Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOS) lost equipment worth over N500 million to electricity equipment vandals in the first ten months of 2017, stakeholders in the sector have revealed.
While the head, Technical Services of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Saidu Abdullahi, revealed at the maiden National Power Safety Summit held in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state at the weekend, that his company spent the sum of N147 million to replace vandalised cables and other ancillary equipment in 2017 so far, the Acting Chief Executive of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), Kingsley Achife, disclosed that the DISCO lost more than N100 million to vandals within the first ten months of 2017.
This was as Accrah Tubokeyi Johnbul, who is in charge of Yola Electricity Distribution Company, also told participants that his organisation lost 35 per cent of its infrastructure to vandalism and Boko Haram activities within the same period.
Achife, who spoke on the topic “Vandalism: Sabotaging the national power sector,” said that his organisation’s security challenges made it to lose more than N100 million to electricity equipment vandals in the 10 months of 2017.
He said that vandals often target transformers, feeder pillars transformer oil and conductors, adding that the trend is a global challenge. He noted that the PHEDC lost 129 transformer and 381 metres to theft between January and October 2017.
Meanwhile Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who also addressed the gathering, tasked DISCOS to work closely with State Houses of Assembly and the Chief Justices of the States for effective laws and prosecution of vandals at the State High Courts and the Magistrate courts.
He said the National Assembly had in 2005 passed the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA) to create an enabling environment for the operations of DISCOS and GENCOS, adding however that cases of thefts being experienced are issues that can be dealt with by State courts. He also asked the DISCOS to ensure that their equipments are kept in safe areas, adding that diligent prosecution of cases of theft and vandalism would deter criminals from going for electricity equipment.
He further stated that the challenges being faced by electricity companies in the area of vandalism, was due to the fact that power equipment are not easily branded making it difficult for the Police to help when the vandals struck.
According to him, the fact that some electricity equipment are being recycled into other items coupled with the large scale government projects provide easy markets to the vandals.
“It is difficult to identify the transformers and it is difficult for the police to help when they don’t know what to look for. Even when we paint some of these things, they find ways to clean the paints,” he said adding that stakeholders must come together to fight the opportunistic thieves and organised crime syndicates.
He enumerated a number of measures put in place to deter vandals to include covering underground cables with concrete, installing anti climbing devices and installation of transformers in busy areas adding that the sector needed laws that would target those who vandalise power assets.
According to him, Nigeria would need some strident laws as they have in Zimbabwe where vandals get a minimum of 10 years jail term for vandalising electricity infrastructure.