Residents in the flooded community of Clara Town and its surrounding areas on Bushrod Island, a suburb of Monrovia, were greeted with a horrible scene Sunday morning when a man who had climbed a light pole to steal power was electrocuted hanging downwards during the early morning hours.
Multiple interviews conducted with eyewitnesses established that the deceased Melvin T. Pratt was repeated engaged in power theft in the area. Some say he was regularly contacted by unidentified clients to connect their power lines, but his family said they had no knowledge of his involvement in power theft except his security job at the Freeport of Monrovia with private security firm SEGAL.
His spouse Satta Conneh and father in law, Mr. Conneh appealed to the Liberia Electricity Corporation or LEC and the government to bring the body down from the power pole and turned it over to the family, saying they did not know that Pratt was involved in such act of illegal power connection until they received his death news Sunday.
Ms. Satta said Pratt locked her up in the room in the early morning hours when he was about to go out on the power connection spree without informing her. Satta said she lived with Pratt for two years until the incident, and she had a kid by the deceased in addition to the one he already had by another woman.
She said Pratt earned US$125 monthly income from SEGAL through Ecobank Liberia, but she did not know if he had any extra income from power connection. His father in-law Mr. Conneh burst out in tears during interview with journalists, urging other young people who may be involved in power theft to stop and think about their families, saying LEC is not to be blamed because “it is not his job, he’s not supposed to do it.”
The late Pratt’s uncle Abenego Cooper who said he is a state security officer said it was “unfortunate” because he had not seen Melvin Pratt (CKA Position) to be involve in power connection besides his security work.
“But unknown to me, it was only this morning I was called upon by 5 O’Clock this morning, somebody called my line and told me to come and see the body that is … lying down in the pole, seemed to be my little nephew that is living with me in the house … I came and I recognized that indeed it was him,” said Mr. Cooper.
He said he was “very much shocked,” but he did not know how Pratt became an LEC man to get on the pole as a private security man. Some eyewitnesses claimed residents get slow response from LEC when they are faced with problems on their lines, thus leaving impatient consumers no option but to contact individuals who claimed to have experience to solve their problems.
Joseph Wesseh claimed that the problem they face with LEC is that when they call the company, “they are very slow indeed; they don’t come to their call.” He claims that people who know the job, like the late Pratt would come and take the contract for as low as US$10, $15 and $20.
“He was paid by another person to climb on the pole to put their breaker on for them. That’s his usual habit. When you pay those guys, they climb the pole … what you get for them is petty cash, you give them, they go,” he said.
Another eyewitness Mustapha said “hardship” contributes to people’s involvement in power theft and dying on pole, describing Pratt’s death as “untimely.” “Because of the poverty rate my man, nothing doing now. Everything is very, very hard,” he said in response to question as to what was responsible for people dying on power pole here.
He also accused LEC off slow response to people’s calls, claiming that more than a year ago he paid for his meter to LEC but he is yet to be connected despite follow-up calls. Similar incident occurred in the borrows of New Kru Twon on the same Bushrod Island in January 2014, when another man was discovered hanging dead on a power while in the act of illegally connecting his clients.
Hydro power is yet to be restored to Liberia. However, a greater portion of the city is being lighted up by thermo power.
By Winston W. Parley -Edited by Othello B. Garblah