NOCMA, MERA warn against fuel vending and public misinformation

National Oil Company of Malawi Limited (NOCMA) and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) have warned against vending of fuel as well misinformation done by the public through social media that there is scarcity of fuel in the country.

Speaking at a press briefing that was held to assure Malawians of the availability of fuel in the country, NOCMA’s deputy chief executive officer, Helen Buluma maintained that the social media as well as mainstream media is creating public panic and chaos.

She rebuked the behaviour of some individuals who report non-factual statements of different events and situations in the country and asked the mainstream media, “the most important people in distributing information and providing the country with truth, to continue to inform and speak only the truth.”

Buluma and Kachaje during Monday’s press conference

For example, others have already reported that we have discussed in this meeting that fuel is scarce because of the Kiss Daniels show, which is already a misinformation,” she said.

She accused social media commentators of trying “to provide all reasons for the scarcity of fuel — saying “this type of reporting escalates the situation as people are misinformed instead of knowing the facts”.

“I, therefore, urge all of you to be responsible in your reporting and be responsible citizens,” said Buluma, while journalists to ask where need be and report facts as they are so that Malawians can know that they are being served by their institutions.

Over the weekend, the social media was awash with reports of fuel scarcity that were accompanied by pictures of long queues at filling stations. However, other commentators observed that some of the pictures were fake, saying they were taken way back during the fuel crisis under the administration of former President, late Bingu wa Mutharika.

Pictures of situation on the ground in Lilongwe over the weekend

However, the main stream media still reported and confirmed that long fuel queues resurfaced over the weekend, with The Nation newspaper highlighting that hard hit areas included the Capital City, Lilongwe; Mzuzu; Nkhata Bay; Nkhotakota and Salima.

Further reports indicated that the weekend scenario was compounded by some people who were filling up fuel in jerrycans and selling back to motorists exorbitantly between K2,500 and K3,000 per litre.

This forced NOCMA to issue a public notice disputing the reports of scarcity of fuel, saying it has adequate fuel stocks, both petrol and diesel in its Strategic Fuel Reserves across the country.

The statement from NOCMA said the company is procuring “more stocks in addition to those available from both Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Beira in Mozambique and went further to ask the general public to disregard the “false information circulating on social media to the effect that NOCMA’s petrol reserves have been depleted”.

At the press conference, Buluma also explained that despite having forex challenges in the country, as well as effects resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war, the country is able to procure fuel in adequate volumes and has not experienced any stock outs.

Present at the press conference was MERA chief executive officer, Henry Kachaje, who said they were aware of the sporadic shortage of fuel in the country but, together with NOCMA, they were working hand in hand to ensure a change by end of business on Monday, August 29 and assured the nation of the availability of fuel.

“There is an irresponsible behaviour that some people portray when they send false information that does not show humanity. It leads people into doing things under panic.

“I would, therefore, like to urge all Malawians to properly use their cellphones and avoid sending false reports to people as this disturbs people’s plans and therefore affects the flow of fuel as well.

“Let us be responsible people and exercise diligence,” he said, while discouraging the practice of buying fuel in jerrycans and selling it back to motorists, who also create panic amongst the public, who believe that there is indeed fuel scarcity.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Nyasa Times.

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