Kenya’s energy supplier says it is incurring monthly losses amounting to millions of dollars because thieves are vandalizing its electric transformers for their toxic fluid which they then sell as cooking oil.
Kenya Power said the thieves who extract the toxic fluids pass them on to cartels who later sell them as cooking oil to restaurants and roadside stalls, BBC reported. The eateries use the fluid to fry food.
Officials said the recent upsurge in vandalism is because of the increasing price of cooking oil. As a result, businesses are adopting unconventional methods to remain in business. But though cooking oil and transformer oil look similar, health experts warn the latter is dangerous for human consumption and causes grave health risks.
Besides stealing transformer oil, officials also said other gangs intentionally compromise power connections so they can extort money from people as well as businesses before they ultimately restore power supply, BBC reported.
The country’s energy supplier said the vandalism had become very prevalent in central Kenya, adding that almost 20 transformers in that area had either been destroyed or meddled with.
The business manager for Kenya Power in Murang’a county, Harrison Kamau, mentioned an incident involving a vandal who “was electrocuted on top of a transformer while attempting to remove/return fuses.”
“He is currently admitted to the Thika General Hospital with life-threatening injuries,” Kamau added.
Authorities recently arrested 22 suspected vandals, and they have been arraigned before court. The company is also embarking on a nationwide awareness program about the risks of destroying or interfering with the grid.
The vandalism reportedly comes in the wake of the company facing issues with frequent power blackouts. A national power blackout in January was attributed to thieves vandalizing steel pylons for scrap metal. This caused the power grid to break down.
That national blackout was also cited as one of the worst in the East African nation in years.