It started with what has now been rated the worst sea erosion to ever hit and almost robbed the impoverished township of West Point of its existence, destroying dozens of zinc shacks and a few concrete buildings and leaving hundreds homeless.
Then in early September, the reach of the erosion washed away the only paved road to the township, destroyed several Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) light poles and plunged that densely populated community into darkness for over three weeks, leaving residents at the mercy of marauding hard-core township criminals.
Suddenly, a week ago, hundreds of West Point residents took to the only remaining street in jubilation of the LEC’s decision to restore electricity to the township. Their jubilation was, however, cut short when they realized that many of the LEC poles had been looted of the meters.
Many of those affected blamed the LEC management for its “don’t care-fy attitude” towards the residents by failing to conduct daily inspections of the poles. According to sources, each of the meters costs US$150. The lootings are suspected to be carried out during the small hours of the night, with accusing fingers being pointed at some former and current LEC employees, allegedly assisted by some unemployed youths in both Clara Town and West Point.
“We who are legally transacting business with the LEC have now turned beggars to those who steal current and deny government revenue,” a distraught resident told our reporter.
Two of those hardest hit by the meter theft, Siahr Nyumah and Adama Bah – both proprietors of provision shops – told our reporter that they are living at the mercy of those who have by-passed the LEC prepay system and are giving out current to individuals who make monthly payments as low as US$10 and as high as US$20, depending on individual needs.
According to them, a few days ago, people believed to be LEC employees visited the township to assess the magnitude of the damage to their system during the three-week blackout. When inspected, the cables connecting many of the poles were found totally without meters (each pole contains about 15 meters), which were visibly disconnected from the empty boxes.
West Point Commissioner, Sampson Nyan, confirmed the theft of the meters, but could not say how many legal meter owners were affected.
It can be recalled that during several appearances before Legislative Committees and Senate Plenary, the management of LEC complained that the corporation was sustaining a monthly loss of over US$250,000 due to power theft, mainly from communities like West Point, New
Kru Town and Clara Town, among others.
During a recent town hall meeting with community leaders in Monrovia, the LEC’s Deputy Managing Director for Customer Services, Famatta Sirleaf, disclosed that a fine of up to US$350 awaits power thieves and those tampering with electricity meters. The penalty, she said, is imposed to serve as a deterrent to power theft.
The LEC executive highlighted the dangers power theft poses to thieves and the end users, saying scores of young Liberians have lost their lives stealing current.