Electricity theft through illegal connections, tampering with meters, transmission and distribution lines, and theft of assets including poles, wires, and transformers, remain the challenges for the Liberia Electricity Cooperation (LEC). As a result of the contending issues, LEC is experiencing high commercial loss and low revenue generation which has translated into high electricity tariffs, placing the country among the highest in the world.
To address these challenges, the government of Liberia enacted a Power Theft Act which came into effect in early October 2019. The Act characterizes power theft as a national security threat, and establishes a system of prohibitions and penalties in relation to illegal connections; tampering with meters, transmission, and distribution lines; and theft of LEC assets including meters, light poles, wires, and transformers.
Accordingly, the Act makes all forms of power theft a Second-Degree Felony punishable by jail terms ranging from two (2) years to seven (7) years and fines ranging from four hundred (US$400.00) to one thousand (US$1000.00) United States Dollars for individuals found guilty.
Laws are basically meant to serve as a deterrent to all, stopping the commission of a well-defined act or activity. Given all the well-spelled out details in this act, one key concern is whether this Act has sufficiently reduced power theft since its enactment in 2019.
Many believe they can financially afford a LEC home meter and have assured they can pay their electricity bills regularly. However, it takes forever to get a meter from the LEC and even more time to install it. To repair or replace a damaged transformer even takes longer approximately (months in some cases) to be fixed.
Over the weekend the official turning over of managerial position from an international energy company (ESB International) to Liberians to now manage the LEC after they managed it for four years.
One of those who believe that Liberians can manage the sector is Mines and Energy assistance Minister, William T. Thompson who expressed happiness that Liberians are now taking over the energy sector which he said only Liberians can make better.
Min. Thompson spoke to the media in an interview, mentioning that power theft in the sector can be minimized if the management of the LEC makes it their business to fully connect communities.
“ Thanked God that our own Liberians are now taking over the LEC, I am happy because they are the ones that understand our local or Liberian English and I want to call on them that the only way we can stop power theft is to ensure that we connect every home whenever you get in a community, because if you connect ma’ Mary and jump over Esther home and connect Peter it is easy for Esther to tip on any of the lines to connect her home too”.He Said
Mr. Thompson told newsmen if the government should count successes in the fight against the theft of power it is time as Liberians to take over to ensure that every home is connected across the country by making sure they get poles, and meters as well as transmitters for the needed communities.
The Mines and Energy Assistant Minister was speaking over the weekend in Monrovia when the LEC parted company with an international Energy Company, ESB International.