A 23 year-old man was found electrocuted on a light pole in the slum community of Buzzy Quarter when tried in the wee hours of Monday morning to steal power from the Liberia Electricity Corporation.
When our Reporter, C.Y. Kwanue, arrived on the scene after receiving a tip-off, he met hundreds of people, some of them wailing. A precious young life had been lost in a most inglorious (disgraceful) fashion. The young man met his tragic fate while engaging in an act of thievery. In the process, he also disgraced his family, his girl friend, son and friends.
The father of Kaleko Kollie, Mr. Emmanuel Kollie, was among those on the tragic and terrible scene. Emmanuel Kollie aptly remarked, “. . . a child who cannot hear can feel.” The remark was captured for yesterday’s Dr. Owl column.
Everyone knows that Buzzy Quarter is a poverty-stricken area. But poverty, the world knows, is no excuse for stealing. Stealing is an anathema (disgrace, outrage) to civilization and society. It is also an abomination (hatred, scandal) to development.
That is why the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) has always complained that power theft is one of the grave impediments to its profitability and progress. LEC says that at least one third of the power it produces is stolen, causing the corporation millions of dollars annually. How then will it ever be possible for LEC to grow to the point where it can assure Liberians of sustained and uninterrupted power? Not possible!
Yet power, or energy, is key to every country’s development, Liberia being no exception. The destruction of the Mount Coffee Hydro Electric Plant during the civil war—some say by Charles Taylor’s NPFL, others say by Alhaji Kromah’s ULIMO—was one of the major setbacks that the war caused Liberia. The war itself was a harbinger of darkness; but when they destroyed the hydro, that is when real, thick, black darkness descended upon the land, making it impossible for any development to take place. The destruction of the hydro alone set the country at least 50 years backward.
And now here we are, over 12 years following the war’s end, with the hydro still being rebuilt, interrupted for almost a year by the Ebola tragedy, and LEC, with a lot of foreign assistance, striving to fill in the gap by providing some limited power, and the same Liberians it is trying to serve undermining its efforts by stealing power.
We sympathize with the Kollie family for the loss of their son. But we are at pains to ask, What went wrong?
At the age of 23, it was a bit late, was it not? for father Kollie, at after one a.m., to “advise” his son as he saw him take a set of pliers to go steal LEC’s power “to connect a customer.”
What happened in the intervening years when young Kaleko Kollie was going through childhood and adolescence? Where were Mr. Emmanuel Kollie and his wife, the boy’s mother? We may never know whether he was given a slap on the wrist when he stole something as a child.
But this is a deadly warning to all parents. We will use the ancient quote from the Book of Proverbs to sound the warning: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Poverty is no excuse for becoming a thief. There have been and still are many people who were once poor, yet went on to achieve greatness.