Fuel shortage persists across the country despite State assurances

Fuel shortage is now in its second week in Nairobi but has lasted longer in towns in North Rift and Western Kenya. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Long queues leading to petrol stations persisted this week as motorists searched for fuel. This is despite the assurances by the Petroleum Ministry last week that there is adequate fuel in the country.

The State had said the situation would have normalised by now.

Fuel supply in the country appeared to normalise towards the end of last week, with most of the retail stations reporting adequate stocks but a different scenario was unfolding yesterday. Stations reported dry pumps all over again.

The outlets that had fuel were characterised by long queues and limited how much fuel a motorist could buy at a go, many of them at Sh1,000 worth of fuel.

The fuel shortage this week is despite an assurance by Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau last week that the shortages then were temporary due to people reacting to news of shortages.

In several interviews, the PS said the supply situation would have normalised by mid-last week. “This is a run on the stations. Supply is not the issue… it will go back to normal by Wednesday (last week),” said Mr Kamau last week but was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The shortage is now in its second week in Nairobi but has lasted longer in towns in North Rift and Western Kenya. The scarcity is now spawning a black market as consumers get desperate, going to any lengths to get fuel.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority last week threatened to punish rogue oil marketers who have been withholding products from the market.

It also cautioned marketers from selling fuel above the maximum prices it sets on the 14th of every, which has been rampant, especially among petrol stations owned by small oil marketing companies.

Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) said the lack of petroleum products at the retail outlets was a show of failure among government institutions, especially Epra.

“This has exposed the soft underbelly of the regulator. If the OMCs (oil marketing companies) are picking products from the depots, the regulator should be able to tell where they are offloading and why there are no products at the petrol stations,” said Cofek Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro, adding that the shortages are now creating a black market.

“It appears the OMCs that are able to get fuel at the depots are offloading it to the black market. You will find fuel at a few small retail outlets at a higher rate but then at the petrol stations franchised by the major OMCs that have to stick to the Epra prices, you will find long queues and within no time, you are told that it is overcome.”

In its statement last week, Epra acknowledged that oil marketers have been withholding products from the market as they pushed for payment of their dues by the government for keeping fuel prices in the country stable.

Mr Mutoro said the regulator should have acted since the law is clear on issues such as hoarding, selling fuel above the maximum prices and even acting in a manner that might lead to economic sabotage.

The shortage was initially due to a protest by major oil marketing companies, complaining that the government has been delaying refunding the margins that the firms have to undergo at the retail in a bid to keep prices stable.

PS Kamau said the government owed the marketers between Sh13 billion and Sh15 billion as of Monday last week.

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