By Chiebuka Enwere, Genevieve Aningo & Cherechukwu Okoye
The fraudulent practice of bypassing the normal function of electricity meter by some consumers may have become a nightmare to operators in the electricity sector.
They have used the just concluded West African Energy Summit, at Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, last week to alert the government on the dangers ahead as a result of the situation.
Speaking at the event, tagged: ‘Developing Sustainable Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Networks for West Africa’, Chair-person, ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority, EREPA, Mrs. Ifey Ikeonu, stated that bypass of meters is a criminal offence and hostile to growth in the country’s power sector.
She said, “I think we should bring this to our awareness, so that people will also know the impact to a larger society because, if we don’t pay our bills, at the end of the day the distribution companies do not have the required revenue that is needed to deliver services and function properly.
“And so, it becomes a vicious cycle and makes it almost impossible and difficult for us to go beyond where we are. When you bypass someone else is paying for that.”
On the way forward, she called for collaboration between customers and operators as well as strong legal system with enforceable fine structure as deterrent to perpetrators. “We should quickly review existing legislation and allow for quick trial and conviction, and also it should be in line with offence committed”.
Also speaking, an expert and senior researcher from the Centre of Clean Coal Technology School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Dr. Samson Bada, blamed corruption among electricity workers as a major factor for the proliferation of the meter bypass, calling on electricity companies to go beyond the use of smart meters “as people are smart also”.
On his part, Group Leader, Generation, Sahara Power Group, Engineer Mike Uzoigwe, warned that if the ills (electricity theft and vandalism), in the power sector are not tackled, there would be general power breakdown in the next six months.