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Premix Cartel Swindles Fishermen
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The premix fuel stealing and diversion cartel, which used to operate under the cover of darkness in the mid 2000s, especially in the Central and Western Regions, has re-surfaced.

Underground investigations conducted by The Chronicle in Shama, Sekondi and Takoradi indicate that the cartel is wreaking havoc on the already impoverished fishermen by selling the commodity at exorbitant prices to them.

Pieces of information pieced together by this reporter indicate that the cartel has struck a deal with some of the Landing Beach Committee (LBC) members who divert the heavily subsidized products to them for re-sale to the fishermen at exorbitant prices.

Though the District Chief Executive for Shama in the Western Region, Mr. Enoch Kojo Appiah has confirmed the existence of the cartel to The Chronicle and vowed to pursue them, the Shama Vice Constituency Chairman of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr. Joseph Nunoo, who is also the chairman Abuesi Premix Committee, denied that the products were being diverted. He contended that there was no truth in allegation being peddled around.

The Chronicle investigations, however, established that a barrel of the premix fuel which goes for between GHc370 and GHc400 is being sold to fishermen at cut-throat price of GHc700 by the middlemen (cartel).

The middle men buy the products between GHc450 and GHc500 a drum from the premix committee and add their margins, before re-selling them to the poor fishermen at GHc700. This illegal business transaction, this reporter gathered, is very common at Shama Bentil, Amianom and Abuesi.

Some of the industry players who spoke to The Chronicle regretted the development, noting that it was to prevent the diversion and cheating of the fishermen that the government decided to establish Landing Beach Committee to oversee the sale of the products, but the process is being abused.

At the Amianon for instance, the DCE, Enoch Appia was compelled to dissolve the LBC after discovering that proceeds from the sale of the premix fuel were being given out as loans to the members of the committee. Some of the LBC members were also behind the diversion of the premix to the middlemen.

A fisherman who did not want to be named told The Chronicle that he has three canoes, but when the premix comes, he is only given a drum to buy at the official price. If he wants more, he has to fall on the middle men whose astronomical prices are killing the fishing industry.

“It is a cartel the LBC is operating here and we have complained and complained yet no action has been taken’, he said.

Another fisherman also told this reporter that: “Since you have to ‘work and eat’ we have no other option than to run to the middlemen to buy the premix”.

The Chronicle investigation established that though the LBCs are supposed to be chaired by the fishermen, politicians have taken over and are running the show, hence the corruption that had docked the sale of the products to the fishermen.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development had in a press release issued sometime ago, said it was putting measures in place to ensure efficiency in the distribution of premix fuel to fishermen in the country.

“In that regard, the Ministry has contracted Kwame Asante & Associates, an Accounting and Management Consulting firm, to assess the performance of the National Premix and the Landing Beach Committees (LBCs).

“The exercise is also to ensure that the commodity was sold at approved prices and ensure that individuals and groups who were not in the fishing industry do not get involved in the distribution of the product.”

The Sector Minister, Ms. Hanny-Sherry Ayitey, who issued the statement, said the move had become necessary due to numerous complaints about the delivery of premix fuel to local fishing communities.

According to her, the industry had been confronted with many challenges, including diversion of fuel to unauthorized recipients and sale of fuel at prices above recommended prices with adverse impact on the operations of fishermen and loss of revenue to government. She said government hoped to revamp the fishing industry, improve the livelihood of fishermen and promote development programmes at the communities.

She noted that it was for those reasons that government, in enacting the premix fuel laws, included 50% revenue retention to the landing beach committees to develop the community after the settling the cost of the supply.

She expressed happiness that some of the landing beaches had initiated some projects such as boreholes, streetlights, police stations and maternity wards from the profits made from the sales of premix fuel.

But despite these assurances from the minister, the diversion of the products for private gains has become the order of the day.
Source: The Chronicle

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