Over the past week, the nation has been going through an unprecedented scarcity in the fuel market, leading to a lot of speculation from the general public.

On Tuesday, the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, gave an interview to a radio station, in a bid to dispelling the rumours and allaying fears. He dilated on several issues about strategic positioning to handle the crisis and categorised government’s preparedness under the following:

1. support Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to import the product for product availability

2. support OMCs with forex so they can pay direct cash for product off shore

3. support dealers and transporters to ease supply chain issues.

On product (fuel) availability, the government is giving forex support to OMCs (NP and Leone Oil) so they can import enough fuel. This would entail ensuring the relationship OMCs have with our main oil suppliers in Switzerland and who have been asking for direct cash for oil since the Ukrainian crisis began, is maintained. Before this time they used to supply our OMCs on credit, which they sell and pay later but that has stopped because of the crisis. As things stand now, OMCs have to pay cash but not all of them have the money, so government has come in to help.

This also related to the availability on the domestic front, where Government has raised distribution profit margins for local dealers from Le. 220 per litre to Le. 250 per litre, although the domestic dealers were asking for Le. 1, 500, per litre. The government considered the Le. 1, 500 margin as unrealistic and therefore settled for Le. 250, as a temporary arrangement to placate them. This encouraged the local dealers to go buy the product and open their stations to the public.

Also as a result, the two OMCs were able to bring in 10, 000 metric tonnes to cushion the previous scarcity. This past weekend, they brought in 6, 500 metric tonnes of diesel. In the next 5 days, NP will bring in another 5, 500 metric tonnes of product, all of which will eventually give us a total of 12,000 metric tonnes of product.

Other players in the sector such as CONNEX (formerly TOTAL) already had about 8,000 metric tonnes of product and they are expecting an additional 7, 500 metric tonnes in the next five days.

In total, all these available stocks will give us enough product that will result in the disappearance of the long queues at fuel stations.

On storage and distribution, government is now looking at the country’s resilience in the face of such shocks in the future and how much fuel we can hold in storage at any one point in time. This is where the newest player in the market, All Petroleum Products (APP) has come in with a commitment to enhancing our storage and distribution capacity. APP has already completed the refurbishment of a 60,000 metric tonne storage capacity, which they have tested and is now available for use by all players in the sector.

The stabilization measures will be maintained throughout this unpredictable period, including continuing to subsidise the product so that the prices will be kept low and constant. This also underlines the fact that Government has spent a total of 99 to 110 billion Leones just to keep the prices low.

In effect, this is revenue that government has sacrificed for the benefit of consumers and it is prepared to do more to keep the prices where they are and ensure no further hardship is brought onto the people during this crisis.