By Amin Kef-Ranger
Indisputably, for now, Sierra Leone being not an exception, the prices of petroleum products, chiefly petrol and diesel, have gone up globally thereby affecting the prices of other basic commodities and services countrywide making life becoming extremely difficult for the vast majority.
Some have unjustifiably blamed the unfortunate situation on Governments, saying the latter have not taken pro active actions to squarely deal with the situation.
However, there is another school of thought that lay the blame on oil marketing companies, saying their insatiable quest or yearning to maximize colossal profits has forced them and still continues to do so, to escalate prices of those essential products.
In Sierra Leone, the former have argued that Government need to step in and subsidize in order for the prices of petroleum products not to be felt by the vast majority. Though this might sound plausible the fact remains that as the current situation now stands, the Government is so cash strapped to an extent that to even think of providing subsidies maybe farfetched.
It has been established that fuel prices are rising across the world as a result of a number of reasons. According to a reputable source, one of the key reasons fuel prices are rising so high is because there are more in demand for it as companies cut ties with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in February.
Indeed, as has been argued by some, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the price of oil crashed or went down as the world shut down with oil recording negative prices in April 2020 for the first time in history.
However, when global economies began to recover the price shot up as demand rose sharply and there has been corresponding failure to meet the demand thereby pushing up prices.
It must be noted that Russia is one of the world’s largest crude oil exporters, second only to Saudi Arabia. However, as the current situation stands with the European Union much more reliant on imports of Russian oil and the leaders of the EU agreeing to ban most of Russian imports ,with the United States also announcing a total ban, the situation has become very untenable.
Obviously, under this kind of situation we cannot expect oil marketing companies, like NP-SL Ltd to be importing petroleum products as it used to do prior to the war.
Though there are available stocks it is but prudent that they must be rationed wisely in order not to completely run out of it. This was mainly responsible for the snail pace at which Filling Stations were selling to members of the public with a bid to have some stock until replenishment has been accomplished.
NP-SL Ltd is on record of instructing its business partners, that is, Station Managers and dealers at various Filling Stations, to open up their stations and sell to the public. Indeed, that has been ongoing but it should be underscored that such will only continue to transpire when stocks are available.
At the same time, the Management of the company had been and is still making frantic moves to ensure that more petroleum products are imported into the country and it is doing so diligently as well as passionately.
It is good that when this country started experiencing shocks in the prices of petroleum products the Government reacted wisely by making sure that it provided oil marketing companies in this country with foreign exchange to put them at vantage positions to continue importing petroleum products in the country and it is still determined to continue doing so.
It will indeed be disingenuous on the part of any individual to claim that an oil marketing company like NP-Sierra Leone Limited is using the current global situation to make life difficult for many by creating situations for prices to shoot up.
It is important to note that NP-SL Ltd alone cannot determine the prices of petroleum products as they are determined by international market forces and it is only the Petroleum Regulatory Agency (PRA) that will finally announce changes in prices after taking into consideration certain variables.
NP-SL Ltd, being an indigenous business entity, is indeed a business entity with a compassionate clout and though it is interested in making profits, however, it does not have the record of making life becoming unbearable for the common man. The company is highly capitalized and is operating in neighbouring Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and The Gambia meaning that it is not starting from scratch.
Under NP-Sierra Leone’s portfolio there are NP Gas cookers suitable for cooking purposes. They are manufactured in different sizes and have been certified as environmentally friendly. NP Gas could be purchased at various Filling Stations.
There is also NP Smart Card which is used to purchase fuel. Holders of NP Smart Cards only need to credit their cards and they are ready for use at Filling Stations to get fuel without exchanging cash.
In terms of Local Content, the company operates a policy of only giving jobs to indigenes of the country where it operates.
NP-SL Ltd is also one of the biggest taxpayers to Government.
What is clear for now is that there is uncertainty within the petroleum landscape of the country vis-à-vis the stable price of fuel as long as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues.
It will only be unfair to continue blaming the Government and oil marketing companies for the sporadic increases in the prices as seemingly it is beyond their control.
We can only pray and hope for the better for now.
credit CALABASH NEWSPAPER