Retailers dealing in Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) have been given an ultimatum of up to December 31, 2019 to streamline their operations by way of getting licensed or risk having their enterprises closed.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) Secretary General (SG), Stephen Mutoro revealed that the decision followed the recent accidents attributed to explosion of gas cylinders and lack of sensitisation of users leaving them without clear instructions on safety precautions.
Mutoro said he was aware of the concerns raised by the consumers that the ultimatum could be used by security officers to extort money from members of the public but pointed out that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) have been put on red alert.
He re-assured consumers that COFEK would strive to protect them against infiltration of the market by cheap and poorly packaged products which exposes them to great danger but also ensure that the prices were not inflated.
Speaking on Tuesday morning during an interview with the media at a Kisumu hotel, the SG cautioned the public to watch out for suspicious gas cylinders and return the same to relevant dealers so that come December 31, 2019 they do not get locked out and be compensated.
Mutoro also addressed himself to the concern that multinational companies could dominate the market and lock out small traders but COFEK was out to ensure a level playing field so that the move does not hurt the local economy and kill their businesses.
He asked local traders to strictly abide by the new rules and regulations aimed at streamlining the business while guarding against unnecessary accidents that could culminate into loss of lives.
Mutoro admitted that the time given for the traders to abide by the rules was short and that he was aware that gas and cylinder prices would increase as some unscrupulous dealers could take advantage of the situation to exploit unsuspecting consumers.
The SG therefore called on the Inspector General of Police to put his officers on alert to stop LPG merchants from extorting money from the small scale traders and consumers across the country.
The Secretary General for Energy Dealers Association, Kepher Odongo appealed to the government to extend by six months the period within which the dealers were expected to comply in order not to lock out some traders.
Odongo said his greatest fear was that the licensing process took too long since it has to go through a committee before they were granted the important document.
“If implemented by December 31, 2019 then 15, 000 jobs will have been lost. This is why government intervention albeit late should be done fast to guard against this unfortunate eventuality,” he explained.
Petroleum Officer, Jemimah Muli of Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) disclosed that they would collaborate with Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), National Police Service and Kisumu County Government to ensure smooth implementation.
Muli further decried the accumulation of debts which led to collapse of cylinder companies coupled with the ever mushrooming of illegal LPG filling plants.
She singled out non standardisation of the valves, reluctance of investors that culminated to low investment in the LPG businesses thus low capital.
James Kilonzo who represented the Director General of EPRA, Pavel Oimeke disclosed that 85% of Kenyans use firewood as the main source of energy which led to high cases of the respiratory complications and lung cancer attributed to 21, 000 deaths annually.
By Joseph Ouma/Rahab Adhiambo/Fredrick Ajok