Electricity distribution company, Ikeja Electric, has sued one of its customers, Mrs. Claret Iheanacho, a resident of Ajegunle, Lagos, for bypassing her electricity metre and allegedly accusing an employee of theft.
The IE staffer, Christian Ugwu, had visited Iheanacho’s compound on October 13, 2016 to distribute electricity bills when he found that she had bypassed her meter.
Ugwu was said to have immediately taking photographs of how the meter was bypassed.
The company said when Iheanacho discovered that her alleged action had been detected, she immediately went to report at the Ajegunle Police Division that Ugwu, had stolen some electrical materials valued at N400,000 and one wheel-barrow valued at N35,000 when he visited her compound.
In a suit filed by its lawyer, Mr. Audu Augustine, at a Lagos High Court in Ikeja, Ikeja Electric is asking that the court award the sum of N5m in general damages against Iheanacho for defaming Ugwu and the company.
It is also asking for N1m in aggravated and exemplary damages and the sum of N500,000 being the amount of loss of revenue which Ikeja Electric incurred through Iheanacho’s action of bypassing the meter.
“The implication of the bypass is that the defendant was consuming electricity without paying for it. The action of the defendant is a major source of loss of revenue to the claimants and above all, it is illegal and contravention of the law to engage in energy theft of any kind in Nigeria,” the company said in its suit.
According to an investigative report by the Divisional Police Officer of Ajegunle, Mr. OladeleFolorunso, investigators visited the complainant’s compound and also conducted a search on Ugwu’s apartment.
The DPO said, “Picture of the bypassed prepaid meter in the resident of the complainant taken by Ugwu was recovered and treated as exhibit. The suspect was granted bail while investigation continued.
“During the course of enquiry, it was established that the suspect (Ugwu) was an employee of Ikeja Electric who was on the premises for inspection of prepaid meter.
“Investigation also revealed that the complainant (Iheanacho) bypaseed the prepaid meter allocated to her and in a bid to cover up her deed, decided to report an unfounded case to the police.”
Folorunso said two weeks after, Iheanacho submitted a letter to withdraw the case from the station.
Spokesperson for Ikeja Electric, Mr. Felix Ofulue, said many of the problems of electricity distribution in the country can be traced to energy theft.
“Energy theft is a bigger problem than a lot of people realise. Now, we want to pass a message to our consumers that energy theft or bypass of meters would attract instant prosecution. We need to educate people in our network that energy theft is a serious offence and let them understand that the meters have become sophisticated to the point where we can detect an energy theft anywhere in the network from our control room,” Ofulue said.
He said that amidst all the power problems, employees of the company are usually treated with violence by consumers.
According to him, violence against Ikeja Electric employees on official assignment have been on the rise in recent times.
“We will do everything possible to defend our staff against assault while on official duties. There was a case in which a consumer stabbed our employee in the arm. There was also a time one of our employees climbed a pole to work and the consumers in the neighbourhood removed the ladder from under him,” he said.
Meanwhile, in another case, a 30-year-old man has been convicted for six months at an Ogudu Magistrate’s Court, Lagos, for stealing transformer cables worth N10,000.
His conviction is without an option of fine.
on April 7, 2017, the convicted went to the Olutunfese transformer sub-station on Demurin Street, Ketu.