The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, has said the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) is in a better position to act on the widespread diversion of premix fuel.
According to her, the ministry does not have a tracking system to identify culprits hence the NPA, which has a system to track such happenings “must take action.”
[contextly_sidebar id=”lFgDX3fPn8i0fKmxqVcVGpagGmCfGNHB”]“They have the trackers, the NPA by law is supposed to be monitoring the supply and distribution of the pre-mix fuel, and it is the NPA that has that authority to be prosecuting offenders. So I told the NPA that the moment you find somebody perpetuating this crime, you arrest this person on the spot. The NPA has the tracker. As I sit here, I don’t have any tracker, I don’t have a tracking system to tell who is diverting pre-mix fuel or not,” the minister said on Eyewitness News on Tuesday.
She added that, “we have made requests to the NPA to allow us to also have access to the tracking system to be able to tell who is diverting and who is not” but that was yet to be granted.
The NPA in series of letters dated between January and October 2017, informed the National Pre-mix fuel Committee and the Fisheries Ministry to take action against some Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) that are involved in the diversion of the product meant for fisher-folk in the country’s coastal communities.
The OMCs, according to the letter, took supply of the pre-mix fuel at the Tema Oil Refinery supposedly to be supplied to fishing communities outside Accra, however, they ended up supplying them within Accra often to industries.
The development, which has persisted for several months, appear to be a major factor for the collapsing fishing industry, with a decline in local fish production and increase in fish imports.
But in a rather combative interview, Madam Afoley Quaye said she was informed that the supposed diverted pre-mix fuels were duly received.
She said, “I went to the landing beaches to find out exactly what they were doing there, and the members of the landing beach committees gave me documents to prove that they have actually received the pre-mix fuel.”
This claim by the Minister, is however at variance with the NPA letters which also confirmed that in the 249 diversions recorded, some of the landing beaches made receipts available, but in actual fact, they never received the product.
Media will complain
She chastised the media for seemingly putting pressure on her to take action against the indicted OMCs, saying that they [the media] will again blame her should any action against the OMCs lead to a shortage of pre-mix fuel in the country.
“It is the media who will come out to say fishermen are not getting premix fuel. I have just received a letter that 14 out of the about 20 OMCs who are supplying the pre-mix fuel should be stopped from supplying pre-mix fuel. If I stop this today, is this not going to affect the supply of the pre-mix fuel at the landing beaches.? I will adhere to their directives and then when the shortage comes, it is you [the media] who will come again to say fishermen are not getting pre-mix fuel,” she said.
Conflict of interest issues
Meanwhile, the Minister stated that, she finds nothing wrong with the appointment of a man believed to be her brother, to serve as the acting Administrator of the National Pre-mix fuel Committee.
While arguing that his appointment was for a temporary period only to fill a vacant position, she said she does not believe her action put her in a conflict of interest position.
Premix fuel sector gold mine for party executives – Inland Fisherman
Chairman of the National Inland Canoe Fishermen Council, Jacob Tetteh Ageke, has suggested that political party executives in various constituencies are involved in the act, adding that they profit hugely from the mismanagement of the distribution.
Mr. Owusu confirmed this, reminding the NPA to be tough regardless of political influence.
“The issue lies with NPA. NPA has to be tough irrespective of whoever is there because these are political people who have taken a position in this premix issue so it is very risky as an authority trying to stamp your authority on these things. I believe the NPA can do more. “
Pre-mix fuel diversion: We can’t punish perpetrators – Committee
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Pre-mix Fuel committee, Nii Lantey Bannerman, has said his outfit does not have the power to sanction persons who divert subsidized premix fuel meant for fishermen to other areas to be sold to industries.
According to him, only the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) can sanction or withdraw the licenses of the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) who perpetrate such acts.
OMCs making abnormal profit from diversions
The government is spending several millions of cedis subsidizing the cost of premix fuel for fishermen, who are buying it at Gh7.20 pesewas per gallon.
Per Citi News’ calculations, the diversions from January to October alone have cost the country about 7 million cedis.
However, there are reports that those diverting the product are selling it to industries about two times the price, thereby creating artificial shortages in the fishing communities, and denying fishermen their due.
Below is a list of instances of pre-mix fuel diversion
By: Jonas Nyabor/citifmonline.com/Ghana