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Illicit Fuel Trade Hurting NW Economy

Several reasons are fueling this illicit trade (Pic courtesy CNN)

The sale of contraband petrol popularly called “fingue” or “zoazoa” in the Northwest region and Bamenda in particular has been strongly condemned by the Northwest Administration who blame it for adversely affecting the economy and the health of the sellers.

The Inspector General of the Region, Ivo Charles Makoge raised the worries during a sensitization meeting at the Governor’s office Wednesday June 14, 2017. He called on road side sellers to desist from the act as it adversely affects their health and the economy or the region.

The regional delegate of water and Energy for the NW, Antoine Bossong said there has been a drastic drop of sales at filling stations in Bamenda. He also added the illegal fuel damages vehicle engines and may cause cancer to those selling it. SONARA, the national refinery company he concluded is the sole body authorized to supply petrol and other related petroleum products in the country.

The Regional Chief of Service for Petroleum products Mboussop Aime Nasser announced that the state losses some 4 million FCFA daily from the illicit trade. The meeting ended with a promised to crack down on the illicit trade and bring to book those found guilty.

An attendant at Citizen Filling Stattion Ntarikon Bamenda confirmed to us their sales has drastically drop from an average of 2800 litre of per day to about 850 litres, hurting their business so heavily.

A drive through the streets of Bamenda would reveal the true extent of the trade with makeshift road side petrol retailers lined along all streets and with some just metres apart like at the Ade Metal Street moving into Travellers where there are over 20 retailers within a 250 metre stretch of the road.

“I don’t have a job, I have written several ‘concours’ and could not make it and am still trying to raise money for the ‘police concours’ and others which are ongoing” Anne Flore tells me as she hurriedly refilled a 5L container to serve a private vehicle that has stopped to refill. Almost all retailers I spoke to told me a similarly line, unemployment, making ends meet, trying to raise money or avoiding to remain idle. This reporter also noticed that many teachers from private and denominational schools have taken up the trade as the current Anglophone crisis continues.

Another aspect that fuels the trade is the cost of a litre of “fingue” which sells at between 450 and 500 FCFA in Bamenda and even less in Bali, Batibo, Widikum and Mamfe as you moves towards Nigeria as compared to a litre of “essence” at the filling station that sells at 639 FCFA in Bamenda and up to 690 FCFA in Mamfe.

“Why would I pay 650 frs for a litre of fuel that I can get same here for 500frs, how much do I earn” a buyer told me in front one of the roadside vendor’s stand at Randevous Junction. “its funny that these guys bribed their way to Bamenda, pay custom and security agents all along the way and still sell cheaper than the official prize of Cameroonian fuel” the same buyer continue. He ended by telling me that the high cost of petrol in Cameroon is because the common man buys for the army, administrator and top ranking government officials whohave free petrol bonds, free cars and free houses saying this only happens in a “banana republic” like Cameroon.

Fighting this illeal trade has proved a difficult one for the administration of the Northwest to handle in the midst of the ongoing Anglophone Crisis and the distrust of government by the general public.

By Mildred Sih in Bamenda

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