Rising cases of power theft, vandalism, threaten Nigerian power sector improvement – Report

Solomon Ezeme

Unabating spate of electricity theft and surge of power infrastructure vandalism in recent times have continued to threaten the realisation of the little gain that is left of the weak Nigerian power sector already characterised by inefficient, and ageing infrastructure. The daily record of this phenomenon,  if left unchecked could complicate  the inadequate electricity supply, incessant power outages, and low  generation from idle power plants.

EnergyDay in an investigation accounting for the reported cases of transformer vandalism and theft of electrical cables brought to the fore the need for a concerted  effort by all stakeholders to arrest the situation, if the gains of investment into the sector is to be attained.

Findings showed that the unchecked incident which has become a regular occurrence has thus hampered the operational efficiency of all the players in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry(NESI) with attendant revenue losses and frequent interruptions in power supply to customers.

EnergyDay gathered that since 2013 when private sector players took over power assets of the defunct Power Holding of Nigeria, the operators have been battling with many odds ranging from energy theft, illegal reconnection, intimidation and harassment, nonpayment of electricity bill, staff assault, meter bypass, and worst still, power infrastructure vandalism, all of which have continued to militate against the sustainability of the power sector.

Records obtained from the Nigerian electricity distribution company (DisCos) showed that the number of people who illegally bypassed, trying to avoid electricity bills and those who engage in acts of vandalism, is on the rise.

The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), announced that in 2021 alone, it lost the sum of N2.65 billion due to vandalism on its facilities including substations and transmission lines in Borno and Yobe states.

The loss recorded according to TCN was on vandalised transmission lines at an average of 740 megawatts per day, putting the monthly average to  N139 million being the value for the wheeling charges and energy lost to Maiduguri and environs alone.

The vandals, according to Sule Abdulaziz, TCN Managing Director, destroyed the 330 and 33KVAs sited along the Maiduguri/Damaturu and Maiduguri/Damboa/Biu highways in the North East states.

Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, Minister of Power, had during recent Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja, revealed that the 330kva that evacuated power to Maiduguri was vandalised by insurgents in 2021 repeatedly  According to him, the ministry tried a number of times to restore it but the insurgents would go back and pull down the towers.

The Minister particularly lamented that the continued vandalism of infrastructure has limited the capacity to deliver electricity to Nigeria, adding that vandals are now playing hide and seek with the Government.

The facilities of most electricity generation companies(GenCos) in the country have been affected by sabotage of gas transportation lines by militants and restiveness of host  communities.

EnergyDay gathered that 81 percent of electricity generation in the country is sourced from the gas turbines which are regularly impacted by the attack on most pipelines supplying gas to the plants.

Dat showed that the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) in the eastern Niger Delta and the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP), in the western Niger Delta have been the worst hit by oil thieves and vandals  among all the gas pipeline networks across the country.
Between December 29, 2014 and February 9, 2015, six different attacks were recorded on the two major gas networks owned and operated by the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

TFP after it was attacked by the vandals was shut down in January 2015, resulting in the loss of 1,500 megawatts(MW)

During the early stages of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the Niger Delta militants allegedly attacked the gas pipeline installations at three different points, including Opudebubor, Okpelama and Kpokpo area, Chanomi Creek and Sahara, behind Chevron Nigeria Limited.

Following that incident, the Escravos-Warri-Lagos pipeline was also attacked thereby affecting the flow of gas to Egbin Power Station in Lagos State, Olorunsogo plants in Ogun State, Omotosho in Ondo State and Geregu in Kogi State.

Recently, the has shut down  due to an attack on the pipeline conveying gas to the plant.

In January 7, 2022, TotalEnergies EP Nigeria Limited reported an attack on its NOPL pipeline, at KP41 Alaoma Etche Cluster linked to the action of vandals. This affected the 504MW Alaoji Power Plant, managed by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC).

GEREGU NIPP and Ihovbor NIPP were also down for many months due to limited gas also attributed to the activities of vandals.

The DisCos in recent times have released updates of the scale of vandalism and cases of energy theft by their customers. They revealed that  beside low electricity generation and poor power transmission, electricity theft and power infrastructure vandalism are major factors responsible for the lack of adequate power supply to Nigerians, over the years.

These actions have cost the investors and government billions of Naira on a monthly basis.

The challenges, according to them, form the major part of the DisCos’ Aggregate Technical, Commercial and Collection (ATC&C) losses.

Blackouts and sudden electricity interruptions have become common sight in Nigeria due to the activities of these criminals who are now daily innovating new ideas to perpetrate their heinous acts on the DisCos and on customers in their various franchise areas.

According to the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Nigerian DisCos lose about N30 billion of their monthly revenue to energy theft, meter bypass, vandalism and unpaid electricity bills.

Over 40 percent of electricity consumers do not pay their electricity bills while indulging in illegal connection of electricity. On average, each DisCo loses about N3 billion every month. Some of them are involved in the bypassing of meters and even outright energy theft.

The heinous acts continued even as DisCos made efforts to end them, EnergyDay gathered. DisCos have engaged major stakeholders such as security agencies, Neighborhood Associations, landlords and traditional rulers to protect their distribution facilities. Yet, these facilities have not ceased to come under attacks.

In May 2022, SteamaCo, a United Kingdom-based energy company, came into the country and initiated partnership with DisCos to curb electricity theft, related challenges, help them meet their Aggregated Technical, Commercial and Collection (ATC&C) loss targets and boost revenues.

Just recently, EnergyDay reported that the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) lamented losses of more than N50 million monthly to vandals through stolen cables, damaged transformers, and others.

Engr. John Ayodele, IBEDC Chief Operating Officer (COO), in the statement obtained by EnergyDay, explained that the activities of vandals and power thieves disrupted power supply to several businesses and firms operating within the Disco’s network.

“This means the economic power and livelihood of these people have been grossly disrupted, as we are incapacitated by the stolen cables to meet the supply demand. And this is just one of the various instances of the nefarious activities of vandals within our franchise,” he noted.

In April 2022, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) recorded over 20 cases of vandalism across the South-East between February and March, 2022.

“The major challenge to our operation is vandalism and it is on the increase,” the DisCo had noted.

In June 2022, EnergyDay reported that the Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC) revealed that incessant vandalism of its electricity cables and equipment has been responsible for the prolonged power outages recorded within its network, particularly Mushin, Yaba, Surulere , Ijora, Apapa and Lagos Island.

Dr. Tinuade Sanda, EKEDC Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, explained that vandalism has led to disruptions of many businesses , physical injuries and loss of lives, particularly of innocent and unsuspecting members of the public, within the network.

“This menace has made it difficult for us to provide adequate electricity to our customers whilst also posing a serious threat to our distribution infrastructure , especially the electricity cables,” she said.

The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) had in September 2021, raised alarm that about 215 of its electricity transformers were vandalized within Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Cross River states.

“In recent weeks, the company has recorded more cases of vandalism of its assets than it has ever experienced from inception in 2013, as over 215 power transformers in our franchise area have been vandalized with no end in sight.

“A grave concern for PHED is that the replacement of those vandalized power assets costing millions of naira, is capital intensive and also has the propensity to keep other responsible customers in unforeseen darkness which is a disservice,” it noted.

Also, the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, revealed that between January and June, 2022, about158 distribution substations were vandalized within its network.

Bello Musa, the Chief Engineering and Technical Services Officer of the company, said, “The destruction of critical national assets like power supply infrastructure by a few unpatriotic elements is a despicable act of sabotage, a mindless criminality and the pinnacle of irresponsibility which we must collectively fight as a society.”

Electricity theft and vandalism will not only bring economic losses to Nigeria and the power sector as blackouts and interruptions in power supply will be inevitable, it will also public security and discourage investments into the sector.

Strengthening institutions for enforcement and application of anti-electricity theft laws will mitigate the problems, according to Sunday Oduntan, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, ANED.

“There is a need for effective legislation by the National Assembly to checkmate energy theft in the country as the practice is costing the power sector billions of Naira monthly,” he said.


Highlighting the relevant punishments and sanctions available for perpetrators of  these acts, EnergyDay gathered that Meter bypass, in particular, is a criminal offence punishable under the law, as enshrined in section 94 (3) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA), as well as in the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

Similarly, Section 94 (3) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, states that “any person who wilfully destroys, injures or removes equipment or apparatus of a licensee commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period of not less than five (5) years and not more than seven (7) years.”

Section 400 of Nigerian Criminal Code, also clarifies that any person who fraudulently abstracts or diverts to his own use or to the use of any other person any mechanical, illuminating, or electrical power derived from any machine apparatus, or substance, the property of another person, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

These laws seem not to bother vandals and power thieves in the country as they continue to perpetrate these acts to the detriment of, not only the DisCos, but also innocent Nigerians who are left in darkness after each case of damage to distribution facilities, mostly cables and transformers.


At different times, stakeholders in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) have canvassed enforcement of tougher laws to protect public property, especially electricity infrastructure, appealed to members of the public to be vigilant and security conscious, yet these menaces remain.
The situation therefore reaffirmed the need for stakeholders consultative forums involving the Federal Government, all the players in the power sector and electricity consumers, to evolve strategies required to nip the scourge in the bud.