Liberia: Gov’t Blames ‘Can Boys’ for Hiking Gas Price; Gives 30-Day Ultimatum to Leave the Streets

A ‘Can Boy’ Selling Gas from Mayonnaise Jar

MONROVIA – It appears that the Government of Liberia has failed in its attempt to regulate the prices of basic commodities including petroleum products.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

Despite several attempts by the government to regulate the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel, prices continue to fluctuate amid reports of shortage in the country.

In a circular issued by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry (MOCI) and the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) which took effect on October 30, the retail pump price for a gallon of gasoline was increased from US$3.55 or L$540.00 to US$3.70 or L$580.00; while the retail pump price for a gallon of diesel fuel has also increased from US$3.70 (L$560.00) to US$3.95 (L$615.00). 

The prices in Liberian dollars were calculated using the Central Bank’s approved exchange rate of US$1 to L$156.

But Frontpage Africa has observed that the government’s regulation is no longer being adhered to as the price for one gallon of gasoline ranges from L$580 to L$800 in Monrovia and its environs; while the prices up country are much higher.

At the same time transportation fare in Monrovia has increased as the taxi and bus drivers complained of petroleum shortage and price increase.

Taxi fare from the commercial hub of Red Light in Paynesville to Broad Street is now L$160 as compared to L$120 in October; bus fare has increased from L$60.00 to L$80.00.

James Logan, a taxi driver on Broad Street told FPA that most of the major filling stations are not serving them on grounds that they have run out of gasoline. 

Because of that, Logan explained that they are constrained to purchase gas from the ‘can boys’ at higher price- sometimes at high as L$800.00.

“My brother, we are suffering in this country. The government continues to say there is no gas shortage on the market. But take a look at TOTAL and Aminita gas stations. They don’t sell gas to us. only few stations SP NP are willing to sell to us and for this reason, we are forced to buy from can boys at high price because some of us don’t have the patient to wait in long lines (cues),” he narrated.

No Gas at TOTAL, Aminita, etc 

Meanwhile, FPA has observed that several filling stations owned by some of the biggest petroleum retail companies in Liberia including TOTAL and Aminita are closed to the public with signposts of “NO GAS” displayed at their various stations across Monrovia.

At some TOTAL stations, FPA observed that customers with TOTAL prepaid card were served while those including taxi and bus drivers who do not have the card are denied.

 When asked by FPA, some TOTAL pump attendants and station managers said that they were mandated by the central management.

An insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that the company is currently experiencing petroleum shortage in Liberia; but disclosed that huge supply is expected later this week.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Commerce, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh has denounced reports that there is a petroleum shortage in the country. 

Speaking to the national broadcaster, ELBC on Tuesday, November 27, Prof. Tarpeh disclosed that the management of LPRC on Sunday, November 25, received a vessel of 12,000 metric tons (4.2 million gallons) of petroleum products and earlier supplied 30, 000 gallons of gasoline to customers.

In addition, he revealed that TOTAL is expected to import 4,000 metric tons (1.4 million gallons) today, to be followed by another 8,000 metric tons (2.8 million gallons) by Petrol Trade within a week. 

He added that the combined figure is about 8.4 million gallons of petroleum product that is expected to be in the country within a period of one week; adding that with an average consumption rate of 120,000 gallons per day, there will be an adequate supply of petroleum for about three months.

He announced that a 30-day ultimatum will be given to ‘can boys’ to stop selling petroleum products in the streets as it is dangerous and defrauding the government of huge revenue. 

“As for the situation with the ‘can boys’, we will give them thirty days to work with us; you’re either going to come in and work with us, other than that you can can’t sell gas anywhere. Apart from the price fixing, it is dangerous to keep gas anywhere you want to keep it. You don’t sell gas by the streets side. They don’t do that anywhere unless the places that are approved,” he averred.