By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Federal Government, on Wednesday, constituted an 18-man special panel to investigate and prosecute electricity offences within the South East geopolitical zone.
The panel, which FG said was set-up inline with provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005, was inaugurated at the Federal Ministry of Justice Headquarters in Abuja by the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Etsu.
The DPP said the Special Investigation and Prosecution Task-Force on Electricity Offences, SIPTEO, was a product of the collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Justice, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc, EEDC, and the Nigeria Police Force.
He specifically tasked the panel to “deal with the menace of electricity theft and vandalism in the South East zone”.
According to the DPP, “The growing theft of electricity and vandalism of electricity distribution assets in the area of coverage of the EEDC has contributed immensely to the economic challenge s that the power sector has faced over time in the South East Zone, thus affecting effective delivery to legitimate customers”.
He commended the Inspector General of Police for releasing additional team of “14 seasoned investigators” to serve on the Special Task-Force.
“Electricity theft and vandalism has gone on unchecked for too long across this country, today marks a new era for the South East and you, as members of this Special Task-Force have a herculean task on your hands and it is a pressing national duty.
“Your job from today is to work assiduously in collaboration with Enugu Electricity Distribution Company to investigate and prosecute call cases of electricity theft within the area of coverage of EEDC.
“Although SIPTEO is charged with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting all electricity theft cases, you are also enjoined to make other recommendations to me and the management of the EEDC and make use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in appropriate cases.
“Bear in mind that the overall objective of your mandate is to prevent electricity theft, prosecute cases and recover lost revenue. As part of your mandate, you are to carry out intensive campaigns in the South East to create public awareness on the adverse effects of electricity theft on the Nigerian economy.
“I am convinced that your commitment in carrying out this assignment will not only bring to book the offenders, it will boost power supply and economic activities within the area of coverage of EEDC and eventually the work of this Task-Force will spread nationwide”, the DPP added.
In his remarks, Chairman of the panel, Mr. Emeka Offor, said his team would handle the assignment with dedication, noting however that influential and educated Nigerians engage in illegal consumption and theft of electricity assets.
Similarly, the Managing Director of EEDC, Mr. Paul Okeke, said he was perturbed that top government officials also engage in electricity theft.