Ninety-nine days for a thief, one day for the owner. Employees of one of the popular domestic gas distribution companies working in a depot at the Nsam neighbourhood in Yaounde were last March 13 caught hands-in-pocket in a gas-trafficking act. One of them is an official of the company while the other is a simple employee. In effect, the two are scapegoats. According to the Head of the National Brigade Control and Fraud Tracking, more than ten people were in operation when the police arrived, but only two were arrested after the rest took to their heels.
The group, headed by the regional official of gas for the Centre, South and East, had set up a sophisticated mechanism which enables them to reduce the quantity of gas by transferring some of it from one bottle to the other. For how long this has gone, is a different issue, but this devilish operation was exposed following persistent complains from households which pushed authorities in charge of control brigade to initiate an investigation. The unmasking of this activity has come to confirm the suspicion from consumers that the content of cooking gas is being meddled with. Many households complained of consuming 12-kilogramme bottle gas in almost less than two weeks from the date of purchase. The Yaounde incident is not the first. A similar case was recorded in Douala last year. In each case the suspects are made to appear before the law courts.
The gas theft, through the interference in the quantity bottled for sell, is just a tip of the iceberg. The whole issue has to do with cheating in a bid to make fast money and get rich even though this lofty goal might not always be achieved. The art of cheating; because this has really become an art, cuts across almost all spectrums of life. Vehicle owners will better tell the story of what happens at fuel pumping stations. Fuel brought from the refinery is mixed with kerosene to increase quantity and make more money. Authorities of the Ministry of Energy and Water have, on several occasions, sealed pumping stations after unearthing the theft. In the same manner, builders will ably relate how sand, concrete and stone suppliers deal with them.
Basic necessities like bread are tampered with. A loaf initially meant for two or three persons is unable to satisfy one person. Our markets are full of fake measurements. The scale with the needle-like indicator which has been banned by the Ministry of Trade is very much in use. Even the empty tins of tomato, milt and other products used as measurements are pressed from under in a bid to reduce the quantity of the product on sell. Some of the greatest cheaters are people living along highways. A bucket of cocoyam you see full of the product is not full in the real sense of the word. Time is taken to carefully arrange the crops in a way that not much of it gets in. Attempt to shake the bucket before buying it and you will certainly meet with very stiff resistance. The same thing goes with oranges and other fruits. Passengers passing through areas where coconut is sold will tell another story. The dishes in which the nuts are packed look full but underneath are dry leaves and other particles.
Cheating has, in the real sense, become part of life with people going as far as changing their own dates of birth. Cases abound where the difference in age between the father for instance and the child is barely five years. The situation is really bad and presently requires very drastic measures. The first measure for domestic gas, for example would be to change the existing opaque bottles either with transparent ones or fabricate bottles with meters clearly indicating the quantity of gas inside. Or could it be possible to pump gas in filling stations like is the case with fuel? Many other questions and solutions abound but the best solution is the will to do it.