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How illegal fuel merchants escape regulator’s swoop

Fred Aminga @faminga

It has been a tough call bringing to book rogue traders minting millions of shillings from retailing adulterated fuel and lubricants in the country.

The cartels, which waylay fuel meant for export and local distribution, often escape oil industry regulator and police swoops, thanks to their high-level contacts within security agencies who share intelligence information with them.

Further, the cartels instill fear on those likely to sell then out to the police or Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) officials. Working behind the veneer of ramshackle walls where fuel handling safety is not a priority, the operators pose grave risk to the lives of those in the neighborhood of where they operate.

Unsuspecting Kenyans

Speaking yesterday during a press conference at one of the sites where the petroleum sector regulator announced the arrest of 16 people at five illegal operations in Industrial Area, EPRA director general Pavel Oimeke said tankers ferrying fuel offload the commodity at such locations, which is then adulterated before being sold to unsuspecting Kenyans.

The unscrupulous dealers arrested  have been in operation for years and are part of a larger cartel which has been diverting fuel meant for export.

“This is how low quality fuel and lubricants meant for other jurisdictions find their way into the country,” Oimeke said.

He said adulterating fuel meant for export earns the rogue profit of up to 45 per cent. “Those arrested were also in the process of mixing lubricants with oil.”

It, however, baffles one that the illegal oil facilities are in close proximity to the Kenya Pipeline depot which caught fire in 2011 killing people and erasing hundreds of structures yet the local administrators have not blown the whistle.

“Some of them have erected watch towers within these facilities to ward off intruders as they go on with their activities,” he said.

EPRA has moved to set aside a Sh30,000 reward for whoever gives information which can lead to the arrest of the owners of the illegal depots.

“We are working closely with the chiefs and their assistants, elders and the police to ensure that this stops,” Oimeke said. EPRA has not been able to identify the real faces behind the operations because they only get only driver and workers on site.

Start prosecuting

The regulator now plans to start prosecuting landowners for allowing their property to be used for illegal activities.

Adulterated fuels are those that are contaminated or whose quality has been weakened by adding inferior quality ones. Adulteration mainly involves adding kerosene or diesel to petrol.

The fuel eventually finds its way into the retail chain causing excessive engine wear, piling undue vehicle maintenance costs on motorists and sometimes engine failure while denying Kenya Revenue Authority revenues.

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