Striking petroleum distributors yesterday booed the Energy principal secretary as the country braced itself for a biting fuel shortage.
PS Andrew Kamau had gone to speak to the striking distributors at a petroleum depot along Nanyuki Road. However, he failed to convince them to resume work as fuel pumps across the country started drying up.
Trouble began when Mr Kamau accused the distributors of politicising the recent price increase.
“I am not a politician, and you know this issue is being politicised,” said Kamau.
The truckers started booing and chanting: “Punda amechoka (The donkey is tired).”
The incident best captured the growing frustration triggered by the 16 per cent VAT on fuel.
Motorists across the country have started feeling the pinch of the tax. A spot check around the city established that most of the fuel pumps had run dry.
Along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, operations at one of the major oil firm storage facilities in Malili, Makueni County, were paralysed, with journalists barred from getting into the terminus.
“Since Monday no loading of petroleum products has been done here. Tankers have been coming and leaving without carrying the product”, said one a worker who did not want to be named.
At Malili market, the drivers of some of the grounded vehicles claimed they had been warned against transporting oil.
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“I arrived here yesterday and we were blocked from getting into the terminus by brokers, who threatened to burn our vehicles if we do not heed the strike call against the new tax,” said David Kagurima.
The truckers complained that the stand-off was threatening their jobs.
“This is the third day since we stopped working and parked our vehicles here. We are really straining to survive in this state,” said Dominic Ndunda.
In Eldoret, a number of fuel stations reported that they could run out of fuel stocks in the next 48 hours if the standoff escalated.
The Standard learnt that millions of litres of petrol were lying at the Eldoret Kenya Pipeline Company depots because distributors were keeping away, citing price uncertainties.
The Western Kenya Independent Petroleum Dealers Association said its members had picked up only about 50,000 litres of petroleum products on Monday and none yesterday.
Retailers expressed fears that stocks could run out if they do not get supplies soon.
“The stocks we have now are enough for a day or two. The current stock was received before the tax measures came into effect,” said Paul Biego.
In western Kenya, traders said increased transport cost had made it difficult for them to bring food supplies from other regions.
“If these continues, there will be little food available in the market,” said Phoebe Makokha, a trader in Kakamega town.
In Kisumu, a number of outlets reported running out of fuel after their suppliers declined to deliver. Others declined to restock in speculation of a possible fall in prices.
“What if we restock and the tax is dropped tomorrow? No one wants to make a 16 per cent loss on every litre,” said a local retailer on the Kisumu-Busia highway.
In Nyeri, at least four fuel stations ran out of diesel yesterday and were on the last of their petrol and paraffin stocks.
Most of the vehicles seeking to fuel were matatus and buses.
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It was the same story in Murang’a County, where one fuel station was closed after it ran out of petrol and diesel.
The Kenol-Kobil petrol station closed at midday after it failed to get fresh supplies. The management said it had ordered supplies from the depots before the transporters started their protest.
At the Total station in Meru town, there were limited stocks of petrol at 2pm yesterday. Diesel had run out in the morning.
[Reports by Steve Nzioka, Titus Too, Farrel Ogolla, David Mwaura, Peris Barongo, Nelson Mandela, Lydia Nyawira, Wainaina Ndung’u, Boniface Gikandi, Jacinta Mutura and Kennedy Gachuhi]