A clique of oil marketers faces the wrath of government after Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma signalled that Kenya has started to go after firms and individuals responsible for the ongoing fuel shortage.
In a tersely-worded presser on Thursday morning, coming just hours after the Rubis CEO was deported to France, CS Juma accused some oil marketers of economic sabotage. She also asked players unwilling to supply fuel to exit the Kenyan market altogether.
"The country has sufficient fuel stocks. We have determined that some players are hoarding fuel with hopes that a review in prices will provide them with a financial windfall," she said.
"This government will not tolerate any entity or person causing distress or creating an artificial problem. Any entity not ready, able or willing to work within the framework of the laws of Kenya is invited to vacate this market promptly," she added.
She said the government had held numerous meetings with oil marketers to address any concerns and offered firm assurances to honour any payment obligations in hopes that the situation would self-correct. However, she said, the crisis still continued.
"We have decided as government that this isn't acceptable. This is deliberate economic sabotage and a capital crime."
Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau, who was also at the presser, said the government will pay Sh14 billion owed to oil companies by 3pm today. He said the amount is the entirety of what it owes the oil companies.
Ms Juma also noted that some retailers were selling fuel at higher prices than they should, warning that they will be punished.
"It has also been noted that some retailers were offering fuel at higher prices in breach of Section 99 (1n) of the Petroleum Act 2019. Consequently, Epra has issued show cause letters to those companies/persons...if found in breach, I assure you we will take stern action."
The Ministry of Petroleum says it has also filed complaints with other agencies including the Competition Authority of Kenya, which is mandated with checking against anti-competitive practices.
"All retailing outlets called upon to work on a 24 hour basis to address the queues in service stations," CS Juma said.
The government Wednesday signed deportation papers for Rubis Energie Kenya Managing Director Jean-Christian Bergeron as it fought back against oil marketers it accused of abetting a petroleum crisis through hoarding and higher exports despite shortages in their domestic retail outlets.
High-ranking government sources told the Nation that the MD is accused of economic sabotage, a serious charge that attracts a prison term of up to 10 years as well as a Sh1 million fine.
Sources explained the government cracked down on Rubis which it blames for fuelling the crisis given it has a huge share of the local market. The firm is accused of blackmailing the government by demanding higher compensation yet a large consignment of its fuel had reportedly been imported before global prices shot up.
Additional report by Brian Ambani