I prefer buying fuel for my car in the evenings, on my way home from work. This is a convenient arrangement that saves me valuable time that might have otherwise been spent in the morning in a short but nevertheless irritating queue at the gas station. On weekends I buy fuel on Sunday evening. Last Sunday I sensed a serious fuel shortage when, at about five different gas stations, I was told that there was no fuel. Luckily I had enough gas to take me to work and back home on the following day. The tough times began when that small reservoir was depleted.
Last week Accra experienced an acute fuel shortage that lasted from Monday till late Thursday evening. Between that period, cars ground to a halt in the middle of traffic, cab drivers hiked their prices, and many professionals and other workers had to park their cars overnight at gas stations with the hope of being among the first to be served when any fuel supply arrived. To get to work, many people had to rely on taxis, which are a rather financially painful alternative if one’s commute to work is a lengthy one.
The fuel shortage also affected taxi and other commercial drivers tremendously. Many commercial drivers had to park their cars and then walk to the gas stations, hoping to fill the empty gallons which they carried with enough fuel to perhaps move their cars from wherever they had stalled, or just to buy enough fuel to help make some profit on the many stranded Ghanaians on the road. There were long queues of vehicles at gas stations that had some fuel. Those stations that didn’t have any gas station were obviously deserted, with many of them displaying hand-written cardboard signs that said: “NO PETROL” or “NO FUEL.”
Representatives of the government say that inclement weather is responsible for the fuel shortage. Apparently the vessels that bring the petroleum supplies to the country were caught up at sea by severe storms, hence the need spend a few more days at sea to ride out the storms, literally. In response to the complaints by owners of gas stations that the oil marketing companies that deliver supplies to them have not been able to meet their demands, the government explained that many of those marketing companies heavily owed Tema Oil Refinery (their biggest supplier) hence their inability to receive any more supplies on credit.
By 6pm on Thursday, many gas stations had begun receiving the new supplies, and the queues began dwindling. By Friday afternoon things had gotten back to normal, and everyone’s attention went back to the arrival of US President, Barack Obama, in the country later that evening.