Last week, executive members of oil marketing companies and bulk distributing companies held a press conference to tell their frustrations over the nonchalance of authorities to address the biggest threat to their survival, which is the illegal importation of petroleum products into the country.
The issue of illegal importation of the products has been with us for ages but has assumed alarming proportions since April, last year and if allowed can potentially destroy the businesses of the petroleum downstream sector.
What is happening currently is that some unscrupulous citizens, with the active connivance of some public officials, are importing the petroleum products without paying the appropriate taxes.
Impliedly, the smuggled products found their way onto the markets and are also sold cheaply, making it difficult for the OMCs to compete with them. These products are sold in the open from trucks sometimes parked on football fields, markets, lorry stations among others. And the practice prevails in towns in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Ashanti regions.
What we find baffling is the passive attitude of the authorities towards this criminal act and how it has been allowed to degenerate to the point where it is virtually killing the businesses of the OMCs, especially to the point where they are closing their fuel retail outlets because of very poor sales.
For the records, the OMCs are major contributors of tax revenue in this country. On the average, they pay approximately over GH¢500 million as petroleum taxes alone every month to the Ghana Revenue Authority which adds up to GH¢6 billion a year. This amount does not include their corporate taxes and that of their employees. Their contribution to direct and indirect employment has not even been considered.
We are, therefore, at a loss for words why our authorities will look on askance, while the nation allows unscrupulous smugglers and some public officials have a field day virtually walking over OMCs.
What is even more pathetic is that this canker can easily be nibbed in the bud within 48 hours if the authorities show a little commitment. This behaivour is inconsistent with the government’s pledge to protect the public purse.
Our conviction is based on the fact that the Tema port is the haven for these criminal activity. All the petroleum products which are smuggled into the country are imported through the Tema port and that makes it very easy to stop it.
Why the authorities look on unconcerned by our OMCs bleed to death is difficult to fathom. We must start a crusade to ensure that the investments of the OMCs are secured.
We cannot allow the goose that lays the golden eggs be destroyed nation wreckers and self-seeking individuals.