The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company has said it loses over seven million kilowatt-hour, an equivalent of over N238bn, to direct electricity theft a month.
The Head, Revenue Protection Department, PHED, Mr. Nsika Udi, said during Consumers’ Forum that the direct tapping of energy, besides meter bypass, illegal connection, and fraud in billing, accounted for 80 per cent of 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 meter alone, but also extended to individuals that had been billed but deliberately refused to pay or cheat at payment.
According to him, 60 per cent of customers do not pay their bills/vending, noting that the development resulted in the company losing over 30MW, an equivalent of N2bn average monthly.
He added that 10 per cent of prepaid customers had not vended since they had been connected and 43.53 per cent of the prepaid customers last vended over six months ago.
“The most critical challenge facing the distribution sector is how to reduce the technical, commercial and collection losses.
“We lose 7,581,289.63 kWh or N238,333,002 from direct energy theft alone. Nonpayment 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 had 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 meters audited during plug the bleeding initiatives,” he said.
Udi asked consumers to demand proper identification/ card and job card from any persons found working on the network or infrastructure within the neighbourhood.
The consumers blamed the power company for failing to provide energy to Nigerians, saying that it was their officials and contractors that aided and abetted defrauding of the consumers and the organisation.
The state chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Akamba Awah, said 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.
Awah, however, blamed the power company for poor service, inaccurate billings, which he maintained might have contributed to the non-payment of the bills by consumers.