The management of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC, over the weekend revealed that the power company loses about N3bn annually to electricity theft.
The PHEDC made this known in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a stakeholders’ meeting.
Present at the forum were the Chairman, Board of Directors, PHEDC, Chief Amalate Turner, represented by the Special Adviser to Bayelsa Governor on Energy, Mr. Francis Ekio; Manager, Corporate Communications Department, John Onyi and Head, Glory City Main Integrated Business Centre, Mrs Ngozi Manafa, among others.
Speaking on the challenge of energy theft, Head of Legal Department, PHEDC, Mr. Udi Nsikaku, represented by Mr. Ephraim Munachiso, said the company had lost quantum revenue as a result of electricity theft.
Nsikaku said due to the ugly development, the PHEDC had declared war on electricity thieves, stressing that such thefts arose from hooking or direct tapping, meter bypass, meter manipulation, among others.
Quoting relevant laws against such acts, Nsikaku said perpetrators risked various jail terms between two years and 21 years.
He said it was incumbent upon the police and civilians to arrest perpetrators of the crime, stressing, however, that civilians do not have the power to detain culprits but to hand them over to the Police.
Nsikaku said the major consequence of energy theft was that over 25,000 residents of Bayelsa and more than 126 industries were denied electricity supply in the zone.
While seeking the cooperation of electricity consumers with the PHEDC to ensure seamless power supply, he, however, said that from available statistics, it was not profitable to operate in Bayelsa State as only a paltry 18 per cent of consumers pay for power consumption.
Turner confirmed that many consumers were not paying their bills and urged those stealing and vandalising PHEDC equipment to desist from such acts, saying that the menace had far reaching implications for power supply.
“Stealing and vandalism of equipment do not do any good. Consumers should discontinue this act in order to have seamless power supply.”
“Consumers should try to pay their bills and see if they will not have regular supply of electricity. The whole essence is to make power more available to the customers.”
He stated that the Bayelsa State Government was coming out with a law to punish anybody who engaged in unwholesome practices such as vandalism, tapping of light, meter manipulation, among others.
Turner urged the public to report any errant officials of the PHEDC, challenging the customers not to be docile.
He assured the consumers that the management was working to ensure that they were not cheated or manipulated by some criminally minded officials.
A safety manager with the company, Mr. Gabriel Egede, urged customers to be safety conscious and avoid engaging in unwholesome activities as such could lead to loss of lives.
According to him, no fewer than 557 fatalities had been recorded in the last four years because of vandalism, illegal connection and tampering with electricity equipment.