Mbarara City – Western Uganda’s biggest urban center may be full of fuel stations but many of these are operating outside the scope and authorization of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development which issues Petroleum retail licenses.
In Mbarara City alone, it is hard to drive for five kilometers on any road leading to the City center without passing by an operating fuel station. Big, medium, and small fuel stations all serve different people – most of whom bother not to think about their operation’s legal status.
For example, in a distance of fewer than 15 Kilometres (between the Mbarara Post office and Igongo Cultural Centre), there are at least ten fuel stations. This accounts for at least 50 percent of the licensed petroleum retail outlets in Mbarara as per the Ministry of Energy records. The Ministry’s list of legally operating fuel stations considers those in present-day areas of Rwampara district, Mbarara district, Mbarara City all under one jurisdiction.
Mbarara’s Licensed Petroleum Retail Outlets Named
According to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda had only 1030 licensed petroleum retail outlets as of February 2020.
Under section 17 (2) of the Petroleum Supply Act; No person is allowed to perform petroleum supply operations without having obtained a petroleum operating license. This license, which is issued by the Ministry of energy is valid for five years but can be renewed upon successful application by the operator.
The listed licensed fuel stations in Mbarara are; Hass Mbarara, Kobil (former Delta), Kobil Uganda Limited, Gaz – Mbarara 1 and 2, PECAMEGA, Petro Uganda, Petrocity, Stabex – Kafunjo, Gapco – Total, Total Lakeview, Total Mbarara High-street, Total Mbarara, Total Ruti, Tusu – Nyamityobora, Shell Mbarara, Shell Mbarara Highway, Shell Kakiika, Apojust – Ruti, and Global Super Oils.
In Isingiro, only Eddies Service Station – Kikagate appears on the Ministry’s list while Ntungamo has only 11, Ibanda has 10, Bushenyi has 8, and Mount Meru Petroleum – Rushere is the only licensed petroleum retail outlet in Kiruhura district.
Could this trend be a result of ignorance among proprietors of fuel stations? Or incompetence in the Ministry of Energy or at other standards enforcement bodies – including Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and Mbarara City Council. As expected, the new fuel stations that are about a year old are not on this list but they are also very few.
All our inquiries on this matter went unanswered at six fuel stations in Mbarara City that are not on the list of the licensed ones as managers referred us to their bosses who they never mentioned by name or availed their contacts.
Many questions remain unanswered whether the unlicensed fuel stations sell standard products but Uganda still grapples with substandard fuel on the market. The quality is usually affected by the adulteration of fuel before it is sold to unsuspecting consumers.
According to UNBS, Diesel is the most adulterated fuel in Uganda, and this affects millions of people since it is the most used.
The Ministry of Energy estimates Uganda’s fuel consumption to be over 162 million litres per month, with diesel average consumption of at least 50 million litres per month.
Cause For Worry
Drivers and motorcyclists in Uganda have often cried fouls due to bad fuel consumed from different stations. Could the unlicensed stations be responsible for the sale of substandard or bad fuel? Maybe, maybe not. This calls for extra caution.
According to NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing — an international trade coalition representing thousands of stores and suppliers bad fuel in your car and motorcycle causes difficulty in starting up, rough idling, pinging sounds, stalling, check engine light illumination, reduced fuel economy, higher emissions among other problems.
These are costly to fix but more caution on where you buy fuel from might save the day.
By Cliff Abenaitwe