Nigeria: Senate Goes Tough On Electricity Thieves, Imposes N5 Million Fine

19 April 2019

Abuja — Anyone who engages in theft or illegal connection of electricity in the country would be liable to a five years jail term, a fine of N5 million and a jail term of five years, the Electric Power Reform Act passed by the Senate stipulated.

Also, the amended Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 if signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, prescribed N1 million fine including a 2-year sentence for anyone who erected a structure on electric power line or obstruct electricity supply.

The passage of the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 on Wednesday, followed a report of the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development & Metallurgy on a Bill for an Act to amend the electric power reform Act No 6, 2005 to prohibit theft of electricity and destruction of electricity, theft and destruction of electricity supply infrastructure and prescribe appropriate penalties for violations; and for related matters, 2019 (SB. 496).

The senate had during sitting on Wednesday, 31st January 2018 read 'Electricity Theft, Vandalization of Public Power Infrastructure (Establishment, etc) Bill 2018 (SB 496) sponsored by Distinguished Senator Yahaya Abdullahi and referred it to the committee on Power, Steel Development & Metallurgy chaired by Sen Enyinnaya Abaribe.

The committee's report which was approved by the Senate, leading to the passage of the Act, stated that anyone who illegally connect or disconnect electric wire to, either the electricity meter or to the public power supply lines, and utilities, or use a tampered meter, current reversing transformer, shorting or shunting wire, loop connection, by-passing a meter, or deploy any other device or method to use public' electricity, either for household' consumption, or for the processing and production of economic goods and services, shall be guilty, and liable, on conviction to a term of seven, years' imprisonment, or a fine of N 2,000,000) or both.

The bill as passed by the Senators also stated that anyone who conspire, counsel, or accept to procure, or to hold in custody or convey by any means, stolen parts, components, or pieces of a public power equipment, including electric cable, transformer, high tension wire, power console, electrical insulators, etc shall, on conviction, be sentenced to10 years imprisonment term, without option of fine.

The bill which is being package to be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari also provides that anyone who taps, makes or causes to be mode any connection with overhead, underground or underwater lines or cables, or service wires, or service facilities of a licensee; tampers with a meter, installs or uses a tampered meter, current reversing transformer, shorting or shunting wire, loop connection, receives electricity supply by by-passing a meter, or uses any other device or method which interferes with accurate or proper registration, calibration or metering of electric current or otherwise results in diversion in a manner whereby electricity is stolen or wasted; or damages or destroys an electric meter, apparatus, equipment, wire conduit or causes or allows any of them to be damaged or destroyed as to interfere with the proper or accurate metering of electricity, so as to abstract or consume electricity or knowingly use or receive the direct benefit of electric service through any of the acts mentioned in this section or uses electricity for the purpose other than for which the usage of electricity was authorised, commits an offence and is liable on conviction of imprisonment for a term of at least six months and not more than two years or a fine of N100,000 or both.

"Any person who: Taps, makes or causes to be made any connection with overhead, underground, or under water lines or cables, or service wires, or service facilities, is guilty of an offence, and shall, on prosecution and conviction, be liable to three years imprisonment term, or a fine of N250,000; or both."

Anyone who: "Obstructs, confronts, fights, assaults or causes bodily injury to power company personnel, who legally enters into, either a private place of abode, business premises, or any building or structure, to inspect, examine, or work on public power facility or equipment, or to relay company information, is guilty of an offence, and shall, on prosecution and conviction, be liable to five years imprisonment term, or a fine of N500,000, or both.

Anyone who, "Stores, possesses or otherwise keeps in his premises, custody or control, any stolen electric line, material or meter equipment whether or not the act is committed for profit or gain , or loads, carries away or moves from one place to another with or without the use of a motor vehicle or other means of conveyance, any stolen electric line, material or meter from a tower, pole, any other installation or place of installation, or any place or site where it may be rightfully or lawfully stored, deposited, kept, stocked, situated or located whether or not the act is done for profit or gain, is said to have committed an offence of theft of electric lines and materials is liable upon conviction to a fine of at least N5,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of at least three years or both," the new act stated.

"Knowingly or has reason to; know, builds, constructs or places physical barriers on the right of way of public power transmission, supply lines, or erects, or causes to obstruct, gin any manner whatsoever, the supply of power to consumers, commits an offence, and, on prosecution and conviction, is liable to a fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of two years," the act provided.

The act provided that the minister responsible for power, shall, on the recommendation of the National Council on Power, constitute a "Power Theft Prevention and Infrastructure Protection Team."

The membership of the team, it was gathered, shall comprise; Member of the Nigeria Police Force not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police, as chairman; Representative of the State Security Services, not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police as member, Member of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, of a rank similar to that of the police, a representative, not below the rank of Assistant Director from: Federal Ministry responsible for power, works and housing; and Federal Ministry of Justice.

The team, it was gathered, shall work in liaison with commissioners of police to form state and local government task forces, to protect and ensure the safety of public power generation, transmission and distribution installations and all such facilities, throughout Nigeria.

The team is also to carry out regular and comprehensive inspection of the said installations and facilities, and submit monthly reports to the minister responsible for power, who shall transmit same to the relevant security and judicial authorities for further investigation and possible criminal prosecution.

"Assume and coordinate any other action, as could have been contemplated in section (4) subsections (a), (b), and (c), pursuant to the objectives of this Act. The team, or any of its members shall have powers to; Enter, inspect, and search any place, or premises in which there were reasonable grounds to believe that electricity has been, is being, or is likely to be used unlawfully, provided that such inspection, or search shall be limited to only to the meter and the related surroundings;

"Search, seize and remove all such devices used for the theft; Examine, or seize any books of account, or documents, which bear clear and direct evidence that shall be useful for, or relevant to any proceedings in respect of any of the offences as stipulated in this Act; The occupant of the place of search, or any person on his behalf, shall remain present during the search, and a list of all things seized in the course of such search, shall be prepared, who shall sign the list."

"Funding for the operations of the Team at federal and state levels, shall be provided for, by the ministry responsible for power, in its annual budgetary estimates, that shall be laid before the National Assembly for due legislation," the act as passed by the Senate stated.

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