Over US$200, 000 is lost through power theft in Monrovia and its slum communities, investigations conducted by the Daily Observer has uncovered.
Few weeks after the death by electrocution of 25-year-old William Swen of Nyuanpanton, near New Kru Town, further investigations carried out in the slum communities of New Kru Town, Point Four, West Point and parts of central Monrovia revealed the losses of huge sums of money that LEC officials described as accounting for a15% of loss revenue.
During investigations last week knowledgeable residents who spoke to the Daily Observer, went to great lengths to explain the method used by young men who were once affiliated with the Liberian Electricity Corporation.
A 22-year-old man, who identified himself only as ‘James,’ for fear of reprisal from his colleagues, said the process is elaborate, “but we use it and make some money every month.”
He explained, “We work with many businesses selling cold water and residents who want cheap electricity.
“If a resident wants power, we make sure we know the number originally assigned to his meter by the LEC,” he said, “then at around 10p.m. we locate the light pole his line is connected to.”
He said, “We climb the pole and make sure we open the transformer box. Once inside we locate the number of his assigned meter to the house.
“We then disengage the neutral to make sure there is no power where we are working.
“We then locate and remove something resembling a memory card that you find in mobile-phones. We get the card out and use glue to seal off the area we took it from.
“After making sure the glue is dry, we insert the cable line from the house we are working on into a particular opening.”
He explained that he reconnects the neutral to its positive position and when the light is turned on; the system then runs the charged amount already on the account.
“After it is finished, the direct line takes over immediately, and bingo, the person is in business,” he said.
He added that the beneficiary of this illegal process would pay him L$1, 000 a month or US$10 a month. “It makes life easy,” he said.
He further explained that the LEC has a regular Power Theft team that visits the area to remove illegal cables. Therefore, “we contact our men with the LEC team in advance; whenever the team comes around our business area is avoided.”
He admitted that they are successful in their illegal dealings because their contacts at the LEC provide them support.
“There are times the LEC Power Theft team will come and carry away many illegal cables but we get them back from our friends at the LEC and reconnect them,” he said.
At the LEC headquarters in Monrovia, workers refused to corroborate the report provided to the Daily Observer by many of the contacts we interviewed.
“That’s a lie,” one worker at LEC told the Daily Observer. “We have nothing to do with what those liars told you.”
The Daily Observer also learned that also prevalent is ‘third party connection’, which is explained in the latest LEC publication (The Current) as a process in which “a registered customer receives power from the LEC and in turn illegally connects others to their line.”
Another method of illegal power connection— our investigation revealed— is when cables are buried underground; making it difficult for the Power Theft crew to locate and disconnect during its periodic visits to various communities.