How Many More Power Thieves Must Die?

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Mr. Vamunyah Sheriff's speaking at_web.jpg

Once again death has laid its icy hands on two power thieves. They were electrocuted a fortnight ago at Tweh Farm near the St. Paul Bridge and on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia.

The two incidents are a grim reality of what power theft can result to in addition to causing damage to LEC’s properties and other facilities, and rubbing the company of its potential revenue earnings. These incidents bring to five the number of persons who have been electrocuted in the past two months as a result of power theft.

Less than four weeks ago, the management of the Liberia Electricity Corporation announced a massive disconnection of the entire New Kru Town due to persistent power theft in the Borough.

The management at a press conference hosted by the Executive Director for Administration and Human Resources, Mr. Vamunyah F. Sheriff, said that LEC loses about 90 percent of potential revenues to power theft in New Kru Town. This amounts to about US$4,000 daily.

A loss of revenue is a major setback for the company because it would make it difficult for LEC to order new equipment from overseas to replace the damaged ones caused by power theft through illegal connections to the electricity grid or by-passed meters.

“This setback we are talking about is POWER THEFT. It accounts for 15 to 20 percent or more which represents US$200,000 (two hundred thousand United States Dollars) monthly in revenue loss to the company”, Mr. Sheriff revealed.

Said Mr. Sheriff, “Let me make it clear that we are leaving no stone unturned to put in measures to save the company from further losses. We will also shame the people who steal power by publishing their names in the newspapers”.

He pointed that despite numerous appeals to the public to report any such crime, no one has come forward. “we have from time to time encouraged the communities to report these crimes even when it involves an LEC employee or contractor. We will take the necessary actions against that person or group. But, up to date, the communities have yet to point out one LEC employee”.

Individual calling to report power theft may remain anonymous. The numbers to call are: 020.777.8889 (Call Center), 0777.444.156 (Customer Service), 020.777.7779 (Emergency) and 0776.085.238 (Emergency).

The two recent electrocutions are just part of the many that happens in many communities. Many of these do not come to light as family members try desperately to conceal the information. The Tweh Farm incident was a glaring example when a man fell from the pole (see photo) and was quickly removed from the scene by family members.

The Camp Johnson Road incident involves a young man who had gone to illegally connect to a neighbor’s electricity line. He decided to carry out his dubious act during a brief power outage in the area, where people had gathered to watch the on-going FIFA World Cup.

Little did he know that electricity was going to be restored in a matter of minutes. As he placed the lines into his mouth, according to sources, all of the sudden, power was restored and was immediately electrocuted.

After a recent tour of the LEC facilities and projects on Bushrod Island, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf gave the energy company a thumbs-up for the level of progress being made to provide electricity to the country.

President Sirleaf said with the high level of professionalism and progress being exhibited by the management in overseeing various projects such as the construction of three Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) plants that will generate sustainable electricity to the country, she hopeful that the slogan “small lights today, big lights tomorrow will soon be a reality.

The president said she was also delighted that the projects are creating job opportunities for Liberians and the three HFO plants in particular when completed will reduce the tariffs for customers, who are currently paying around 42 cents per kilowatt hour.

Projects toured by the president included the two 10MW HFO plants being funded by the Japanese government and the World Bank respectively and the 18MW HFO being funded by the Government of Liberia.

Efforts are also underway to connect as many households as possible despite the limited generation of 22MW which was commissioned in July, 2007.

Other projects to expand electricity to Monrovia and its environs as well as other parts of the country are well on course. The Cross Border project intended to serve 18 communities in Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland Counties are glaring examples.

Currently, citizens of Ganta, Sanniquellie and Sacleapea and other outlaying cities are enjoying 24 hours of electricity supply. The Transco project (WAPP) will also provide electricity to Nimba, Grand Bassa going through Harbel, RIA to Bomi, Cape Mount into Sierra Leone.

There are also three corridors that will be connected. They are Paynesville-Kakata, Bushrod Island to Bomi and Cape Mount counties as well as Paynesville to RIA.  Currently, the LEC is trimming trees and planting poles on the RIA highway in readiness to connect people toward that end. And there are many more projects of this sort being implemented to cover the country.

But we cannot improve our power generation is unscrupulous people continue to steal electricity and leave the majority hopeless. Numerous appeals for people to STOP stealing have only fallen on deaf ears. So, how many more people must die before we know realize that power theft is dangerous.

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