By Amin Kef Sesay
It is really unfortunate that there are certain individuals, who out of ignorance have been unfairly, unduly blaming the National Petroleum Sierra Leone for the current fuel shortage that is been experienced at the moment.
As a matter of fact, NP-SL, like other oil marketing companies in the country, is going through various challenges militating against its smooth operations. One of the greatest challenges is that which has to do with accessing foreign currency, specifically the Dollar which it uses to purchase petroleum products. The companies do exchange the Leones they derive from sales in order to be in a position to again import petroleum products but of late with the depreciation of the Leone to the dollar it is no mean feat to do so.
It was against such a backdrop that in the recent past when summoned by a Parliamentary Committee, the Management of NP lay bare the huge debt, running into millions of Leones which the Government of Sierra Leone owes it and pleaded for the intervention of Parliamentarians to help remedy the impasse or situation.
When this medium went outside yesterday to find out whether indeed fuel is available but is hoarded it discovered that the oil marketing companies are really finding it extremely difficult to keep on surviving amidst the high exchange rate of the dollar to the Leone and what we are now seeing is a culmination of a problem that has loomed for too long and if not addressed will further create future problems.
For the past three days it has only been NP Sierra Leone that has been selling fuel to the public. However, it was learnt that other companies including Total are not hoarding fuel but the fact of the matter is that fuel is not available and they are finding it very difficult to import at the moment.
It will only be prudent if Government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry act very smart by addressing some of the constraints these companies are going through particularly with the one that has to do with accessing foreign currency with ease and at affordable prices.
There has always been the misconception held by certain people that the National Petroleum Sierra Leone is owned by the Government of Sierra Leone. However, it will interest some to really know that the company is privately owned by Sierra Leoneans who years back established it out of their end of service benefits and worked assiduously for it to become a towering business entity that is renowned for marketing qualitative petroleum products.
The company, although it keeps reminding the Government of the outstanding debts is in no way disillusioned to discontinue serving members of the public diligently as it is a 100% indigenous company.
Regardless of that, the company has been steadfast with regards marketing qualitative petroleum products and from what was gathered its shareholders and Management have resolved to serve humanity and deal with outstanding issues professionally.
It must be reiterated that for the past few days vehicle owners as well as users of fuel generators were greeted by queues for fuel at the various fuel stations and this has caused various degrees of inconvenience among residents in the country. To make matters worse there was a statement issued by the regulatory body of petroleum products, the Petroleum Regulatory Agency (PRA) that there is no shortage of fuel.
Currently, NP-SL has its pumps open and is selling to members of the public. As an indigenous company, NP-SL is desirous of serving the nation.
Some economic analysts say that the statement issued by Total in respect of losses and request for the provision of foreign exchange to enable them import petroleum product, is in place, although the country’s indigenous petroleum supplier, the National Petroleum Sierra Leone Limited, has huge debts owed them by Government than that complained of by TOTAL, whose parent body is not in the country.
As for now NP-SL has been rated 1st for Customer Care, is held in high esteem for introducing both NP Gas and Smart Card, is impressively rolling out its Corporate Social Responsibility and lot goodies that it has to offer.
The oil marketing companies, from our findings, are not ben on undermining the Government; it is not anti- government as it has always maintained an apolitical stance only focusing on its business ventures. It will therefore be a great disservice to the company if some people are blaming it whenever shortages do occur.