In Kenya, millions of dollars are lost every month due to vandalism of electric transformers for their fluid, often sold as cooking oil.
This according to the country’s energy supplier Kenya power which says criminals extract the fluid from the transformers, which is then sold by cartels to restaurants and roadside stalls for frying food.
The continual rise in vandalism has been tied to the rising cost of cooking oil, which has pushed some businesses into turning to unorthodox methods to try and keep afloat.
Health experts caution that transformer oil, which looks like cooking oil, is unsafe for human consumption and poses serious health risks.
Some other times, gangs interfere with the power connection and then extort money from the public and businesses in order to restore supply.
Via a statement, the state-run firm noted that there was a sharp increase in vandalism in central Kenya, where nearly 20 transformers had been destroyed or interfered with.
Harrison Kamau, the company’s business manager in Murang’a county, cited an incident where a vandal “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,” the Kenya Power official said.
In recent days, about 22 people have been arrested and their cases are currently in court.
Kenya Power has now launched a nationwide awareness campaign about the dangers of vandalising the grid.
It comes amid company struggles with constant power blackouts.
In January, a national blackout seen as the worst in years was blamed on vandalism of steel pylons for scrap metal, which led to the collapse of the power grid.