Liberia: Alexander Cummings Calls for Dismissals in Govt, Closure of Schools Amid Gasoline Saga

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MONROVIA – The head of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, has called for the dismissal of the heads of the National Port Authority, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and the Minister of Commerce “incompetence” in preventing and handling the prevailing nationwide shortage of gasoline which is now having a toll on citizens.

“No serious government would elect to prioritize politics over the general well-being of its people, to the point of ignoring their pains and leaving them to trek long distances, and or spend considerable portions of their days and night struggling to acquire gas, while officials drive by in their cozy government cars under the comfort of air condition,” he said while giving the position of the ANC in a live broadcast on FrontPage Africa Facebook and Prime FM, a local radio station in Monrovia.

Cummings lamented though the current short supply of gasoline began about a month ago, the government vehemently denied the situation which has now culminated into a national crisis spiraling the already struggling economy downward. 

He blamed the situation on the incompetence of public officials and further criticized President Weah for missing out on an opportunity to have addressed on the nation on the development when he addressed members of the Armed Forces of Liberia on Tuesday.

Cummings: “This situation if not handled immediately can only get worse. Following weeks of denial, the GOL has not only failed to provide any clear action plan to address this crisis, but rather has resulted to blame shifting-something, no citizen is interested in at the moment. The Ministry of Commerce has blamed the shortage on wrong inventory and shallow harbor, the LPRC has blamed the shortage on the restrictions on bigger vessels instituted by concessionaire APM Terminals, which in turn had instituted said measures due to the port not being dredged, while the NPA has admitted that the Port has not been dredged thus limiting bigger vessels and tankers from berthing.” 

“No serious government would elect to prioritize politics over the general well-being of its people, to the point of ignoring their pains and leaving them to trek long distances, and or spend considerable portions of their days and night struggling to acquire gas, while officials drive by in their cozy government cars under the comfort of air condition.

– Alexander B. Cummings, Political Leader, Alternative National Congress

His Recommendations

In addition to the dismissal of the heads of the three entities, the ANC political leader also called on the government to reach out to Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast to aid in the supply of gasoline using road-tankers until large vessels can begin to dock at the Freeport of Monrovia.

According to Cummings, schools should be closed for a period of one week pending he arrival of gasoline in the country to ease the situation as it has become nearly impossible for students to get to school.

He also wants a full disclosure of the timeline for the completion of the dredging of the port and estimated time of arrival of emergency fuel supply and institute an essential-staff policy in the public sector to reduce the workforce and have employees work from home as applicable.

Govt Takes Steps

In a press statement issued on Monday, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism stated that the government “empathizes with the public for the difficulty they have had to go through over the last couple of weeks in obtaining petroleum products from stations across the country. Due to the shortage of gasoline, in many instances, people are made to stand in long queues for several hours before getting served”. 

The ministry added: “This situation is disturbing and cannot be allowed to continue. As a result, the government has purchased emergency supplies which are due in the country within one week to alleviate the situation. The government treats the constant availability and supply of petroleum and other essential commodities on the market with utmost importance.” 

The government, therefore, constituted a special taskforce, headed by 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.

The task force mandate will cover the period between January 2017 and January 2020 and also include the following members: George D. Wolo, Ministry of Commerce; Peter D. Somah, Ministry of Commerce; Rufus G. Mahn, Liberia Revenue Authority; Augustine G. Chenoway, LRA; Dominic K.L. Hina, Ministry of Finance Development Planning.

The committee 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. 

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. 

Tankers Dispatched to Sierra Leone

FrontPageAfrica has been reliably informed that about 20 gasoline tankers left Monrovia late Tuesday en route to Sierra Leone in hopes of getting gasoline to help curb the ongoing shortage of the key commodity in the country.

Some high-level arrangements were reportedly made prior to the dispatch of some 20 tankers to next-door Sierra Leone Tuesday night in search of gasoline to address the major shortage now wreaking havoc for motorists and consumers in Liberia.

LPRC Blames APM Terminals 

LPRC in a statement on Monday disclosed that APM Terminals, the private company managing the Freeport of Monrovia, has been rescheduling vessels at the port which has caused extreme delay and inconveniences in getting petroleum products.

“As a result of the rescheduling of the vessels, we anticipate this unforeseen shortage of gasoline within ten to fourteen days. Within this period, we will experience shortage of gasoline (PMS) on the Liberian market,” he LPRC stated.

APM Terminal Reacts

PM Terminals debunked LPRC statement that the current shortage of gasoline in the country is due to APM Terminal rescheduling of vessels wanting to dock at the port.

“The Management of APM Terminals Liberia Ltd. wishes to put on record that the company has not rescheduled any vessels and we have no knowledge of vessels being rescheduled. Therefore, we totally and completely reject the unsubstantiated claim and wish to inform the Liberian public accordingly,” APM Terminals stated in a press release. 

According to the port management company, it is only responsible for the provide marine services which include the berthing/unberthing, pilotage, towing and monitoring of petroleum vessels at the LPRC pier or the BMC pier at the Free Port of Monrovia.

APM Terminals stated that that is not involved in the discharge of petroleum products and that petroleum vessels berth at the LPRC and BMC pier only which are outside the APM Terminals concession area “therefore, APM Terminals is NOT involved in the scheduling/rescheduling of Petroleum vessels planned for the two piers The Management of APM Terminals Liberia Ltd”.

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