Electrician charged over Umeme transformer vandalism

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The penalties for power theft and illegal connections in Uganda range from caution, community service, to maximum of sh2m fine and or a three-year jail sentence.

PIC: Wanyama appearing before the chief magistrate on Friday. He was charged with one count of tampering with electrical installations
 
VANDALISM
 
WAKISO– The Buganda Road Utilities Court has charged an electrician over purportedly vandalising a transformer belonging to power company Umeme.
 
On Friday, Patrick Wanyama, 32, a resident of Kirinya-Kito, Bweyogerere in Wakiso district, appeared before Chief Magistrate Mary Babirye, to answer the charges, which he denied. Wanyama was charged with one count of tampering with electrical installations contrary to section 81(1)of the Electricity Act, 1999.
 
The penalties for power theft and illegal connections in Uganda range from caution, community service, to maximum of sh2m fine and or a three-year jail sentence.
Solomon Okem, a state prosecutor attached to Umeme, informed court that investigations into the matter were complete and requested court to fix a hearing date. The magistrate fixed August 20, as the hearing date.
 
Charges 
It is alleged that on July 30, 2018 Wanyama, without permission from Umeme, tampered with electrical installations by cutting off one circuit breaker on transformer number 4124.
 
“We want to warn those perpetuating this vice to stop before the long arm of the law catches up with them.  The fight is on. We want to urge the public to be alert and on the look out for  transformer thieves who are on the loose and report any suspicious activity in their areas to the nearest Police station,” said Stephen Ilungole, the Umeme manager communication and media relations.
 
The company says after rising cases of vandalism, it set up a surveillance team that has been watching over transformers.
 
“The surveillance programme will continue until all the criminals involved are brought to book. Interference with the electricity supply network causes power blackouts, threatens the security of homes, increases the cost of doing business and electricity tariff and disrupts vital health and education services,” Kalist Okello, the Umeme integrity manager, said.
 
According to the utility company, rampant vandalism is in Mukono municipality. This forced Umeme to organise a stakeholders’ engagement workshop last month at Ridar Hotel, Mukono in a move to rally communities to find solutions to the vice.
 
“As Umeme security team, we are still hunting for those still at large and more to be arrested,” said Godson Nsekanabo, the Umeme head of security.
 
“Transformer vandalism is rampant because the thieves want its oil and copper components. The oil is used for cooking, as an additive to cosmetics, fuel in welding machines and furnaces and some use it to treat wounds,” Abby Gwaivu, the Umeme customer service engineering manager, said.
 
“The vandals also target feeder pillars, ring main unit covers, circuit breakers, stay supports, substation fences, underground cables and overhead conductors,” he added.
 
Umeme says it is incurring costs running up to billions of shillings annually in replacement of vandalised infrastructure. Vandalism has also been reported by the telecommunication companies, roads authority and local government.
 
“On average, Umeme loses an estimated sh100b annually in power theft and vandalism. This money if put to good use would improve services,” Gwaivu said.
 
Gwaivu disclosed that the utility company was in the process of testing dry-type of transformers, which do not have the copper coils or oil.
 

 

NewVision.co.ug

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