Monrovia — Liberia is in its third week of acute gasoline shortage and the situation is getting worse by the day, but the government has announced that it has made an emergency purchase of the product which is due in the country in one week to alleviate the situation.
The streets of Monrovia have been unusually empty over the past two weeks, economic activities have slowed down and vehicles queue from night till morning and from morning till night for gasoline which is now being rationed by the filling stations.
There has been no definite reason given for the sudden shortage of gasoline.
It is being speculated that the short supply is a result of the failure of the National Port Authority (NPA) to timely dredge the port to allow large vessels to berth - a claim that the port authority has vehemently denied.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry also mentioned that there was a significant variance between the records on the inventory and the actual quantity of the product in storage at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC).
In a press statement issued on Monday, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism stated that the government "empathizes with the public for the difficulty they have had to go through over the last couple of weeks in obtaining petroleum products from stations across the country. Due to the shortage of gasoline, in many instances, people are made to stand in long queues for several hours before getting served".
The ministry added: "This situation is disturbing and cannot be allowed to continue. As a result, the government has purchased emergency supplies which are due in the country within one week to alleviate the situation. The government treats the constant availability and supply of petroleum and other essential commodities on the market with utmost importance."
The government, therefore, constituted a special taskforce, headed by Trokon Kpui, Minister of State Without Portfolio, to investigate and establish what caused an estimated 60 percent discrepancy between importers' inventory reports of products at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and actual stock of products at its petroleum storage facilities.
The task force mandate will cover the period between January 2017 and January 2020 and also include the following members: George D. Wolo, Ministry of Commerce; Peter D. Somah, Ministry of Commerce; Rufus G. Mahn, Liberia Revenue Authority; Augustine G. Chenoway, LRA; Dominic K.L. Hina, Ministry of Finance Development Planning.
The committee is expected to give a detailed understanding of the LPRC petroleum storage process and determine importation dates, product quantity and lifting schedules with the view of ensuring corrective measures to prevent a recurrence of the present situation.
The Ministry of Commerce and the LPRC have been mandated to work with importers to ensure that the limited stocks available are distributed properly. While this is ongoing, the government appeals to the general public for patience as it works to remedy the situation.
Meanwhile, the LPRC in a statement has disclosed that APM Terminals has been rescheduling vessels at the port which has caused extreme delay and inconveniences in getting petroleum products.
"As a result of the rescheduling of the vessels, we anticipate this unforeseen shortage of gasoline within ten to fourteen days. Within this period, we will experience shortage of gasoline (PMS) on the Liberian market," he LPRC stated.