Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, his deputy, Solomon Jamiru Esq. members of the Strategic Communications Team, including the National Coordinator, Abu Bakarr Joe Sesay, embarked on a massive nation-wide sensitization exercise to discuss a wide range of issues around the current fuel crisis and speak to citizens on Government programs and issues around the Global impact of Fuel Prices on local pump prices in Sierra Leone. The nation-wide sensitization exercise commenced on the 28th June 2022 and ended on the 1st July, 2022.
On his arrival in Makeni on 29th June 2022, the Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swaray engaged several Radio stations and the only Television station in Makeni, SLBC TV Makeni and held town hall meetings with key stakeholders in the City and its environs.
Specifically, he divulged that long queues were seen all over the country in recent weeks because Oil Marketing Companies held back their sales as they demanded for an increase in prices, so they can break even. The Minister emphasized the Government’s concern about the fuel issue, specifically highlighting the intense negotiations that are ongoing with OMCs to see how best they can remedy the situation. He was also emphatic that Government doesn’t import fuel in the country but is creating the enabling environment for oil marketers to thrive and ensure availability of the product in country.
“Government is intervening to help cushion the effect of the fuel challenge posed by the Russia invasion of Ukraine. The Government has continued to provide foreign exchange for oil marketers to address their Forex challenge. So far, the amount has summed up to $87 million dollars in Forex support. In subsidizing the sector, Government has spent up to Le380 billion to help cushion the effect. Also, I know for sure that the Government of President Bio has increased the country’s storage capacity to ensure enough availability of the products in the country,” he intimated.
Talking to people from all walks of life in a town hall meeting in Makeni, the Minister spoke about the uncertainty in the global supply of fuel products, citing how the war in Ukraine has put pressure on the industry and that Oil Marketing Companies no longer receive products on credit but must now pay cash up-front to get products.
The Minister assured citizens that the Government is working around the clock to sustainably address the challenges in the sector, expressing the hope that things would stabilize soon.
Dep. Minister of Information and Communications Solomon Jamiru, accompanied by the National Coordinator of the Strategic Communications Unit, Abu Bakarr Joe Sesay, also did a series of live programmes on SLBC FM 95.6 and 7 other radio stations in Bo, Moyamba and Mattru Jong, SLBC 93.5 and five other radios in Kenema, where he spoke about the fuel crisis in the country and the reasons for the situation.
Solomon Jamiru Esq also engaged representatives of Ataya bases across Bo city District, and Regional Executives and ordinary members of the Bike Riders Union at their office in Bo city, where he explained the reasons for the global fuel crisis.
According to him, there has been an exponential increase in the price of petroleum products in the international market which has affected the local market.
He outlined the interventions Government has made to cushion the effect of this crisis on the populace, including increasing storage capacity for petroleum products, provision of foreign exchange to Oil Marketing Companies, and heavy subsidies emanating from tax cuts on petroleum products, among others.
The Bike Riders thanked the Deputy Minister for coming to engage them on the issue and highlighted various concerns for the attention of Government which the Deputy Minister pledged to convey to the relevant authorities.
The Media Adviser of the Strategic Communications Unit, Imran Sillah and an Outreach Officer engaged citizens in Port Loko on Radio Bankasoka 97.5 and Lunsar FM 100.5, where they spoke about the Global fuel crisis and the challenge Government is confronted with. They also held fruitful deliberations with the youth of Ataya bases and bike riders in Kabala, Koinadugu district.
In his interaction with youth in different Ataya bases and bike riders, Sillah spoke about the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia which has led to stringent sanctions on Russia by world leaders including America and the European Union. He said that Russia accounts for over 30% of petroleum products to Africa which has significantly dropped because of the war.
The Outreach Officer at the Strategic Communications Unit informed the youth about Government’s intervention in the fuel saga revealing that Government has subsidized oil marketers with over Le 516 billion over the last twelve months.
During the engagements, youth and bike riders expressed their dissatisfaction about the increase in fuel pump price in the country, which has resulted into an increase in the in the prices of other basic commodities. Others were of the view that the scarcity is caused by some selfish and unpatriotic business people whose aim is to make excess profit.
The MIC Team assured all and sundry of Government’s commitment through the Petroleum Regulatory Agency to ensure that fuel is available and dealers sell their products at the stipulated price.
The MIC team was lauded by people in all the locations they visited for the timely interaction with the populace and urged to continue to do so on a regular basis.
On his return to Freetown, the Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swaray said that the national exercise was the first phase of a series of outreach programmes that his Ministry will now embark on to ensure the populace is well informed, based on the correct information, in a bid to putting an end to the huge amount of disinformation and propaganda which has now become a hallmark of the political opposition, to discredit the Government and deceive the public.
“We will not relent in the effort to ensure that every Sierra Leonean benefit from the goodwill of this Government and the exemplary leadership of President Julius Maada Bio,” he concluded.