Obey court order and reduce fuel prices

A fuel pump operator fueling motobike at the Shell Petrol station along Kenyatta avenue, Nairobi on July 1, 2023. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The Finance Act 2023 was set to come into effect at the stroke of midnight on June 30 after President William Ruto assented to it on June 26. However, High Court judge Mugure Thande pulled the brakes on the operalisation of the Act until applications filed by Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah and other petitioners are heard and determined.

Mr Omtatah argues that the passage of Finance Bill 2023 ignored Senate’s input, notwithstanding that it touched on county governments. Other petitioners argue that MPs did not follow the law, violated some parts of the Constitution and the process overlooked public participation.

The High Court’s injunction therefore put an indefinite moratorium on all provisions of the Finance Act 2023 pending a court process and determination. Yet, despite the injunction, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) went ahead and issued new petroleum prices aligned to the newly introduced 16 per cent Value Added Tax on petroleum products contained in the Finance Act 2023 at midnight on June 30.

Kenya is a country that is governed by the rule of law, and therefore court orders are sacrosanct. Epra’s decision to raise the prices of fuel to align with the provisions of the Finance Act 2023 despite a court order halting the process is an act of impunity and contempt of court that cannot go unremarked.

On July 1, motorists were shocked to find new pump prices reflecting an increase of Sh13.49, Sh12.39 and Sh11.96 per litre on Super petrol, diesel and kerosene respectively.

By yesterday, two days after the court issued its orders, Kenyans were still paying the exorbitant fuel prices as Epra had not obeyed the court orders, meaning they had collectively lost billions of shillings. We operate in an environment in which an increase in the cost of fuel has a corresponding effect on everything else, especially food items.

Already, some retailers have increased the cost of food items, citing the cost of transportation, even as public service vehicle operators increase fares on some routes by 100 per cent. Epra must obey the court order and revert to the original fuel prices immediately. Failure to do so can only be interpreted as deliberate fleecing of suffering Kenyans.