As Sierra Leone’s fuel shortage continues to bite, taxi drivers in the capital, Freetown, are increasing turning to the black market for their petrol supply.
The government fixed the official price of fuel at 21,000 Leones in March, almost double that of last year, but long queues at petrol stations means drivers often do not manage to buy any.
‘If I come to the petrol station and there’s no fuel, I will go to the black market, the Jebu, where people sell it in bottles. On the black market, they sell it for 30,000 Leones for one litre,’ says motorcycle taxi driver, Modiboh Jebbo.
His anger at having to buy on the black market is echoed by other drivers like Alhaji Mohammed Kamara who says petrol for a day’s work will cost him 105,000 Leones, adding that there are other costs as well.
‘I have to pay my boss 80,000 (to rent the bike). I also have to eat and maintain it, change the oil, so I have to do all these things. So if we have this fuel crisis, it affects us,’ he says.
And it is not only motorists and the economy that are taking a knock. Kamara says the cost of fuel is so high, he has to increase the price for his passengers.
As taxi drivers increasingly turn to the black market and its exorbitant prices, people are struggling to survive and there are fears of more social unrest.
In August, at least 25 people died in Freetown when protests against fuel and food prices turned violent.