|One man allegedly digs up fibre cables while his friend keeps watch, in a photo taken by police, according to ethio-telecom. This photo was used at the presentation given by the state owned telecom provider at the justice forum in Hawassa.|
(addisfortune)Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation (EEPCo) and ethio-telecom, which reported losses of 74 and 63 million Br, respectively, due to theft and intentional damages on their infrastructure this year, appealed last week to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for stringent legal measures on those accused of committing these acts.
The two institutions presented the reported loss they had incurred during the second Joint National Justice Forum held at Haile Resort in Hawassa, 273km from the capital in Southern Regional State, last weekend. They appealed to judges of the Supreme Court as well as Tegene Getaneh, president of the Supreme Court, for a speedy and severe sentencing on those proclaimed guilty of the act of committing these offences.
The loss reported by EEPCo, which has an installed capacity of 2,000MW of electricity, amounted to 7.4pc of its one billion Birr budget for the just ended fiscal year. EEPCo generates 1,842MW electricity from hydropower, 172.3MW from diesel and 7.3MW from geothermal sources. The corporation uses 138 power distribution stations, 136,907km of electric lines carrying different voltages and around 30,000 towers to distribute the power it generates.
All these projects have had some parts, or all, stolen, the corporation reported.
Removal of rails from bridges, cutting and pilfering of fibre optic cables, hewing off the steel bars from the towers, have led to the loss. Out of the 3,352 towers which had bars stolen last year, the most numbering 1,041 were from Gilgel Gibe, which cost around seven million Birr to replace and maintain. Total costs of repairing and maintaining damaged towers came to 27 million Br.
Towers experiencing frequent theft are those at Gilgel Gibe, Bahir Dar and Koka stations, which have 132 kilo volts (KV), 166KV and 230KV transmission lines, respectively.
The other major theft was the diversion of electric power before it goes into the meters installed, effectively reducing the power usage billed.
“Although we charge less than neighbouring countries for power, many of the power thefts are committed by factories,” said Misker Negash, communications head of EEPCo.
EEPCo charges 0.04 dollar cents and 0.004 dollar cents for one kilowatt for residential and commercial purposes, respectively. This is a 125pc and 100pc respective reduction when compared with Kenya’s tariff rate of 0.097 dollar cents and o.oo8 dollar cents, according to the Union of Producers, Transporters and Distributors of Electrical Power in Africa’s (UPDEA) 2009 report.
EEPCo currently has a case against Sheba Steel Mills, which the corporation alleges committed such an act and owes 64 million Br.
An act of theft or intentional destruction of telecommunications or electric power networks is punishable with rigorous imprisonment of five to 20 years if done intentionally, according to the proclamation for the protection of telecommunications and electric power networks. If such an offence is committed negligently, it is punishable with imprisonment of six months to five years.
However, the EEPCo claims that many people accused of the act are charged based on the 1997 amended criminal code just like a minor crime, according to Abdurahim Mohamed, head of communications of ethio-telecom, which lost 40 million Br due to thefts committed on its network.
Out of this loss, 28 million Br was due to cutting and theft of fibre optic cables. Another 53 million Br was spent on maintaining and repairing these damages.
“Since the damage that occurs doesn’t affect just one institution, the punishment should also be severe,” Abdurahim said. “So far, none of the punishments levied on offenders has been enough of a deterrent.”
The state owned ethio-telecom alone lost 10.6 million Br which it would have gained had data traffic not been interrupted due to cuttings of fibre optic cables. In the past two months, 23 telecom lines were damaged and service disruption had occurred 46 times of which 15 were due to intentional cutting of the optic cables.
It used to be that this frequency of theft would happen in a year, which shows the increase in these intentional acts, according to Abdurahim.
Both institutions appealed to the prosecutors and relevant officials in the MoJ to charge offenders using the more stringent proclamation.