Kampala- Over the past weeks, residents of Mpuumu, Mukono District twice woke up to power outages. An investigation by Umeme revealed unknown people had attempted to vandalise the area’s transformer. Power was later restored.

However, last Sunday, a power blackout plunged the area again but this time, the transformer had been completely destroyed.

“They pulled the transformer to the ground and left scrap. They took all the transformer oil,” Mr Joseph Ndawula, an engineer from Umeme, said early this week.

This is the manner in which transformers at Sonde-Kikulu, Kiwango-Bukerere, Kiwanga, Nakisonga, Mukono Electoral Commission, Mukono Police and Mpooma have been vandalised since May this year and 500 customers out of 74,000 have been affected.

Explaining the incidents, Umeme said the vandals are interested in copper and oil from the transformers.
The trend from previous years indicates that the stolen copper is exported while the oil is sold to welding workshops, heavy machinery plants, medical oil and cosmetic manufacturers. In some cases, the oil is used to cook.
Tackling this vandalism was early this week at the centre of a discussion between district administrators and security personnel in Mukono after it emerged that power distributor Umeme has lost more than Shs1.5b to vandalism in the last six months.

“The trend is really bad, the number seems to be going overboard now. 2016 was our worst where we lost 10 transformers in Mukono. 2017 we lost six and this year it started in May and in two months, we have surpassed the numbers for 2017,” Mr Jason Muwaza, the Mukono District manager Umeme said.

In Mukono alone, there are 400 transformers and nine have so far been vandalised while 41 have been vandalised countrywide since January. Replacing one transformer costs about $10,000 (Shs37m).

“There are undesired outages created and when a transformer is vandalised, we will only be able to restore supply after 72 hours,” Muwaza said.

A lot of people rely on the service to do business that it impacts them financially and well as curtailing the delivery of services say to other areas that need refurbishment.

Mukono District resident district commissioner Nasser Munulo pinned the vandalism on former Umeme staff, explaining that ordinary Ugandans can hardly understand the technicalities of a transformer.

However, Umeme has dismissed the claims, saying there is no evidence to support such as perception.

Umeme further said the power sector today has many skilled electricians who understand the transformer craft and distanced itself from the theft given that it subcontracts companies to do the distribution.

Effect in various areas

Distribution transformers are the most targeted because they contain copper and oil, which are both highly sought after.
Forty one transformers have been vandalised since January. 19 of them are in Kampala and surrounding areas. 22 upcountry while 11 are in eastern. Eight are in western and three in central. Nine have been vandalised in Mukono alone since May.
More than 500 customers have been affected by the resultant outages in Mukono. About Shs333m is the loss implication in Mukono alone while Shs1.5b is the loss to Umeme across the country. According to Mr Godson Nsekanabo, the Umeme head of security, no suspects have been arrested but there are clues regarding the vandalism.
Umeme has about 3,000 transformers countrywide and admits it has no capacity to safeguard all of them.

ekamukama@ug.nationmedia.com