UGANDA, Jinja | Real Muloodi News | Illegal electricity connections, also known as “illegal tapping”, are a major problem in Uganda. Despite the dangers and risks associated with this practice, people continue to connect to the power grid without paying for the electricity, bypassing the meter and creating a direct connection to the grid. This is a violation of the law and can result in severe consequences, including electrocution or fire.
Recently, two people were electrocuted while adjusting a tent at a function in Buwenge Rural, Jinja District. The incident took place on the afternoon of February 2, 2023 at Kiiko Primary School in Busede Sub-county, organized by Farm Uganda Stew, a Community Based Organization supporting farmers. Police identified the deceased as Mr. Mustafa Bisike, 32, the Buwenge Rural Speaker, and Mr. Peter Weraga, 51, a Village Health Team (VHT) official.
“They were adjusting metallic tent poles and in the process, one of them got in touch with a naked electricity wire that electrocuted them, while two others were injured and received treatment,” said Mr. James Mubi, the spokesperson for the Kiira Region Police.
A mere two days later, a 22-year-old woman was fatally electrocuted in Lower Nava Zone, Njeru Municipality.
The victim, Eunice Ajok, a housewife, was cleaning the house on Monday February 6, 2023 when the incident occurred. Her husband, Patrick Latigo, who is an electrician, had left for work earlier that day.
According to Hellen Butoto, the Ssezibwa Region Police Spokesperson, Latigo had connected a live wire from a socket under the couple’s bed to a fabricated hotplate in the house, which led to the tragic incident.
Police attribute both tragedies to illegal electricity connections, and say the practice is common in the areas of Kagoma, Busede, Buyala, Muguluka and Igombe in Jinja, as well as in neighbouring Njeru.
However, the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022, currently before the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources, aims to curb deadly illegal electricity connections through harsh penalties.
According to the proposed Bill, those involved in electricity theft may face imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of USh400m (equivalent to 20,000 currency points), or both, if convicted.
The Bill’s Section 86 specifies that it is an offence to tap or connect any overhead, underground, or underwater lines or cables, service wires or service facilities of a licensee.
The offence also extends to tampering with a meter, installing or using a current reversing transformer, loop connection, or other device or method that interferes with accurate or proper registration, calibration, or metering of electric current. It also includes damaging an electricity meter, apparatus, equipment, or wire or allowing any of them to be damaged or destroyed to interfere with the accurate metering of electricity or to obstruct, consume, or use electricity illegally.
Anyone who illegally abstracts, consumes, or uses electricity also commits an offence and is liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding 20,000 currency points or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both. If the amount of electricity involved does not exceed 10 kilowatts, the convicted person shall also be required to pay 10 times the cost of the abstracted, used or consumed load calculated at the prevailing tariff. If it exceeds 10 kilowatts, the convicted person shall be required to pay 20 times the cost of the abstracted, used or consumed load calculated at the prevailing tariff.
Section 89 of the Bill further provides that those convicted of an offence for which no penalty is expressly provided shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 50,000 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, or both.
The Energy Generators and Distributors Association of Uganda (EGADAU), which includes Eskom Uganda Limited, Bujagali Energy Limited, Umeme Limited, Kakira Sugar Limited, Kinyara Gugar Works, and WENRECO, appeared before Parliament’s environment and natural resources committee on Tuesday March 2, 2023, and supported the proposals in the Bill.
The power dealers proposed that the section includes a presumption of power theft given the vast and unsupervised nature of the electricity infrastructure and the difficulty in catching a power thief or determining exactly when the offence occurred.
EGADAU’s managing director, Thozama Gangi, expressed optimism that the amendment would reduce power thefts and other unlawful acts towards electricity installations.
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