The Nigerian power sector remains a problem to everyone, it remains unreliable to supply sufficient power. This is characterized by frequent power outages and continuous load shedding (including technical issues). This inefficiency is caused by many factors, and one of it is “electricity theft and vandalism”.
Electricity theft is the deliberate and willful act of stealing electric power while electricity vandalism is the deliberate act of damaging property or equipment used in the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity. Both acts are deliberate, cost various DisCos millions of Naira and should be a concern to you and me as electricity consumers.
The Impact of Electricity Theft and Vandalism so far…
Electricity theft and vandalism affects each and every one of us directly or indirectly. Its major impact on us (electricity customers and utility company) include:
Loss of Property & Revenue To DisCOs:
Electricity theft and vandalism cause DisCos to lose huge sums of money each year. Between January and September last year, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) lost equipment worth ₦500 million to vandalism.
AEDC is not alone with reports about the twin evil of Electricity Theft and Vandalism; Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JEDC) also reported that it was only about to collect roughly ₦1 Billion out of ₦4.5 billion worth of electricity distributed. It was reported by JEDC’s communication director, Mr. Elijah Friday. He also said about 100 transformers had been vandalized in a space of 2 months.
Inefficiency in Power Distribution
The inability of DisCos to successfully collect revenue from its customers hamper their ability to supply power. Due to shortage in revenue, DisCos are not able to pay GenCos regularly who in turn are unable to pay for the gas supplied for generating power.
The payment and collection circle in the power sector is large but inadequate collection by one of its components reduces the overall efficiency of the whole system.
Higher Electricity Bills
Yes, Electricity theft and Vandalism have caused a DisCo to increase its bills. Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) came up with this methodology to combat electricity theft. The company’s CEO, Mr. Adeoye Fadeyibi, revealed this secret while speaking at a town hall meeting with residents of Ibeju Lekki.
He told residents that the EKEDC have an approved methodology for billing customers without functioning meters. They (EKEDC) take electricity readings directly from the transformers and share it equally.
Will other DisCos follow this approach?
Continuous electricity theft and vandalism is causing the Nigerian economy huge sums of money. It is one the leading causes of insufficient power supply listed by DisCos. It disrupts business operations, various means of livelihood and causes the government & the utility companies to spend huge sums replacing damaged property or equipment. It also reduces Nigeria’s appeal to foreign investors who have to go over their budget providing alternative sources of power.
Combating Electricity Theft and Vandalism
The issue of electricity theft and vandalism is one of the leading causes of insufficient power supply in the country. All DisCos in the country list it as a major reason for shortage in revenue from customers. EKEDC developed a way to combat it but another DisCo developed another way to battle it.
Kaduna Electric inaugurated an enforcement team to tackle electricity theft in its jurisdiction. The enforcement team is tasked with education its customers on the dangers of electricity theft. It is also an opportunity for the DisCo to get closer to its customers and align them with their objectives.
The government through various parastatals has contributed in combating the twin evil of electricity theft and vandalism:
- The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) reviewed penalties for electricity theft last year. According to a circular titled “Order on Unauthorized Access, Meter Tampering and By-Pass Order: NERC/REG/41/2017” signed by the Vice Chairman of NERC, Sanusi Garba and Commissioner, Legal, Licensing & Compliance Dafe Akpenye, DisCos are authorized to disconnect unauthorized distribution to network.
According to the commission, single phase residential customers caught by passing their meters will pay a reconnection fee of ₦50,000 the first time and ₦75,000 for subsequent incidents. Three phase residential customer violators will pay ₦100,000 for the first time and ₦150,000 for subsequent violations. The same fees apply to commercial customers.
- The Nigerian Police have joined the fight by setting up an Anti-Electricity Vandalism Response Squad (AEVRS).
- The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is partnering with various DisCos to combat electricity vandalism. They currently working with DisCos and have increased surveillance around various electricity installations in the country in a bid to curb electricity vandalism.
- Nigeria’s House of representative is putting together a legislation that will criminalize electricity theft in the country and provide for stiffer penalty against the perpetrators of the act. This followed concerns that vandals had been left for too long to carry out their nefarious activities without sanctions being meted out.
Some of these efforts have been successful. Two persons were sentenced to two years imprisonment (with hard labour) after they were found guilty of vandalizing a transformer at Oshodi. They were apprehended by NSCDC who told the court that they stole cables valued at ₦500,000.
Combating electricity theft and vandalism is a collective effort. Each and every one of us must be involved in reporting suspicious activities. We have to provide assistance by way of real-time intelligence and information to the security agencies whenever we notice anything suspicious. Criminals would be much more unlikely to indulge in electricity theft and vandalism when they realize they can’t get away with it. Community leaders should consider it a patriotic duty to join in the fight against electricity theft and vandalism.