By Lewis S. Teh
European Union Ambassador Accredited to Liberia Ambassador Laurent Delahousse has cautioned Liberians who are connected to the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) power supply lines that there is no free current or ‘Seh Pay for current’ in the country, urging them to buttress the government’s efforts and pay their own electricity bills.
“No free current, no seh pay for current [using a Liberian parlance that refers to taking goods from a dealer on credit basis]; current da na Free,” Ambassador Delahousse said Thursday, 21 October 2021 at the Information Ministry’s regular press briefing on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
The EU Envoy who recently received mixed public reactions after branding Monrovia as disgusting and the dirtiest city of the many places he has visited in Africa, says he cannot overemphasize that the European Union and its member states are highly committed to the successful performance and development of the electricity sector in Liberia.
According to Ambassador Delahousse, a steady and reliable power supply is essential for the Liberian people and the economy, adding that, “powering Liberia to empower Liberians.”
“However, and I must insist again, in order to realize that goal, everyone must pay for the electricity they use. Power theft is crippling LEC. It is anti-poor and it is a threat to the implementation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. It must stop now,” Ambassador Delahousse said.
Explaining the essence of the media briefing, Amb. Ambassador Delahousse said the purpose of the exchange of the European Heads of Missions with the media at the Ministry was to echo and follow up on the message issued on 26 August 2021 by his colleague and friend, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy.
Ambassador Delahousse explained that his U.S. counterpart noted in August that the donor community has been following the situation of the energy sector in Liberia with great interest and also with great concern.
He told reporters that from 1990 to Christmas 2016, Liberians experienced a quarter of a century with no electricity, apart from the few who could afford generators.
Ambassador Delahousse continued that the existing power infrastructure was wiped out during the civil war, saying to address the electricity challenge in Liberia requires a joint exercise.
He said the Government of Liberia, the Liberia Electricity Corporation including the People of Liberia, and the international donor community all need to work together to address this urgent challenge.
“In this context, we commend the recent appointment of Mr. Monie Captan as Chairman of the Board of LEC and the Board’s decisive action against power theft, as outlined in the press statement from LEC of 15 September 2021,” he stated.
The EU envoy called on Liberia to define, under the leadership of President George Manneh Weah, and the Minister of Mines and Energy, a master plan for the development of its power sector.
He said this will include new generation capacities to meet the expected increase in power consumption.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Delahousse said the sustainable participation to the regional network offered by the Côte d’Ivoire Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea (CSLG) power project, and strengthening of the client base through the connection of more Liberian businesses, among others, will bring the tariff of electricity to levels more affordable for ordinary Liberians.
He said as outlined by the American Ambassador, over half of the electricity produced by LEC is either stolen or unpaid for, noting that if you add to that, the power that is lost during transport for technical reasons, less than a third of the electricity produced by LEC is paid for.
The EU envoy lamented that the consequence is that the tariff for electricity remains high and the many honest Liberians who pay their bills have to pay an even higher price for those who steal, and that is by no means fair.
“The more power is stolen from LEC, the less capacity LEC has to extend the network and bring power to more Liberian families,” he warned.
He said this cannot continue as it is seriously threatening the financial viability of the operator, which is losing close to 50 million US dollars annually and is certainly a cause for very serious concern.
Amb. Ambassador Delahousse cautioned here that illegal connections, tampering with meters, and theft of assets including light poles, wires, and transformers must stop immediately.
He noted that power theft also affects confidence from potential investors and partners around the world, pondering as to how one can convince international donors and private companies to invest in the electricity sector when more than half of the output is lost or stolen.
The Information Ministry’s Thursday press briefing was addressed by multiple international donors including Ambassador Delahousse, Ambassador Michael Roux of France, Chargée d’Affaires Kate O’Donnell of Ireland, Deputy Ambassador Peter Speyrer of Germany, Liberia’s Mines and Energy Minister Gelster E. Murray, and Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/energy-minister-wants-lec-privatized/–Edited by Winston W. Parley