VANDALISM AND THE POWER SECTOR

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MONDAY EDITORIAL
Security agencies have to take the war against power equipment vandals more seriously
As the nation continues to grapple with persistent power outages and unreliable electricity supply, this critical sector is currently beset by the twin problems of theft and vandalism of its transformers and power-line cables. So endemic is this challenge that except drastic action is taken to contain the menace, most Nigerians will continue to experience darkness in their homes.

In a statement last week, the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) said it has recorded no fewer than 55 cases of vandalism from January to date, and has also expended substantial amount of money repairing and replacing such equipment. “The EEDC wishes to reiterate its commitment toward fighting vandalism and calls on well meaning and law abiding citizens to work together in fighting this ugly menace,” the statement signed by its head of communications, Mr Emeka Eze, said.

Unfortunately, this is a common story across the country as managers of the distribution companies (Discos) make strenuous efforts to cope with equipment vandalism which indeed has become a major obstacle. Yet there is no doubt that the incidents of theft and equipment vandalism are really costing the nation huge sums of money.
Besides, life is made more difficult for law abiding citizens who are thrown into darkness due to erratic and unreliable power supply. Also, the nation’s economy is seriously threatened as industries are being shut and employees laid off because companies cannot meet production target as many operate below their installed capacity.
While we lament this deplorable situation, it must be stated that the menace of electricity equipment vandals persists because of the existence of a “market” for the stolen items. Obviously no criminal would be foolish enough to take the risk of stealing transformers and cables without having an assured market somewhere ready to buy such equipment. Sometimes these stolen transformers and other equipment surprisingly turn up for supply by contractors in the sector. After all, no single individual can afford the purchase and installation of such specialised equipment without the active connivance of the officials.
It is unfortunate that as the nation remains burdened with the quest for improved and steady power supply, there are unpatriotic elements who are bent on sabotaging government efforts and throwing their fellow citizens into hardship. It is therefore time that the authorities took serious measures against these criminals. To the extent that what we are dealing with is a serious crime that borders on economic sabotage, the security agencies should be up and doing in apprehending the hoodlums and bringing them to justice.
We also call on the host communities to provide assistance by way of intelligence and information to the security agencies. Criminals come from within specific communities and when they realise that they would be exposed by their kinsmen, they would certainly have a second thought. Community leaders should therefore consider it a patriotic duty to join in the fight against the vandalism of electricity equipment.

However, what is worrying is that the security agencies have a long history of tough words with little effect as the criminally-minded people within our society get more and more emboldened. It is therefore incumbent on all the critical stakeholders to come up with a solution that will work. But the communities have to be vigilant in keeping a close eye on the equipment within their neighbourhood, even for the sake of their own enlightened self interest. We must protect these vital assets of the nation from the grip of criminals.