel after word went round about the distributors' strike, raising the threat of a major fuel crisis.
Mr Ibrahim Okinyi, one of the drivers who spoke to DN said they would demand for an increment in salary if the resellers agreed to the increment.
In Eldoret, some of the distributors contracted by companies in Uganda and Rwanda said they would not risk to buy the costly fuel as they risked incurring huge losses if their customers declined to take it.
Mr Hillary Kebut, one of the tanker drivers who spoke to the Nation expressed concern over the tax, saying the government should not subject them to what they termed as economic exploitation.
They said that they have decided not to buy the fuel until the government revises the current fuel rates.
"I do distributions to towns likes Baringo, Bungoma and Kericho but now I have parked my vehicle waiting for lower prices. The government has decided to exploit us but our go slow on fuel will continue," said Mr Kebut.
Eldoret depot manager Antony Sang confirmed that their operations had slowed but claimed that it was due to system upgrade.
"We had a delay in our operations in the entire morning due to the upgrading of our Systems Applications and Products (SAP) in Data Processing and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) which started on Friday and we had informed everyone," said Mr Sang.