Transport crisis as fuel shortage persists in North Rift

Fuel station

A deserted Kobil fuel station in Lodwar. Most fuel stations in the region have suspended operations due to lack of the commodity.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Thousands of motorists have withdrawn their vehicles from the road due to the acute shortage of fuel that has hit several parts of the North Rift amid hoarding speculation.

Despite assurance from the regulator that issues affecting supply had been resolved after talks involving the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, oil marketers and other stakeholders, normalcy is yet to be restored in the region.

Independent Petroleum dealers told the Nation on Wednesday that the crisis would persist until the government assures shippers of compensation for landed fuel, which costs over Sh164 a litre.

“Our wholesalers say they won’t release the fuel to the dealers unless they are compensated for the increased prices. If not, they won’t release the fuel and if they do so, then consumers should be ready to buy it at above Sh160 per litre,” said Mr Collins Boinett, a dealer.

He said they were awaiting communication from shippers who were in a meeting over the crisis with energy officials. There has been a shortage of fuel in Eldoret town and the neighbouring counties for over a week.

Petrol stations that still have fuel have since hiked pump prices by up to Sh5 per litre from the recommended Sh135.

Motorcycle riders and motorists queue to fuel at a petrol station in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on March 28, 2022. It was among the few that had fuel on Monday following a shortage of the commodity.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

In a statement on Monday, the Energy and Petroleum Regulation Authority (Epra) said there was enough fuel supply in the country and that there should be no cause to panic. The regulator said the fuel shortage in parts of Western and North Rift was occasioned by what it termed as “some unprecedented logistical constraints”.

“These challenges have caused independent petroleum dealers to run out of petroleum stocks,” the regulator said. Taxi drivers on the streets of Eldoret town lamented that they had been forced to park their cars since they could not access fuel.

Stations have capped

“Our business has now become periodical. You can only operate when you get fuel and you park the car when you run out. Some stations have capped giving out fuel at Sh2,000. We can’t meet our daily targets,” said Mr Paul Muya, a taxi driver.

In Turkana, most fuel stations in Lodwar town remain closed after running dry, and those still operational are still witnessing long queues of motorists at fuel stations due to the scarcity of the commodity. Most have lamented getting late for work and spending more than four hours on queues waiting to be served.

Motorcycle riders in Kapsabet, Nandi County queue for the little petrol available in one of the petrol stations on Monday March 28, 2022.

Photo credit: Tom Matoke | Nation Media Group

Mr Kennedy Simiyu, a resident who spent hours queuing at a petrol station until midnight, had to rescue his neighbour who had to siphon fuel from his motorcycle to take his wife to Lodwar County and Referral Hospital.

Travelers also had to dig deeper into their pockets after fares were hiked. The shortest distance that used to cost Sh50 in Lodwar is now costing Sh100.

In Nandi, political rallies that have been recording high numbers of boda boda operators have declined. Boda boda operators have been escorting aspirants, particularly of the three front-runners in the gubernatorial race, Governor Stephen Sang, Mr Allan Kosgey and Dr Cleophas Lagat.

The shortage is also experienced in major towns in Baringo County, with motorists counting huge losses after their businesses got grounded. Some have not been able to resume work since Monday.

High demand

Mr Kevin Kenei, an operator, said they have wasted a lot of time queuing at petrol stations, only to be told that the fuel had been depleted due to the high demand and little supply.

Congestion at Shell petrol station in Lodwar Town following a fuel crisis. Some fuel stations have temporarily suspended operations.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

“In a good day, I used to spend Sh400 on fuel and get a profit of Sh600. But due to the shortage since last week, I have incurred a lot of losses because with the little I have, I only ferry clients within Kabarnet town,” he said.

“Major stations in the town have no fuel, while National Oil was only allowing government vehicles on Tuesday. There was no activity at the station on Wednesday. Farmers have also expressed frustration over the sustained fuel shortage, which may affect planting as long April rains start because they cannot fuel tractors,” said Mr Isaac Cheboi, a farmer from Uasin Gishu.

“I have been queuing for fuel in one of the stations to no avail. It has never been sufficient since we are given on first-come first-serve basis.”

In Bungoma, motorists have been forced to cross to neighbouring Uganda to get the precious commodity. Mr Derrick Were, a tax operator, said fuel was available in Malaba town.

Boda boda riders who get an opportunity fill their tanks so that they have enough to last about three days. Some dealers, however, have refused to sell more than Sh500 fuel, limiting it to Sh200 sale for any rider.

Reporting by Fred Kibor, Brian Ojamaa, Florah Koech and Sammy Lutta