Oil Marketing Companies protest over closure of fuel stations

The Association of Oil Marketing Companies (AOMCs) is protesting the closure of some fuel and gas filling plants in some parts of the country following last Saturday’s Atomic Junction gas explosion.

Addressing the media in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the AOMCs, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Duah, bemoaned the unparalleled marauding demonstrations against some legitimate retail outlets and the hitting of the panic button which had been exemplified by wanton closure of retail outlets by some metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).

Four fuel stations were closed down at Mankessim in the Central Region last Monday because one did not have a permit, while the three had defaulted in tax payment.

While the Beep Fuel Station was shut down for lack of permit, Shell, Total and Goil fuel stations were also closed down for non-payment of taxes.

Shortly after the closure, Shell, Total and Goil were reopened because their managers went to settle their indebtedness, but the Beep Fuel Station remained close because the managers had not been able to secure or produce the necessary permits.

The stations were shut down by the Mfantseman Municipal Assembly during an exercise to inspect houses and properties to establish whether or not the owners have the necessary documentation or secured the required permits to operate.

The action was prompted by the need for the assembly to take measures to prevent any disaster similar to the gas explosion which occurred at the Atomic Junction in Accra last Saturday.

Reaction

Apparently reacting to the closure of the fuel and gas stations, Mr Agyeman-Duah said the industry was being regulated by five ministries and several sector agencies, and for that reason it was unfortunate for oil marketing companies (OMCs) to be treated in such unfair manner.

He reiterated that OMCs and Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (LPGMs) were “neither monsters nor criminals but Ghanaians, making a living by legally investing in the petroleum industry”.

“Some marketers have their administrative offices within the confines of such outlets. Therefore, our intent to have a safe operation of our outlets cannot be in doubt,” he noted.

He said the situation rather called for “sober, deep-seated thoughts, thorough unbiased and unfettered investigations to unearth the root causes and furnish the nation with sustained corrective and preventive actions which will inform the public in a positive manner, while consolidating or improving the existing industry standards for the public assurance”.

“We won’t shield anyone”

Mr Agyemang-Duah said the Atomic Junction gas explosion was unfortunate and accordingly expressed condolences to the families of the bereaved, as well as wished the injured speedy recovery.

“As a mark of respect for the dead, per our culture, and also to the laws of the country, the association will not be in a haste to pre-empt or predict the findings of the team set up by the government to investigate the issue, but we will patiently wait for the outcome,” he assured.

The CEO of the AOMCs added, “Meanwhile, we wish to state emphatically that the association will not in any way seek to shield any member who violates the rules and regulations of the industry, especially in such a manner that endangers lives and property.”

He, however, urged government agencies to follow due process in dealing with whoever was found culpable.

Sad comments

Mr Agyemang-Duah said it was sad and disheartening to hear, read and witness a plethora of comments from what he termed ‘pseudo experts’ with no or little knowledge and understanding in the LPG industry.

He said such flammable utterances, innuendos and castigations had the tendency to kill initiatives and denigrate the OMCs and LPGMs who had invested in the retail outlets and had been rendering meaningful service to the country at large.

Way forward

Suggesting the way forward for the industry, Mr Agyemang-Duah said his association would intensify the peer audit activity, with priority to outlets in congested areas, especially about the discharge of LPG from bulk road vehicles.

He said the AOMCs would continue to provide requisite training to its personnel, especially attendants, drivers and their mates, as well as explore and introduce new technology to enhance operations.

Mr Agyemang-Duah said his association would continue to intensify public education and continue to comply with regulations, among other issues.

Decongest

Mr Agyemang-Duah said most fuel and gas filling plants were sited in isolated areas, but the situation was different now as people had moved into close proximity with those plants.

He accordingly urged MMDAs to assist in decongesting some of those areas.

The AOMCs urged the government to ensure that “new policy introduction should not be out in a rush but should be well thought through with the buy-in of all key stakeholders such as our members, since the effective and efficient implementation of such policies rests largely on us”.

“It is the success of the policy that matters and not the haste in introducing it,” Mr Agyemang-Duah added.

He took the opportunity to advise the public to desist from using fuel and gas filling outlets as shelter.

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