Two Petroleum Companies Request Details of Storage Payments from LPRC
Monrovia – Legal practitioners representing two companies involved in the sale of petroleum products in the country have questioned the collection of storage fees by the Liberian Government under the National Reform Act.
Report by Kennedy L. Yangian, [email protected]
The two groups of legal practitioners are representing Srimex Oil and Gas Company and Aminata & Sons.
The lawyers questioned the collection of storage fees from their respective clients by government during a hearing into a writ of prohibition they filed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
The writ of prohibition is filed and prayed for by the two lawyers for the high court to place a stay order on the process carried out by the government under the guise of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC).
First to take the stand on behalf of the Srimex Oil and Gas Company was Cllr. Emmanuel James who told the high court that his client had built a storage facility within the compound of the LPRC for use by companies importing petroleum products in the country.
Initially, Cllr. James argued that fees for storage was first US$0.30 and was increased to US$0.50 by the company in 2017 but at the time the price increased to US$0.50 for a gallon of a petroleum product, the government demanded US$0.25 cents leaving the company with the balance of US$0.25 which was unfair to the company.
“We have filed a writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court to confirm the earlier stay order placed by Associate Justice Banks to have the respondent enjoin from further proceeding with the deduction of the storage fees from the Company,” Cllr. James argued.
Another lawyer, Cllr. Benedict Sarnnoh representing the Aminata & Sons also told the court in an argument that in January 2017 the National Reform Act was passed by the Legislature giving mandate to a special Ministerial Committee to determine storage prices.
According to Cllr. Sarnnoh, the Ministerial Committee did not specify what amount to be paid by petroleum companies but LPRC, in 2017, began deducting US$0. 30 cents from every pump price when the price of petroleum products was not reduced by government.
Cllr. Sarnoh said the money earmarked by the Ministerial Committee to be deducted from the petroleum companies was intended for roads and other development projects but the necessary administrative frame work was not put into place to safe guard the money.
“We want the collection to take place because the money is intended for development purposes but what we are saying is open up a special account for the funds collected and what is most regrettable Aminata & Sons are paying and Srimex is not doing same this is economic imbalance,” said Cllr, Sarnoh, who claimed that although the Ministerial Committee is composed of five ministries only the Ministries of Finance and Public Works have chosen to carry out the committee’s function.
Cllr. Daku Mulbah, who is representing the government, counter-argued that the money collected by the Ministerial Committee were not taxes rather storage fees intended for development.
Clllr. Mulbah stated that it was unfortunate that other companies have paid the storage fees in question while others have stopped paying only because there was no monitoring mechanism put in place, adding that “the money is government money which government will go after.”
Following arguments, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor reserved ruling into the matter until the Supreme Court can hand down its opinion.