Persons involved in the ongoing vandalism of electricity infrastructure may soon be charged with terrorism, this News site reveals.
According to Ronald Bogere, the Principal Security Officer at UETCL, the ongoing rampant cases of vandalism of electricity towers and poles in Kampala Metropolitan Area have exceeded the usual vandalism and turned into deliberate economic sabotage.
“The problem is no longer that of vandalism. We’re seeing fillers of economic sabotage or economic terrorism” he said.
He said from November 12 2022 when security started getting numerous cases of vandalism, it has been discovered that the issue is no longer about people picking out angles and go away, but there are cases where the criminals are simply cutting towers are go. He named affected areas as Mukono, where two towers were cut and they destroyed two other towers causing loss of four towers.
He said the criminals the following day in Mukono again (Nama) cut another tower.
The criminals didn’t stop at that but a few days ago descended on Bujagali-Kawanda 220KV line and also brought it down. Another line of 132KV line (Nalubaale -Kampala North) also had its tower cut down maliciously.
“These lines are one of the vital national assets that push our economy. Unfortunately, some people have not appreciated this” he said.
He said in Mukono alone, eight towers were brought down while in Kasana-Luweero five were also brought down.
“Depending on the size of a tower, on average, a tower costs Shs360m to be restored. All this money is going to be paid by us tax payers. This therefore, shows the extent of the problem we face. That’s a matter where we need all security agencies to come on board and fight this vice” he said, adding that much as those behind the attacks on electricity infrastructure think they are sophiscated, security is getting sufficient leads that will help take them out.
He said for Luweero incident, he has decided to personally handle it because of its nature.
“I think we can pursue a line of terrorism. The Terrorism Act can be used given the way it (crime) was executed. It was (real) terrorism. Imagine how many people were affected. The whole of north was cut off” he said adding that ‘the earlier we wake up as law enforcement officers, the better.. otherwise, we’re doomed to be in darkness and also doomed to lose the steady progress registered ‘
He said not only vandalism of electricity infrastructure affects power companies, but also security agencies as criminals enjoy doing their acts in darkness.
Bogere was addressing security officers of Police CID, RDCs and ISO who attended a training workshop organised by Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) on the new Electricity Act 2022 particularly on clauses to deter vandalism of electricity infrastructure at Hotel Triangle in Kampala.
He said for Luweero incident, security is going to engage the Terrorism Act because the facts on the ground indicate that this wasn’t merely tampering but economic sabotage.
“We feel a person caught red-handed tampering with a tower, that person deserves no bail. As security, we have done some disruptive intelligence-led operations targeting the market. When you distrupt the market, the supply gets distorted. There’s a steady market for scrap. These guys are even selling people’s saucepans. We have a problem of scrap dealers because these people are not regulated. So, let’s be serious on these people because they are everywhere” he said.
Meanwhile, ERA legal officer and prosecutor Charlotte Kyohairwe said that ERA is working with the ministry for trade and industry to come up with a law regulating scrap dealers.
She took the officers through the new Electricity Act 2022 particularly section 85A which lists offences and penalities for those caught vandalising electricity infrastructure. The law; she explained punishes anyone who cuts, stores, transports, illegally connects a meter, damages any meter among other acts.
“It’s an offence for one to move from one place to another any electric supply line, material, meter or public lamp without the consent of the licensee or owner. A person who commits an offense under this new law is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand currency points (Shs1bn) or imprisonment not exceeding 12 years or both” she said.
She warned truck drivers not to fall victims of this new law as they they’re the ones who transport scrap some of which is electricity material. She said the law will catch them whether they carry them knowingly or not. She also asked the public to be vigilant and always ask people who climb electric poles for their valid work permits issued by ERA or Umeme Ltd for those in the central region.
Kyohairwe also emphasized to the CID officers that now that the law is biting, they should ensure that they arrest culprits, charge them accordingly, do effective investigation, properly handle their files, capture all exhibits and record them in evidence slip so that the case can be executed in court successfully.
“Vandalism can be dealth with if we have the same goal. ERA intends to continue sensitizing CID officers to better appreciate the law. The cost of vandalism is too high and it affects the tariff” she said.
In another development, ERA director for corporate and consumer affairs Julius Wandera described the current vandalism as unacceptable.
“The country is bleeding. There are people who are deliberately bent on bringing this economy down. They are amongst us, they are traders, business people, they leave with us. For the sake of personal gain, they have decided to put our sector down. If you look at the losses Uganda has made in vandalism, it’s in billions” he said but promised that ERA is going to embark on more sensitization programs for the community to be vigilant.