The crisis, which has lasted for a little over three weeks now, has intensified with Liberians seen trekking long distances to their destinations, even though there had been earlier denial by government authorities including Commerce Minister Wilson K. Tarpeh and Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) boss Marie Urey Coleman that there was no shortage in stock.
It could be recalled that from the onset of the situation, LPRC notified the general public that there was sufficient quantity of diesel and gasoline supply in the country to meet the domestic market demand.
Both Coleman and Minister Tarpehalso told the Plenary o the House of Representatives under oath that there was enough in stock, and a new consignment of the product was expected in country since last Friday, February 7, 2020. But the supply as announced by the two government officials is yet to arrive.
Contrary to their assertions, the shortage of gasoline continues to intensify to the Liberian market with commercial and private drivers as well as “kehkeh” (tricycle) and motorbikes queuing at leading petroleum stations to purchase gas.
In addition to that, mishit retailers, commonly called “can boys” continue to sell at sky rocketing prices of more than double of the actual cost at the filling stations.
Accordingly, as Liberians were seen in major street corners walking in their numbers, the Government of Liberia (GoL) immediately announced a probe into the situation.
In a statement released on Monday, February 10, 2020, and signed by the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, the government said the situation is disturbing and cannot be allowed to continue.
“The government treats the constant availability and supply of petroleum and other essential commodities on the market with utmost importance. This is why President George M. Weah has constituted a special task force, headed by Honorable 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,” said the statement.
The taskforce mandate, the statement noted, will cover the period between January 2017 and January 2020 and also include the following members: Mr. George D. Wolo and Peter D. Somah of the Ministry of Commerce, Mr. Rufus G. Mahn and Augustine G. Chenoway of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and Mr. Dominic K.L. Hina of the Ministry of Finance Development Planning (MFDP).
“At the end of their mission, the group 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,” asserted the government.
“Additionally, 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,” the statement pointed out.
In a related development, the government said it has purchased emergency supplies which are due in the country within one week to alleviate the situation.