Govt defies calls to apologize over Saudi Arabia oil deal

Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa has insisted that government did not mislead Zambians on the Saudi Arabia oil deal and there is no need to apologize to citizens.

He was responding to a question in Parliament from UPND Bweengwa MP Kasauto Michelo who advised PF to apologize to the Zambian people for misleading them on the Saudi Arabia oil deal where government had indicated that fuel prices would reduce once it commences purchasing fuel from that country.

“Madam Speaker, my answer is no! I repeat my answer is no! We have not misled this nation in any way, I thank you,” Nkhuwa said.

Earlier Nkhuwa explained the factors that led to an upward adjustment to fuel prices, and the measures government would take to ensure a reduction.

This was in the wake of heightened public confusion on why the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) had hiked fuel pump prices after issuing remarks quelling speculation one week prior.

“Our answer: on 2nd October, 2018, the Energy Regulation Board adjusted the wholesale and pump prices of petroleum products. The adjustment as necessitated by one; increases in the prices of crude oil on the international market; two; increases in prices of finished products on the international markets; three; depreciation of the kwacha against the United States dollar. In (b); the government is constantly looking for means of reducing fuel prices. However, government cannot prevent the prices of petroleum products as these are determined by the producers of petroleum products. I further wish to state that once the international oil markets are revised downwards, the government will pass on the benefits to the consumers. In (c); the statement, which was made on the 27th of September, 2018, was specific to the following questions: ‘Is ERB going to increase prices at midnight in view of the depreciation of the Kwacha;’, the days in question were 26th and 27th September, 2018, respectively,” Nkhuwa narrated.

“The position given was consistent with ERB position at the time as no board meeting had yet been held to consider pricing of fuel. Pricing of fuel can only be based on a board meeting that has taken place. The position given helps to avert fuel shortages that could have arisen on account of impasse strike as rumours had persisted for more than two days and anxiety had gripped some fuel consumers. Subsequently, a board meeting was held on Tuesday 2nd October, 2018, and the board made a decision to increase the fuel prices. A decision could not be [made] previously because it is never automatic that prices will go up always. Prices can remain unchanged, be reduced or be increased; that has happened many times before. Between 26th and 27th September, 2018, social media was awash with rumours of price increase. First, on the 26th then on the 27th September, 2018.”

He added that government did not take any disciplinary action against the ERB as the board did not mislead anyone.

“This was followed by a number of queries we had regarding the rumours on the 27th September, 2018, even after consultations, management decided that a consultation be made immediately regarding queues that had started forming at civic stations in Lusaka and other parts of the country in light of the rumours. Further, media queries were received; a sentence was developed and posted on the Energy Regulations Board’s old official Facebook [page]. In (d); the position was in line with established procedure of the Energy Regulations Board. The position taken was in respect to the specific timeframe, which changed after the board decision. No disciplinary action was, therefore, taken in view of the above. Energy Regulation Board management take the necessary precautions for the need to be more cautious in their issuance of their future statements,” explained Nkhuwa.

         

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