Why small gas suppliers are threatening to withdraw their services
Users of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) risk being plunged into a crisis after an association of small and mid-sized firms dealing in the commodity threatened to withdraw their services citing harassment from police officers.
Energy Dealers Association (EDA), a consortium with a pool of more than 30 LPG brands across the country, has given Kenya’s energy regulator – Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) – seven days to rein in on the police officers harassing their members or else they stop selling gas to the public.
EDA Secretary General Kepher Odongo claimed that police officers have been selectively applying enforcement of a new law requiring all LPG retailers, wholesalers and transporters to hold licenses for each business location following the abolishing of the compulsory LPG cylinder exchange pool.
Mr Odongo said that the officers have been going round targeting only small and mid-sized LPG firms by arresting them whereas the multi-nationals and petrol stations are excluded from the exercise although the new law also requires them to have trade license.
“We are now saying enough is enough and we want the energy regulator to issue a statement stopping the harassment on retailers because they have to give the sensitization we had agreed on which was to run until the end of the year. If they do not do this then we will direct our members to stop selling gas to the public and we do not want to go that way as it will result in a crisis,” added Mr Odongo Saturday.
The EDA members estimate that they control 55 percent of the retail market, while the rest is served by big marketers.
The Petroleum Act 2019 says the licenses will be specific to the authorised cylinder brands, and retailers are required to obtain prior written consent from brand owners.
The law provides for a three-month sensitisation period for the regulator to spread awareness among LPG dealers about the new regulation.
However, Mr Odongo expressed concern that the window elapsed without dealers being adequately informed yet the law prescribes stiff penalties for non-compliance.
This could be a fine of not less than Sh10 million or a term of imprisonment of not less than five years. It could also be a fine and imprisonment, or withdrawal of the operating license.
Mr Odongo said they were not against the new law but their bone of contention arises from the fact that EPRA did not sensitise people and carry public participation for more awareness of the regulations.
However, he wants EPRA to reach out to retailers through educative media campaigns to enlighten them more before issuing warnings for non-compliance.