The Minister of State for Energy Okaasai Sidronius Opolot has said rampant vandalism of electricity infrastructure remains a major impediment to delivering quality and reliable power supply, especially to critical sectors such as Health and Manufacturing.
While addressing journalists at Uganda Media Center on Tuesday, Minister Okaasai said of late, the scale and scope of vandalism have intensified into a systematic and well-coordinated organized crime syndicate.
According to the Minister, over the weekend, two 132kV transmission lines from the Jinja-based 180MW Nalubale and 200MW Kira Hydropower Plants were vandalized, leading to extensive power blackouts in Central and Western Uganda.
The 132kV Owen Falls-Lugogo Transmission Line was also vandalized at Kivuvu village in Mukono district, leading to four towers falling on the ground on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at 00:36 hours. Subsequently, the Owen Falls-Mukono North-Mulago Transmission Line was also vandalized at Nasuuti village in Mukono district, leading to one tower falling on the ground on Sunday, November 13, 2022, at 01:10 hours.
“The increase in the vice’s magnitude affects completed lines and ongoing projects. However, according to investigation reports, vandalized electricity materials are traded to scrap dealers. Therefore, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives has been tasked to make regulations for the scrap industry,” he said.
He added that vandalism has equally increased power project development costs, frustrated efforts to expand the Grid and accelerated access to electricity services for all Ugandans, and has overall negatively affected the Economy.
“Besides, over Ushs.2 billion is spent annually to replace vandalized power lines, on average. Replacing the five newly vandalized transmission towers will cost Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) over Ush.1 billion (over Ush.200 million each). Because of this, the sector has been forced to commence power load-shedding of about 104MW, effective November 13, 2022.”
Other remedial actions the minister has put in place include; the temporal evacuation of the 220kV Bujagali-Kawanda line to be used to partly evacuate Nalubale and Kira power plants alongside Bujagali and Isimba power plants. And switching off the expensive 50MW Namanve Thermal Power Plant, which is always on standby for emergencies.
As a way of curbing this vice, the ministry of energy has heightened collaboration with Security Agencies to investigate, arrest, and prosecute vandals before the courts of law. Through the Electricity (Amendment) Act 2022, the Government has placed more stringent penalties for vandalism-related offences. The law prescribes a 12-year jail sentence or a fine of 50,000 Currency Points (Ush.1 billion) or both for a vandal or anyone who receives vandalized electricity materials, and 15 years of imprisonment or 100,000 Currency Points (Ush.2 billion) or both for repeated violations.
The Ministry has also established a Multi-Sectoral Security Coordination Committee comprising MEMD and its Agencies; the Ministries of Defense and Veterans Affairs; Trade, Industry and Cooperatives; and Internal Affairs; the Uganda Police Force and sister security agencies. Spearheaded by MEMD, the Committee regularly meets to review progress made in implementing anti-vandalism measures that include, among others, an operation led by the Police and awareness of communities.
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