An acute shortage of petrol has hit Mpeketoni Town in Lamu West Sub-County for the last two weeks.
Boda boda riders and motorists operating in the town, recognised as the agricultural and business hub of the region, are the worst affected.
Transport has been heavily hindered in the town, where most movement is by motorcycles and vehicles.
Businesses like flour mills have also suffered due to the petrol shortage since most require the fuel to function.
The Business Daily established that boda bodas, taxis and other transport vehicles have had to hike fares since the little available petrol is costing them dearly.
Fuel station owners in Mpeketoni interviewed by the Business Daily on Friday blamed the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for poor pricing of the commodity.
They said fuel is priced expensively at the depots yet the ERC requires them to sell at low prices, hardly making any profits.
Mr Githuku Kimani, who owns the Lamu Filling Station in Mpeketoni, said they were making losses and had opted not to sell the commodity at the moment until the ERC controls the petrol prices.
Sh99 a litre
“We are not happy with the manner in which the ERC is dealing with the matter. They insist that we cannot sell petrol beyond Sh99 per litre. We buy a litre of petrol at Sh94 from the depots in Mombasa.
“The ERC makes us sell at the government price of Sh 97.75 a litre. We have to incur the transport costs. Also bear in mind that a good amount of the fuel is lost to evaporation on the way and by the time we receive what’s remaining, selling it as the ERC directs leaves us with nothing in profit.
“This is private business and we can’t operate it through losses,” said Mr Kimani.
Mr Kimani blamed the ERC for not regulating petrol prices right from the depots in Mombasa.
He said as businessmen, there was nothing they could do to change the situation.
He said: “We don’t see any profit and its better we keep off the petrol business until ERC considers our complaints and does something.
“If they want us to sell at less than Sh99 a litre, then there is need to regulate prices right from the depots so that every side is happy.”
Boda boda operators, taxi dealers and motorists interviewed in Mpeketoni said con middlemen had already taken over the sale of the commodity.
They said a litre of petrol, normally sold at Sh98 or Sh110, now costs between Sh200 and Sh260. Even then, they added, the fuel is rarely available.
They called on the government, through the ERC, to intervene and have the issue resolved promptly.
“We are surprised that there is basically no petrol in any given petrol station here in Mpeketoni and we feel this is done intentionally by the petrol owners.
“We are now forced to buy from middlemen who are thoroughly fleecing us. A litre of petrol has gone from Sh97 to Sh250 or even Sh260.
“And even then, the petrol is rarely found and you really have to go round and round to get a little,” said Mr James Njuguna Komu, a motorist.
Most boda boda operators in Mpeketoni have now been forced to increase fares to be able to deal with the shortage.
Many say business is low since they have lost customers due to the hiked fares.
“We need an urgent solution. Sometimes we have to go up to Mokowe Town which is over 60 kilometers away in search of petrol. Some of our customers can’t seem to understand why they have to pay for instance Sh100 to a place where they initially paid Sh 50,” said Mr Maurice Kariuki, a boda boda operator.
Mpeketoni has four fuel stations, all of which are not selling petrol at the moment.