Illegal Fuel Trade Causing Serious Damage To Ghana

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Ghana’s international reputation will suffer a dip if it fails to stop the illegal sale of petroleum products in the immediate term.

According to some petroleum industry watchers, the country could serve as an attractive destination for pirates as they would capitalize on the lax regime to perpetuate their illegal acts.

The caution comes days after the Association of Oil Marketing Companies warned that it will sack about 4000 workers as the businesses of its members are no longer profitable.

Their plight has been as a result of the impact of the activities of illegal traders of petroleum products.

The National Chairman of the General Transport Petroleum and Chemical Workers’ Union, Bernard Owusu has stressed that; the development will also be dire for the industry.

“This is very dangerous because, in the petroleum industry, rumor and quality are non-negotiable. When these things are allowed to continue in the country, what is going to happen is that those pirates that go out there with petroleum products will be coming into our country and that is very dangerous to our economy,” he observed.

Similarly, the Managing Director of GOIL, Patrick Akorli, has said Oil Marketing Companies (OMC’s) are shutting down and laying off staff due to the activities of some individuals who smuggle petroleum products into the country.

The illegal importation of fuel, according to the National Petroleum Authority, leads to an annual loss of GHS850million due to tax evasion.

Reacting to the development, Mr. Akorli said the practice was leading to loss of jobs in the industry.

“We don’t know the type of products being brought because they are not going through the normal inspection channels so people’s vehicles would be affected. And added to that, the OMCs are losing revenue. Some have actually closed down, workers are being sent home…” he bemoaned.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Petroleum Consumers-Ghana (COPEC) has charged state authorities to take robust measures to sanction individuals involved in such illegal importation of fuel.

“We call on the government, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to ensure immediate arrest and prosecution of all players in this criminal activity without fail as these people have all clearly benefited in one way or the other from criminal proceeds that destroy both the country and the downstream,” COPEC noted in a statement released on Wednesday, May 3, by its Executive Secretary, Duncan Amoah.

The chamber explained that these illegal operators load from depots mainly in Tema and Takoradi “where there is a heavy security presence and involvement of GRA officials together with National Security and the Bureau of National Security (BNI) officials”.

COPEC bemoaned the practice where vessels dock at the main ports and along the coastline to discharge illegal products onto bulk road vehicles “in the full glare of security officials whose active connivance emboldens these illegal operators to carry out these activities without anyone being arrested”.

For the Chamber, the menace of supposed “export” products marked for neighboring landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali which allows these illegal operators to pay about $0.46/litre instead of the market rate of $0.96/litre for sale by the genuine players downstream can only be blamed squarely at the doorsteps of NPA”.

It also emphasized that the NPA was aware of the growing menace where these operators evade taxes “in the name of exporting the products but eventually sell in Ghana”.

COPEC bemoaned how authorities had increased the number of export licenses to these players over the past year without any proper audit of the activities of the “illegal players they keep licensing by the day”.
According to COPEC, the issue which has been in the full knowledge of officials of state institutions tasked with monitoring and curbing such nefarious practices has now metamorphosed into a “full blown national crisis as illegal downstream operators are on record to have pocketed a colossal GHC850 million in the year 2016 alone”.

COPEC has, therefore, proposed the following: immediate audit, investigation and open arrest and prosecution of ALL operators involved in this blatant evasion of taxes and subsequent dumping of untested products into our dumps and invariably into unsuspecting tanks of motorists; immediate dismissal or transfer and demotion of all security operatives who are paid to ensure such a creeping negative menace is checked and controlled.

COPEC is also calling for immediate halt of all petroleum ‘exports’ from the southern part of the country to the Bolga depot and escorting of same at the expense of the business people engaged in genuine exports.

COPEC has, therefore, proposed the following: immediate audit, investigation and open arrest and prosecution of ALL operators involved in this blatant evasion of taxes and subsequent dumping of untested products into our dumps and invariably into unsuspecting tanks of motorists; immediate dismissal or transfer and demotion of all security operatives who are paid to ensure such a creeping negative menace is checked and controlled and immediate halt of all petroleum ‘exports’ from the southern part of the country to the Bolga depot and escorting of same at the expense of the business people engaged in genuine exports.

source: Adnan Adams Mohammed

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