Ever been a victim of electricity 'piggybacking' in your area? You pay for the usage of power and your neighbour or someone from another compound illegally connects to your power source without your permission or your knowledge? Are you the only person paying for the power usage of two houses or even more in some cases?
The end may have come to such individuals who illegally tap electricity from other people’s apartments or make use of power without paying the appropriate dues for the usage of such government provided amenities.
According to reports by Punch newspaper, the department of electrical and electronics engineering of the University of Ilorin have developed a prototype device which is capable of remotely monitoring and detecting customers who are “stealing” electricity. In an interview with the head of the department, Dr. Mudathir Akorede, it was disclosed that the device could also cut off electricity supply to the premises of customers who were illegally making use of electricity. He added that there would also be a simultaneous message to the utility control root to alert the system operator with such customers details displayed on the control panel.
Akorede also said the processes of filling application for patenting the invention had commenced through the university’s laboratory to product centre. The prototype device which has not been given a name yet was said to have been developed by the dean and some of the undergraduates in the department.
With the commencement of the distribution of the prepaid meters by the power holding company in Nigeria, there was a little supervision of the distribution of power, but some individuals still find a way to bypass the meter and make use of electricity without paying (who says Nigerians are not smart?).
In a report from Vanguard, Mrs. Ifey Ikeonu, the Chairperson of ECOWAS regional electricity regulatory authority, warned the federal government on the issue of individuals not paying the appropriate dues for the use of power in the country.
"I think we should bring to our awareness, so that people will know the impact to a larger society because, if we don’t pay our bills, at the end the distribution companies do not have the required revenue that is needed to deliver services and function properly, and so it becomes a vicious circle and makes it almost impossible and difficult for us to go beyond where we are. When you bypass someone else is paying for that.”
Earlier this year, a group known as the Citizens Access to Electricity Initiatives (CATEIN) had also blamed the Electrical distribution companies (DisCos) for encouraging the theft of power amongst consumers. This came to light after the DisCos raised an alarm over the large amounts of money they were losing as a result of individuals not paying for the use of electricity.
The Minister of Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola explained that by outsourcing the job of prepaid meter installation to contractors, DisCos gave rooms for energy theft.
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Based on these allegations, the Abuja Electricity company (AEDC) confirmed that there would be fine of ₦52,000 for illegal connection and meter bypassing by three-phase meter electricity customers.
These are supposedly efficient strategies set up by the authorities to reduce the number of illegal connections and assure the distribution companies of efficient revenue to give out efficient power to the society. Unfortunately, even with these set charges, the distribution companies have confirmed that studies have shown that over 30% of the customers making use of electricity bypass the prepaid meters.
This is suggesting that all the strategies that have been implemented by the government and authorities in charge of the power distribution have not been working effectively against the pilfering of power by customers.
With the advent of this device, the power holding company of the country will be able to further supervise the distribution of power among residents, rooting out the individuals who are evading the payment of electricity bills. The device will be able to push Nigerians who have not been paying to start paying which will increase the revenue on the side of the power companies, allowing them to increase the resources that are available for the production of power.
In all, we must not forget to commend the efforts of the university, putting this device into use will count as another achievement by the educational sector of the country. Putting all the materials learned in class into efficient practice by providing solutions to critical issues in the country.