MONROVIA – Several residents in Monrovia and its environs have alarmed over the rampant stealing of meters installed on various light poles in their communities by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) by unknown persons.
In recent times, unknown persons have gone on the rampage, removing electricity meters in the Matadi, Sinkor and other communities in Monrovia and on the Bushrod Island.
The situation has led to the lack of electricity supply to households and business centers in the affected areas for several months, and decline in revenue generation by the LEC.
Speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa via telephone on Monday, Mambu James Kpargoi, disclosed that the situation makes the affected communities vulnerable during the night hours.
Mr. Kpargoi is the former Public Relations Manager of the LEC.
According to him, the involvement of unscrupulous individuals into this new wave of thievery also has the proclivity of undermining the efforts of the corporation to live up to its mandate.
“Over the past months there has been a situation where meters have been taken away by unknown persons usually doing the night hours. The community is challenged and vulnerable now because of the lack of electricity,” he stated.
“This is not the first time for meters to be stolen from the community. This is a regular routine by these criminals. And this is not even Matadi alone. Customers continue to complain, as a result of this,” he added.
Citizens’ frustration and reactions
The hike in the stealing of meters continue to frustrate citizens, particularly those engaged into mini-businesses just to put ‘bread on the table’ for they and their respective family members.
The situation has compelled them to either connect their electrical lines directly on tension wires, without footing any bills, run their lines to friends or neighbors who are still connected to meters in different communities or operate their own generator at their homes or elsewhere despite the cost intensiveness.
“Customers are very frustrated. Their meters have been stolen. You know electricity is life, and many of them have no other alternative but to place their lines on direct. This undermines revenue generation,” Kpargoi stated.
“I was forced to call an electrician to run my wire to my friend’s shop. I gave him small thing to do my connection. I am selling cold water just to survive, and I can’t continue to be without electricity. It’s more than two months now since our meter was stolen-LEC can’t come,” a local businesswoman who preferred not to be named stated.
Customers’ decision taken to illegally connect on Flat Rate or Direct Supply contravenes a policy issued by the corporation in 2018.
Last year, authorities of the LEC announced that it has ceased to offer and provide Flat Rate and Direct Supply to customers, and as such, crews from the corporation have been ordered to refrain from placing customers on Flat Rate and Direct Supply as of June 1, 2018.
The corporation at the time also announced that it has received a large consignment of meters to commence the replacement of damaged or stolen ones.
Since these pronouncements were made by the LEC, not much has been done to act in accordance with the new policy or to ensure the installment of damaged or stolen meters in the communities.
The aggrieved LEC customers want stringent measures to be taken by the LEC to arrest those in carrying on the unwholesome act of stealing meters.
Kpargoi noted that individuals must be arrested to serve as deterrence to otherwould-be criminals.
He maintained that for too long meters theft has been ongoing in the country, and as such, the corporation should work with relevant security apparatus to curb the situation.
“The LEC needs to see how best to work with security agencies so that those culprits can be arrested and prosecuted in court. This will serve as a deterrence to others that would like to undermine revenue generation,” he indicated.
Kpargoi noted: “LEC has to act. There should be a security solution to this. I feel very disappointed that the LEC has not been able to find a security solution to this. Once these people are prosecuted in a court of laws and sentenced to jail, it will serve as deterrence to would-be offenders.”
Aggrieved citizens of the affected areas want authorities of the Liberia Electricity Corporation to ‘sort out’ meters’ numbers that have been inactive or delinquent, in terms of recharging.
They want the corporation to work with the relevant authorities to have those recharging stolen meters arrested and prosecuted along with their accomplices.
When this is done, the citizens believed that the stealing of meters from light poles will be curtailed to some extent.
“I think we need to track those meter numbers and know those that are delinquent. Those coming to register those delinquent meters can be arrested and have them show who are those selling the meters to them. The vendors need to have those numbers so they can help these people get arrested,” Kpargoi stated.
Aggrieved customers perceived that workers of the LEC are allegedly conniving with criminals to steal their meters from light poles mounted in their communities.
They claimed that no common criminals, knowing the danger of electricity will risk their lives by climbing a light pole during the night hours to steal a meter.
The situation has claimed the attention of scores of citizens on the social media-Facebook.
“Too much meter stealing. LEC, can you place our meters in our houses instead of the poles? LEC, find solution!!!” James Sao, Sr, writes.
“LEC, I advise that you people do away with meters and do flat rate because people are stealing current too much; pay every month,” Amos M. C. Duo stated.
Joseph Harris writes: “No meter at LEC warehouse, but the guys in the pickup truck, in the field have meters for US$200. O! God, Liberia.”
In recent times, workers of LEC have been spotted hauling scores of damaged transformers from streets and communities to the corporation’s compound on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia.
For more than a month now, Capitol Hill-which hosts the offices of President George Manneh Weah at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Capitol Building (home of the National Legislature), and the Temple of Justice, appears like an ‘evil forest’ during the night hours.
Though the seats of the National government are centered on Capitol Hill, the lack of stable electricity makes the area vulnerable, particularly during the night hours.