From James Ojo, Abuja
Indications have emerged that the penalty for electricity theft might be increased to N200,000 from the current N50,000.
According to a recent document, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has temporarily agreed to the request by one of the 11 power distribution companies for such increment.
As contained in the minutes of the 17th power sector stakeholders’ meeting held in Jos, Plateau State, operators had pressed for an increase in the amount paid as fines to discourage unscrupulous electricity consumers from defrauding distribution companies.
The Jos Disco had reported during the meeting of an increase in theft of electricity by consumers and that through the assistance of the Department of State Services and other security agencies, some consumers had been apprehended and made to pay the penalty.
The official noted that over 200 high-profile culprits, including corporate organisations and individuals, had been identified and punished accordingly, adding that the electricity thieves were made to pay the sum of N50,000 as penalty before being reconnected.
The minutes stated that the official “appealed that the penalty be increased to N200,000 to curb the menace of energy theft and noted that plans were underway to extend the initiative to other states within its franchise area.”
“NERC agreed that the N50,000 penalty was not enough and promised to look into the matter and report back in the coming week,” the document stated.
A senior official of NERC also reportedly told participants at the gathering that the indebtedness of discos and network capacity issues were some of the reasons the power distributors often rejected electricity load allocated to them.
The document stated that the official “highlighted factors that affect the discos’ ability to off-take more load.”
The NERC had observed that the indebtedness of discos was a major reason they often reject part of electricity allocated to them by the Transmission Company of Nigeria.
According to NERC, most Discos were heavily indebted to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc, a development that has adversely affected the sector.