Electricity Theft in Nigeria: Impact, Strategies and the Way Forward

By Okoko Chidozie Christian

Epileptic power supply has been a mainstay of Nigerian society and profoundly impacted communities, undermines the access of individuals to electricity and hampered economic growth.

And, a range of factors have been identified by stakeholders as the root causes including energy theft.

Electricity – essential part of our daily lives is used for powering our homes, offices, businesses and industries. Unfortunately, some people choose to illegally tap into it.

Illegal electricity connections, also known as “power theft” refers to the unauthorized tapping of electric from a power grid, often without the knowledge or approval of electricity providers.

According to source, electric theft is the criminal practice of stealing electric power, and it is nearly as old as electricity distribution.

Accomplished through a variety of means, from methods as rudimentary as direct hooking to a power line, to manipulation of computerized electrical meters endangering the environment.

For instance, if the power consumption in a region increases to a level where the average demand exceeds the rating of transformer or other electrical equipment due to power theft, then power quality problem like voltage collapse or transformer overloading may occur.

Frequent power cuts lead to deterioration in the customer-utility relationship. Illegal connections to the electricity network often transverse roads, fields, footpaths and present a safety risk for communities who must go about their normal daily activities into contacts with live cables and wires that have not been properly installed.

However, bypassing an electric meter co-located with fuses, circuit breakers, residual current earth leakage detection will often lead to risk of electrical faults and excessive use within the house may not be detected.

And, the supply will remain live within the house, increasing the risk of electrocution or fire. Cost of electricity is substantially compared with low income flow and credit constraints in most countries. For examples, more than 70% of Nigerians live on less than US2.0dollars per day. Yet, there is need to pay for the cost of power consumed.

So, it would appear illogical to conclude that residential consumers steal electricity thereby contributing to this loss.

According to the new Electricity Act, offenders to electric theft shall be subject to imprisonment for a term exceeding three years, a fine or both. If the load consumed or used or attempted consumption or use, does not exceed 10 kilowatts, the first conviction shall warrant a fine no less than three times the financial gain resulting from the electricity theft.

In Nigeria today, the Power Distribution Companies, DisCos face several challenges of electricity theft which remain one of the major causes of massive revenue losses thereby increases the debt profile in Nigeria Electricity Supply Industry, hence negatively impacting the nation’s economy.

Recently, Adetayo Adegbemle, executive director of Power Up Nigeria,  expressed that the Senators are out of touch with the realities of the power sector and should seek advice from professionals and experts for accurate information. According to him, electricity is also not a public utility anymore, it is now a commodity.

Energy theft is an international problem and globally estimated in 2022 that consumers spent up to 1.4 billion pounds annually. This costs have to be passed to customers in the form of higher energy charges. The annual worldwide financial losses due to power or electricity theft are estimated to be around US 100billion dollars.

In a recent report by the Director of the Power Sector Advocacy Group in Nigeria; one (1) transmission company TCN, twenty-three(23) generation companies, GenCos and eleven (11) electricity distribution Companies, DisCos operates in Nigeria. Moreover, the plants are managed by generating companies (GenCos), independent power providers, and the Niger-Delta Holding Company.

Unfortunately, the twenty-three (23) power-generating plants connected to the national grid with the capacity to generate 11,165.4MWs of electricity has not been feasible. Despite having a capacity of 22,000 MWs, the country’s power generating peaked at 4,594.6 MWs as of November 2022 has been insufficient for the populace. So, the electricity generated is considerably low for over 200million people.

Although, some anti-theft products can help shield the network and consequently reduce power theft. Just like in United Kingdom, their electrification is made under subsurface about 100meters; not so easy for human to access, study confirms.

So, being a complex challenge, there are some ways to combat the illegalities of energy theft in Nigeria, but the consumers-utility relationship is a key determinant. Improvement of this relationship through local participation in development of renewable energy schemes such as rooftop solar photovoltaic, use of biomass and many more could bring benefit. Also, financing, redesigning of the distribution system and utility company codes and standards, competence in post-installation maintenance.

Strengthening of legal and regulatory framework particularly with larger users, and installing high security tampered-resistant metering systems for commercial consumers may have more effect.


Okoko Chidozie Christian

 chidochrisozonegold@yahoo.com; 09025179984.



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