Police is holding a one Edward Katongole, a Kampala-based scrap dealer accused of participating in the illegal sale of vandalized electricity equipment. Katongole was arrested in Seguku along Kampala- Entebbe road before being transferred to Jinja central police station for further interrogation.
His arrest came after police impounded two truckloads of suspected vandalized electricity conductors, which were being offloaded at the Jinja city-based Giant Steel factory on Christmas eve. Officers from Jinja central police station tracked the trucks ferrying the electrical conductors, which were first sighted in Mabira along the Jinja-Kampala highway following a tipoff from informants attached to the Electricity Regulatory Authority-ERA.
The arrest follows President Yoweri Museveni’s interaction with journalists last Friday where he said that security forces are going to mount a man -hunt for criminals responsible for the rampant electricity vandalism which is costing the country billions of shillings and causing blackouts in many parts of the country .
Katongole and other suspects still at large fled after being tasked to produce the documents relating to the consignment after claiming that they had legally bought the electrical conductors from UMEME’s Lugogo-based disposal plant.
Kiira Region Police Spokesperson, James Mubi, says that a team of detectives from the police cyber department mounted a search for Katongole using his phone number and managed to trace him in Seguku. They immediately teamed up with the territorial police authorities in the area to arrest him from his hideout.
He says that detectives are liaising with engineers from UMEME to ascertain the source of the vandalized electricity conductors, their measurements, and the losses accrued. According to Mubi, the managers of the Giant Steel factory closed for the Christmas holidays but will be interrogated upon their return on the source of the cables.
He says that the suspects face three counts of theft, illegal sale of government infrastructure, and vandalism of electricity conductors. Mubi notes that Jinja is home to about five steel factories that provide a ready market for the vandalized electricity infrastructure.
In his statement, Katongole refuted the allegations leveled against him insisting that he legally bought the electrical conductors from the UMEME disposal plant and other undisclosed sources from neighboring countries.
Minister Nankabirwa speaks out
While addressing the media recently the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development , Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa said that in the last two years alone, the government has lost over $2 billion to the vandalism of electricity infrastructure. “We have to deal with this vice the way we deal with terrorism. Vandalism continues to cost the sector billions of shillings. We have requested for the services of the UPDF to guard key electricity infrastructure such as transmission towers and substations,” said Nankabirwa.
Despite huge investments in the sector, the minister explained that Uganda continues to grapple with rampant cases of vandalism of power transmission and distribution infrastructure and urged the public to be vigilant and report those responsible the nearest police station and sister security agencies.
Nankabirwa explained that by cutting down electricity supply network it leads to wanton- power blackouts, threatens national security and homes; increases the cost of doing business and electricity tariffs, and disrupts vital health and education services as well as people’s livelihoods.
One electricity tower costs in the excess of 20,000 USDs and if not stemmed the economic loss to the country runs in billions of shillings .