Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC yesterday submitted to the Senate for passage, a bill seeking for an Act to prohibit and prevent electricity theft from which convicted offenders risk a jail term of seven years.
The bill entitled: “A Bill for an Act to prohibit and prevent electricity theft, power infrastructure vandalisation and power company protection 2017,” was submitted to the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy headed by Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, PDP-Abia South.
NERC in its submission highlighted the fact that the power sector in Nigeria has been reported to suffer from high energy losses of between 30-35%, largely blamed on stealing and sabotage.
It noted that instances of some electricity consumers, by-passing electric meters and the vandalisation of power transformers, feeder pillars, electric cable stealing, are wide spread.
The commission said that the situation directly contributes to the present crisis in Nigeria’s power sector and as a result, calls for stern measures to combat the menace, logically comes within the larger context of the Federal Government’s current battle against corruption.
It said for example, the country can barely generate a mere 4,043 megawatts from its 23 grid-connected generating facilities.
The implication, the commission said, is that the country has one of the lowest power consumption per capita in the world.
The commission added that it must be noted that power lines vandalisation and electricity theft are implicated and therefore, taking timely and tough action to curb it is urgently important.
It insisted that “if we fail to act decisively in correcting the ills of the power sector, including public power leakage, the opportunity for the country to recover could be lost”.
Part of the objectives of the Bill include to amend section 94(3) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 to curb and deter illegal and unauthorized use of regulated electricity supply as well as to protect electricity infrastructure.
It seeks also to punish any person found to have engaged in illegal and unlawful use of electricity and destruction of electric power infrastructure.
The bill provides in Section 94(3)(a) that “Any person who willfully: taps, makes or causes to be made any connection with overhead, under ground of under water lines or cables, or service wires, or service facilities of a licensee; or
(c ) Damages or destroys an electric mater, apparatus, equipment, wire or conduit or causes or allows any of them to be so damaged or destroyed as to interfere with the proper or accurate metering of electricity — shall be guilty of an offence punishable with terms of imprisonment for a period of n ot less than six months and not more than two years or to a fine of N100,000 or both.
It allows the police and other security agents to enter to inspect and search any place or premises in which they have reason to believe that electricity has “been, or being, or is likely to be illegally and unlawfully used”.
The bill further provides in Section 94(3)that “Any person who willfully and unlawfully (a) destroys, damages or removes any electricity distribution lines; or anything connected therewith; or,
(b) Otherwise prevents or obstructs the distribution of electricity through the distribution line, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction with imprisonment for a period of not less than five years or to a fine of N5 million or both.
The bill also provides that “If a person having been convicted of an offence punishable under the law commits similar offence he shall be liable for the subsequent offence to the term of imprisonment which shall not be less than seven years”.
However, the chairman of the Power Committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, wanted how the quantity of stolen electricity can be measured.