The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) has taken a new decision to serve smaller filling stations across the country to avoid the long queues that disturb the flow of traffic.
The decision comes as drivers and petroleum dealers have experienced severe hardship in getting gasoline which adversely affected transportation fares across the country. For the past one week drivers and petty traders of gasoline (can-boys) line up in long queues at major petroleum stations to purchase gasoline for use in the vehicles or resale at their local stations.
For the past week, the can-boys have not been supplied by the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and, because of that, they form a party of the queues to purchase at TOTAL, NP, etc. Though they purchased the product for between L$605 an L$610 from TOTAL and others, the small dealers have been selling it for L$1,200 or more and, according to commercial drivers, this is done to gain what the dealers lost during the time they were at the petrol service station.
At a news conference on January 29, 2020, in Monrovia, the Minister of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Wilson K. Tarpeh, said the new decision to serve everybody is expected to handle or end the long queues for petroleum that Liberians have witnessed in recent days, expressing the hope that by next week this gasoline nightmare will end.
"We have three million gallons of gasoline available for distribution beginning tomorrow and we expect that it will ease the current situation in the country," Minister Tarpeh said.
According to him, Liberia consumes on average of 4.5 million gallons of gasoline monthly, thereby forming part of the essential basket of commodities for the ministry.
"This essential basket is monitored daily. It includes rice, salt, sugar, flour, water, drugs, and onion among others. This is intended to help us address situations whenever there is a need for it," Minister Tarpeh said.
He emphasized that the current situation was developed about a week ago, in which the government made a position of having enough gasoline based on the information provided to the government by the importers.
He said the decision to have a press conference is intended to inform the public about the latest update from the government regarding the petroleum saga, lauding the public for the patient amid difficulties.
According to him, the government has set up a crisis committee, including MOCI, Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), National Port Authority (NPA) and all of the importers and have been meeting to discuss the way forward.
"As of yesterday, close to 200,000 gallons were pumped into the market. We continued discussion on what led to this crisis so that we arrive at a solution that will prevent a recurrence. We also decided that Mayouba who provides product to smaller gas stations be served so that our Kehkeh riders and motorcyclists can be served," Minister Tarpeh said.
Minister Tarpeh said the decision is intended to de-congest petroleum stations of Total, Aminata, and Super Petroleum (SP), with the expectation that the lines or queues will end.
Mr. Tarpeh said various organizations continue to work to address the situation. "Today, we will have at least three million gallons of gas. We have confirmed reports of other gasoline coming into the country already. I personally saw the product while visiting the NPA Wednesday, January 29, 2020," Minister Tarpeh said.
In order to accommodate larger ships, Minister Tarpeh said the National Port Authority has taken a decision to prioritize tankers that are coming although the tankers cannot rest at the port due to their sizes.
"The port authority, APM Terminals, and LPRC have combined to create the possibility that a bigger boat can be unloaded into the smaller boats. LPRC has also refitted the jetty that was rebuilt with support from the World Bank. It was only meant to accommodate larger vessels. It's cheaper when four importers bring their products on one boat instead of each of them coming on a different boat," he said.
He continued: "we stopped gas stations from selling to can-boys because they (can-boys) were involved in selling the gas three to four times the price purchased from gas stations. We will not allow anyone to exploit our people. Again, we have stopped the export of gas to neighboring countries until the government can have more gas for the people of Liberia."
According to him, the government believes that information to the public is cardinal and will always engage in such a process.