Fuel: Street traders rare to find in Douala
Fuel stored in plastic bottles, displayed at a sales point ©Minee

Street traders rare to find in Douala

The low supply, rising prices and poor quality of these petroleum products are just some of the reasons why motorists are buying less Fuel traders.

Geraldine F, with a handmade funnel in hand is chasing bike riders this morning of 29th November 2023 at the Rail roundabout in Bonaberi, in the Douala 4 municipality. She moves up and down asking if they needed fuel.

Behind her, is a table with filled plastic bottles of fuel. Few months back, bike riders and taxi drivers crowded this place to refill their tanks. But with the limited supply of the fuel in recent months, the business has been unsatisfactory. «It is difficult now. Fuel does not come as it used to Fuel traders. We are sometimes forced to buy at the local filling stations. We buy a 40 litters container at 30.000 F Cfa and at times for 32.000 F Cfa. That is why we sell a litter for 750 F Cfa instead of 650 F Cfa, to gain at least a 1 000 F Cfa per gallon», explains Geraldine.

As a result of the increase in the prize, some of her customers have left. George, a commercial bike rider, used to be a regular customer. «The quality of the fuel sold on roadside is not good because of the way it is conserved(…) Due to the increase in its cost price, I now prefer to go to the filling station », he said.

Fidelis, another bike rider has gone through hell because of the illicit fuel. «I discovered that I started having issues with my bike. I went to the mechanic and he told me it’s the wrong fuel that I was using», he testifies.

 Though his colleagues have chosen to run from it, Emmanuel Tembi, a taxi driver insists on consuming because it is most often the only one available to him Fuel traders. «Sometimes we runout of fuel and that is the only option. Since we have to work, we just buy », he indicates.

After weighing, the troubles that comes with selling the fuel amongst which are constant fights with police men and obvious imprisonment, Celestine, a mother of five, prefers now to operate a mobile money sales point Fuel traders. « When I used to sell it, my one-year-old son who was with me, always fell sick because of the strong smell the fuel has», says Celestine.

According to Olivier Dimala, an economist, the business deprives the state from revenue which is allocated to those who are involved in the distribution of fuel in the country. «In terms of state revenue, there are certain taxes that are placed on the regular commercialization of fuel, which is not collected when fuel is being sold in an illicit manner», he expounds.

However, on this illicit selling, the law No. 2016/007 of July 12, 2016, relating to the Penal code punishes with imprisonment from six days two six month, those who illegally use any inflammable or explosive matter. « When it comes to offences, that is what we call a dangerous activity Fuel traders. These guys selling fuel along the road, that is a dangerous activity because it can burn. Normally the police and gendarmes are supposed to take care of that. If they can’t do it, they are supposed to obtain permission from the state counsel to stop the commission of the dangerous activity», argues Barrister Achu Julius Ngu Tabe, member of the Cameroon Bar.

As part of the fight against fraud involving petroleum products, the ministry of Water and energy (Minee) has posted on its Facebook page that it seized 5 245 litters of fraudulent fuel between the 15 to 17 November 2023 in the East region. However, in a circular dated 21 March 2023, the same ministry, in response to fuel shortages at service stations, exceptionally authorised the sale of fuel to users in cans and other containers for domestic use Fuel traders.

Rex Afon (Intern)

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