As part of efforts to curb the activities of energy thieves within its network, one of Nigeria’s electricity distribution companies, Ikeja Electric (IE), has embarked on a network wide operation of naming, shaming, and prosecuting persons involved in energy theft. This will be done through newspaper publications, other traditional and conventional media platforms.
This is in addition to the penalties and fines levied for revenue loss due to energy theft; arrests and prosecution of persons involved in meter tampering, bypass, shunting, illegal hook-ups and other forms of illegalities affecting the company.
Speaking on the exercise, the Company’s Head of Corporate Communications, Felix Ofulue explained that energy theft is a serious menace affecting the electricity industry in Nigeria.
In his words: “From our experience, while some responsible customers rightly continue to demand for improved power supply, a lot are unwilling to pay for such consumption irrespective of the amount billed. So in order to avoid payment, they embark on all forms of schemes to utilize electricity when available without paying a commensurate value. It has therefore become compelling for us as a business to curtail the menace by employing actions within the legal and regulatory framework available.
“Electricity theft is a major factor affecting the reduction of commercial and collection losses of Discos and this further affects their ability to provide improved services including the deployment of free Pre-paid meters to all customers, he noted.
Ofulue however, appealed to customers to desist from such criminal acts, as anyone caught, no matter how highly placed, will not be spared. The plea of ignorance of the fact of tampering/bypass by a customer will not be entertained.
“If anyone is in doubt therefore, they are advised to immediately engage their licensed electrical contractors to inspect the connections in their premises. Customers also need to be aware of the maximum penalty provision of 21 years imprisonment under the Miscellaneous Offences Act”, he said.
A Task Force comprising of security agents, local vigilantes and Landlord Associations has also been set up to commence immediate operations in most parts of the network including Oshodi, Shomolu, Ogudu, Magodo, Ikorodu, Ikeja and environs.
In order to effectively make this exercise work, the Company is embarking on a whistle-blowing policy which will enable members of the public to report any act of energy theft. An internationally acclaimed whistle-blowing service provider, Deloitte, has already been engaged to manage the policy.
Meanwhile, Port-Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company recently arrested two persons who had already been convicted of the crime of energy theft in Rivers State. There are also efforts currently going on to specifically legislate on this matter through the National Assembly as most of the DISCOs are seriously considering adopting the policy in their respective areas.