Economy

SCTM Gas Dealers Disappear With Gas From Buea After Failing To Inflate Price

It is alleged that the hoarded gas is being sold to dealers in the black market who then resell to consumers at prices higher than the government-fixed FCFA 6,500 per bottle

Buea inhabitants scrambling to buy SCTM cooking gas at Check Point on October 25, 2022

By Andrew Nsoseka

On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, hundreds of locals in Buea watched helplessly as a truck partly loaded with cooking gas drove off, out of site while they were still standing in line to buy.

Some had stood at the open air in front of the Molyko Onmisport Stadium where the gas was being retailed since morning, till 7:45 PM, but the agents of SCTM, the largest cooking gas dealer in Cameroon, told them that they were done selling the gas.

They said, though there was still gas in the truck, they were not selling again.

As those who could not get cooking gas grumbled while the truck rolled off, some express the wish to have been in an environment where they could just hold the agents of SCTM hostage and either force the agents to sell the gas to them, or just simply seize it for punishing them.

“They are lucky that we are in Buea. If you try to use force now, they will shoot and kill you. In Douala they cannot do this nonsense. How can they bring gas and carry it away when we have been standing here for one whole day just to buy gas?” an angry consumer fumed.

This left the people frustrated after they had queuing in the scorching sun for the larger part of the day. As it has become a norm, multitudes now crowd in front of the Molyko Stadium almost every day, hoping that a truck carrying bottles of cooking gas will show up and sell to them.

Several others even come to the open arena on days that no truck will is scheduled to come into Buea. Their hope is that one will magically arrive and they will be among the first to buy, almost at any price.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022, was one of those days a truck carrying the SCTM brand of gas was scheduled to arrive. As such, as early as 8am, lines had already been formed with hundreds of people waiting to buy cooking gas.

Due to scarcity of the cooking gas, and over 100 percent overnight increase in prices hiked by retailers, various authorities involved in the process decided to, henceforth, have cooking gas sold directly to consumers.

This was in a bid to curb the hyperinflation of prices. However, even the move seems not strong enough to curb the excesses of seller, even agents of the SCTM operators.

Attempt To Sell Above Market Price

After realising that more people needed gas, the SCTM operators who were in Buea on November 1 decided to try a hand in exploiting the vulnerable buyers.

After moving their truck to various positions, they, at one time, went into the playground secured by a solid fence and gate beside Bilingual Grammar School, Molyko.

There, they told the buyers that a bottle will henceforth sell at FCFA 7,000 instead of 6,600. The hundreds of buyers did not complain, and went on buying. But it seems someone tipped of an official in some capacity and the agents were rebuked.

Man walks away with empty gas bottle; behind him are hundreds of people struggling to get their bottles filled at Check Point, Buea, on October 25

This made them so angry that they refused to sell again. But the population did not give up. They stood waiting for the process to resume, whenever the agents threatened and stopped.

At one time, a mini-truck pulled up and was loaded with hundreds of cooking gas bottles. Some observers claimed that it was sold out to a retailer who will, in turn, sell to consumers at cut-throat prices, even though that had been forbidden.

Towards the evening hours, the SCTM officials again told the people that they were not selling to them. When the people refused to leave and demanded gas, the agents said they will only sell gas alongside the bottles at the cost of FCFA 30,000.

However, some of those who still preferred to buy at such conditions were denied a chance. Finally, the officials just drove off from the venue at about 7:45pm with bottles of gas in the long truck.

Asked why people are still unable to have cooking gas in their homes after loud promises from the government about the availability of cooking gas, the Fako Divisional Delegate of Trade and Commerce, Godfred Tabi, said demand is more than supply, reason why everyone cannot get cooking gas.

He, however, dropped the call and could not explain why officials of his delegation were not there to ensure that the cooking gas brought for the people was sold to them, and at the official price.

He, however, just said the case of Buea is better than that of Limbe, where the people have gone for several weeks without cooking gas. He also claimed that the gas that was hoarded in Buea was sold to consumers in Limbe.

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