*Says it loses over N238 billion from energy theft
Okon Bassey in Uyo
The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution (PHED) Company at the weekend in Uyo Akwa Ibom State capital revealed that the most critical challenge facing the distribution sector was how to reduce the technical, commercial and collection losses of the energy firm.
Head, Revenue Protection Department of the compnay, Mr. Nsika Udi, disclosed at Consumers Forum, hinted that the direct tapping of energy, besides metre bypass, illegal connection, and fraud in billing, accounted for 80 per cent power theft.
He added that the energy theft was not restricted to direct stealing of energy by the consumers that had not been officially connected to the grid or those that had diverted load from the visibility of the energy metre alone, but also extends to individuals that have been billed but deliberately refused to pay or cheat at payment.
He said: “We lose 7,581,289.63 kWh or N238,333,002 from direct energy theft alone. Non-payment of bills/vending accounts for over 60 per cent of the monthly aggregate technical, commercial and collection losses and this amounts to 30MW or N2bn average monthly losses.
“We also noted that 10 per cent prepaid customers have never vended since they were connected over three months ago while 43.53 per cent of prepaid customers last vended over six months ago. And we have also recorded 27.32 per cent bypass from 571 prepaid metres audited during plug the bleeding initiatives,” he said.
To check fraud in the distribution and connection services, Udi asked consumers to demand for proper identification/card and job card from any persons found working on the network or infrastructure within the neighbourhood.
Some of the consumers who spoke blamed the power company for failing to provide energy to Nigerians, saying that it was their officials and contractors that abetted and aided in defrauding the consumers and the organisation.
According to the state chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Akamba Awah, the mass retrenchment of former PHED employees might have been responsible for direct and indirect tapping of power, thus resulting in colossal loss to the company.
The TUC boss blamed the power company for poor service, inaccurate billings, which he said could partly be responsible to the non-payment of bills by consumers.