ARUA CITY. Fuel stations in Arua city have cried foul over the increasing number of cheap fuel dealers on the streets of the city hence decreasing their sales.
Almost every junction and a boda-boda stage within Arua city now has fuel being sold which makes the would be buyers avoid expensive fuel sold from fuel stations and go for cheap ones,
Mr Saddam Abdul, the manager of Don Fuel station located along Pakwach road in Arua city said the rise is as a result of Arua being at the border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the sellers smuggle the fuel from.
“Since it’s easy for the vendors to ride across the border into DRC on motorcycles using ungazetted routes, it’s easy for them to flood the market”, he said.
He also attributed it to reluctance by the URA law enforcement arm which he said is not doing enough yet they pay a lot of taxes annually to remain relevant in the business.
“Even if they execute arrests, there have been no deterring measures to curb the problem of smuggling and this is killing our business”, he added.
Though Abdul failed to make comparisons of how much they used to sale in a day then and now, he said daily sales have drastically fallen at all fuel pumps in the city.
A litre of petrol from the back market ranges from between shs3000-3500 while from the fuel stations the same goes at shs3800.
One of the fuel vendors who spoke to us on conditions of anonymity for fear of reprisals said “I have now abandoned my bodaboda work for this lucrative business of fuel, though we know that its illegal, but it brings more money than bodaboda, many of my friends have been arrested but we just have to be careful that we are not arrested”.
However Mr Vincent Omviti, another bodaboda rider said the major challenge of the locally sold fuel is that it is too light and burns so fast compared to the ones at the fuel stations, he encouraged his colleagues to abandon the black market which may kill their engines.
Mr Thiery Mungufeni, the chairman of umbrella organization of fuel stations owners in Arua said they have already petitioned URA to reign in the illegal fuel dealers in Arua city and the surrounding suburbs.
He said the situation, if not controlled, is a time bomb waiting to explode due to storage as dealers store it in the same room they sleep. He added that due to the current security situation in the country, he will not be surprised if unscrupulous people started making petrol bombs from the cheap fuel.
This is not a new phenomenon in Arua, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the group which was commonly known as OPEC boys controlled the fuel market in the area.
The OPEC Boys gained notoriety in the West Nile over the years for siphoning and reselling fuel from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of them grew quite wealthy through the lucrative fuel smuggling business, which became an integral part of the informal economy in the region.
But the rising fuel prices in the DRC meant that the business could not be sustained making the boys to disintegrate into other businesses.