Over 300 arrested for pinching electricity

Umeme has arrested hundreds in Kampala over power theft (PHOTO/Courtesy).

KAMPALA — A police swoop in Najjanankumbi, Nateete and Wandegeya suburbs in Kampala netted up to 368 suspected electricity thieves.

Police swooped on the areas following reports that many residents in those suburbs were illegally connected to the electricity grid.

It made the subsequent arrests over the last seven days though it has since released equally many of the suspects after they committed to pay for the electricity they have been using illegally.

According to power distributor Umeme, the suspects have since paid Shs94 million into the company’s accounts.

Umeme relaunched the operation on March 23 in in Kampala following an increase by two percentage points in energy losses between the 2019 and 2020 calendar years.

As of December 2020, distribution energy losses stood at 17.5%, with commercial energy losses such as electricity theft, among others, accounting for 8.3% and the balance being technical losses.

Umeme attributed the rise to the halting in 2020 of the operation following the governments restrictions on the movement persons to check the spread of the then novel coronavirus.

Additionally, the increase was due challenges the government faced in subsidising the connection costs f0r applicants (ECP).

Umemes Managing Director Selestino Babungi said that at the time ECP was suspended, there were many households that had applied for connection.

So, we ended up with more than 250,000 pending connections. We conducted a survey and found that 70% of those customers, when they could not wait anymore, self-connected, Mr Babungi said at a recent press conference in Kampala.

Umemes Head of Communications and Marketing, Peter Kaujju, said the company will not relent in the fight against electricity theft.

We will ensure we remove illegal connections. Also, there will be an element of prosecution, Mr Kaujju said.

The Electricity Act provides for fines and jail terms for those convicted of electricity theft.

The fines range from Shs600,000 to Shs3 million, community service and up to three years in the coolers or both the fine and jail time.

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