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Senate proposes 10-year jail term for electricity cable theft

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By Toby Prince

The Senate committee on power, steel development and metallurgy have recommended a jail term of 10 years without an option of fine for anyone found guilty to have conspired, procured and to hold stolen parts and components of public power equipment in custody.

The committee asked the Senate to consider and pass an amendment of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act No. 6,2005 to prohibit theft of electricity, theft and destruction of electricity supply, infrastructure and prescribe appropriate penalties for violations, and for other related matters, 2019(SB.496).

Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had in November 2018 presented a bill to the Senate, seeking seven years jail term for electricity theft.

The bill is entitled ‘A Bill for an Act to prohibit and prevent electricity theft, power infrastructure vandalisation and power company protection 2017.’

The commission claimed that stealing and sabotage were responsible for between 30 per cent and 35 per cent energy loss in the country.

It frowned on some consumers who it claimed by-passed meters and also vandalise transformers and feeder pillars, among others.

“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,” the commission warned.

Some of the objectives of the bill include amending Section 94(3) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 to curb and deter illegal and unauthorised use of regulated electricity supply as well as to protect electricity infrastructure.

After appraisal of the bill proposed by NERC, the Senate committee is expected to submit its report during Nigeria Senate Thursday plenary. The report contains recommendations for the punishment of persons guilty of theft in public power equipment.

Some of the recommendations proposed by the committee include N5 million or imprisonment for a term of at least five years or both for any person found guilty of destroying or removing any electricity distribution lines that prevents or obstructs the distribution of electricity.

The Senate committee also proposes a term of seven years imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both when one connects or disconnects an electric wire to, either the electricity meter or to the public power supply lines.

In the report, the power committee demands that anyone who tampers with, cuts by any means, or causes any other person to disrupt the supply of public electric power, if convicted, shall be sentenced to an imprisonment term of not less than five years or a fine of N500,000, or both.

It said the Senate should approve a five-year jail term or a fine of N500,000 for any person that obstructs, confronts, fights, assaults or causes bodily injury to power company personnel.

The committee also wants a three-year imprisonment term or a fine of N250,000, or both for any person who taps makes or causes to be made any connection with overhead, underground, or underwater lines or cables, or service wires or service facilities.

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