The Energy Regulation Board is being less than truthful in the manner it is responding to the “delusory” reductions in fuel prices.
The piecemeal and disjointed explanations are of no value because they do not deal with the issues in contention.
The board has failed to explain the manner in which oil procurement contracts have been offered to such companies as Trafigura, which charge twice the ruling world prices. Zambians would like to know who negotiated these deals and why the Zambian people are being made to pay beyond prevailing prices.
It is not good enough to offer delusory reductions while failing to explain the extent of the problem, given that operative variables are well known. It is a notorious fact that there are far too many middlemen involved in our oil procurement. This is a fact admitted by Government.
It is a fact which the technical staff at ERB is supposed to resolve rather than offer endless excuses that do nothing to ameliorate and resolve problems that consumers are facing.
Our fuel prices have always been high compared to neighbouring countries that are equally landlocked. The explanation has always been that a combination of taxes and levies have contributed towards the inordinate middlemen and the impact of taxes and levies have escalated Zambian fuel prices.
It is for this reason that some truckers found it fit to build extra reserve tanks on their vehicles to carry enough fuel to avoid refueling in Zambia. At the same time some airlines avoided fuelling in Zambia preferring instead to go to Zimbabwe and eventually they stopped coming to Zambia alltogether.
These are the issues that we expected ERB to discuss and resolve to ensure that posterity was better served in the interest of reducing the cost of doing business in Zambia.
That is why it is disappointing that instead of discussing corrupt oil purchases that have been exposed, the nation is treated to delusory price reductions which bear no relationship to the magnitude of the problem facing the country.
There is absolutely no relationship between the declining world oil prices and the quantum of adjustments being made by the board.
Crude oil prices have gone down from a high of US110-115 to as low as US$ 75-80. This is more than a third of the price. The trend started some 18 months ago and yet it is only now that in Zambia reductions are being introduced.
There is even a suspicion that this could be the result of sentiments expressed by UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who has demanded an explanation for the situation.
Zambians want full disclosure. They want to know the factors leading to high prices and how indeed the country was locked into daylight robbery. Those responsible must be brought to book.
It is not enough to tell us about the oil that is being refined at Indeni. We also want to know the pricing structure of the oil that is being trucked into the country by Trafigura and other companies.
We want transparency in procurement and distribution.
There is everything wrong that Trafigura imports oil into the country and then retails it as Puma which runs retail petrol stations around the country. There is something very wrong in this arrangement and the sooner the Government looks into it the better.