Often times, electricity consumers go on and on lamenting about high and outrageous their monthly utility bills are especially those affected by the estimated billing system of their various DisCos. Seldom do they sit to ponder on what role they play in making the situation worse. Consumers often turn a blind eye on issues relating to electricity theft and corruption as long as they are not directly involved in the act, not knowing that it directly affects how much they get billed on monthly basis.
Electricity theft is the CRIMINAL act of using electricity without paying for it. In this part of the world, electricity theft usually involves bypassing the prepaid meters and unlawfully connecting directly to the distribution source. Hence, rendering the metering process null. On one hand, this unfortunate common-practice among Nigerians is a damning indictment of our society’s perception of power but on the other, it can be argued that consumers are simply playing the hands that they’ve been dealt. Whatever perspective you choose to adopt, it is clear that electricity theft is ethical, morally and most importantly, legally wrong.
Here’s a little explanation on how electricity theft affects the consumer:
When electricity theft occurs, which is usually an unregistered/metered customer getting supply by tapping from the power source of another consumer who is registered, the utility company does not recognise that bypass, rather they bill the registered consumer for the consumption because all they see from their end is an increased consumption on the side of the consumer.
If we look at the bigger picture, it starts to become clear that electricity theft has no winners and sooner or later, all stakeholders (including the consumers of power) will pay the price for these criminal acts.
The Miscellaneous Offences Act (MOA) contains provisions dealing with tampering with electrical equipment. Section 9 of the Act provides that ‘any person who unlawfully disconnects, removes, damages, tampers, meddles with or in any way whatsoever interferes with any plant, works, cables, wire or assembly of wires designed or used for transforming or converting electricity shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life.’
Although the EPSRA by S.94 (3) supersedes all other law(s), nothing stops the courts from using its discretionary powers to enforce the MOA which contains stiffer penalties for electricity theft offences.
If these stiff punishments are not enough to deter electricity thieves, it is also important we consider the long-term effect of these actions.
It’s easy for consumers to look away and assume that these losses do not necessarily affect them but in reality, these losses accrued by bypass are been shared by the service providers to all registered customers on the particular feeder covering that area.
Although I gleefully admit that the power sector still has giant strides to make before we can truly care about their plight, but from an ethical standpoint we must begin to change our perspective of electricity theft and logically, we must realise that in the long run there really aren’t any winners when it comes to electricity theft.