BY AMBROSE GAHENE
Power distributor Umeme has launched countrywide operations against suspected electricity thieves. This follows a rise in energy losses from 16.4% in 2019 to 17.5% 2020.
The increase is attributed to the suspension of drives against illegal connections following the Government-imposed lockdown in March through June 2020 to check COVID-19. Now that the restrictions are eased, Umeme, working with Uganda Police, has resumed the operations to curb power theft dubbed Komboa.
Mr Peter Kaujju, the Head Communications at Umeme while speaking during the launch of Komboa at the Umeme Mutundwe Substation said, “Komboa is swahili for ‘Redeem.’ In Umeme’s case, to redeem our network from illegal users and operators so that customers get safe and quality electricity. The operation, which follows a series of awareness drives in the communities, also identifies illegal connections, disconnects them, arrests, and investigates suspects and present them in the courts of law for prosecution.”
The operation has kicked off in all corners of Kampala to remove all the illegal connections and once Kampala is cleaned the operation will continue to all corners of the country.
“Anything that touches a life of any Ugandan touches us as a nation. We are however, aware that a number of people die due to illegal connections. Some cases go unreported for fear of prosecution. But it is important for the public to note that vandalism and power theft are a national problem, which amount to an economic crime. Power thieves affect and cause frustration to legitmate customers through power interruptions,” Kaujju said.
Senior Superintendent of Police Ashraf Chemonges, who represented the Inspector General of Police at the launch said the Uganda Police Force has set up an Economic Crimes Desk which will be responsible with cases related to power theft and illegal connections.
“Police has set up an Economic Crime desks which will help to investigate, arrest and prosecute power related thefts.”
“We are tired of people who do not want to use the proper channels and resort to stealing power and also destroy cables by vandalizing installations. Most times, such people put them selves and also the general population at a great risk,” he said.
He commended Umeme for stepping up operations to fight this vice but also warned Umeme employees against helping the public steal power.
Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Public Relations Officer while officiating at the launch said Umeme is going to lead the operation with support from the Uganda Police who will arrest and prosecute.
He cautioned the public against vandalism and power thefts are a national problem, which amounts to an economic crime.
Vandalism does not only affect Umeme, but the telecoms, industries, local governments and causes frustration to legitmate customers through prolonged power outages, caused by the criminals. Th vice is pulling down progress in infrastructure improvement.
Theft and vandalism of the electricity infrastructure is heavily costing the sector. On average, Umeme loses sh100b annually in power theft and vandalism.
Mr Kaujju said the joint operation with Uganda Police would be rolled out country wide after sweeping Kampala.