Burning wires near Agbogbloshie
Burning wires near Agbogbloshie

Cable theft: Homeowners, developers and police alert

There is rampant theft of electrical cables on construction sites these days, which is sickening.

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The phenomenon is getting out of hand.

Citizens struggle to do their wiring with the hope that they are nearing completion of their projects just to get the shock of their lives when they find out that electrical cables have been pulled out of conduits.

Many private developers become helpless when they find out that they have had their cables stolen.

For the past few years, this phenomenon has grown.

It is not only the stealing of cables; sometimes they even pull out air-conditioning copper pipes as well.

These items do not come cheap and replacement of the process is equally expensive.

Re-cabling is not a straightforward replacement.

Sometimes, cables get stuck in the conduits and would require pulling out completely to enable new cables to be laid properly or it would result in future electrical problems.

Even when these thieves are caught, the retrieved cables are useless to the owners because the cables become almost unusable.

For a small three-bedroom house, the theft could cost anything between GH¢40,000 and GH¢60,000 for just the cables and wiring.

Burning wires near Ashaiman

Burning wires near Ashaiman

When the cables are stolen, they result in sleepless nights for most.

This is very sad. 

Copper cables

For a long time, copper cables were used for streetlights, and we saw the continued stealing of these cables.

A few of these thieves who were arrested were convicted.

Bracelets products on the markets made of copper

Bracelets products on the markets made of copper

Copper cables were later swapped for aluminium cables and now there is a significant reduction of such thefts.

Aluminium is clearly not as lucrative as copper.

However, the phenomenon has gotten worse with building projects under construction because copper is the predominant material for cabling.

What do these thieves do with the cables?

Who buys these cables from them?

These cable thieves are after the copper that is used to make the cables.

It is as simple as that.

To get access to the copper, they usually burn the cables to get rid of the plastic coatings.

After that, the copper is sold to jewellers of all sorts who work these pieces into copper-based earrings, necklaces and other trinkets that end up on the market for people to patronise.

It is also believed that temporal and illegal structures such as kiosks in urban areas are sometimes wired with short cables from wire theft which are sold on the market.

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Also, the copper obtained from this is sold to people who use it for decors on coffins.

There is a huge market that keeps oiling the theft of cables.

It must be stopped.

Apart from being harmful to the environment, burning cables is also dangerous to those who inhale the fumes and smoke.

There are many places within the metropolis where cables are burnt in the open and nobody questions that.  

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Along the motorway near Ashaiman and Agbogbloshie are the major areas where these cables are burnt regularly.

Very harmful toxins are released when burning plastic and can significantly increase the chances of cancer, respiratory illnesses and birth defects.

It can also greatly damage internal organs and the hormonal system. 

Value chain

Clearly, there is a value chain that has to be broken by our security agencies to bring peace and sanity to developers and homeowners.

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There is a crisis that is simmering.

It must be dealt with.

In April 2023, the ECG reported that it was spending close to Gh¢150,000 every week to replace stolen electrical components at its ground-mounted sub-stations in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis.

Slippers; products on the markets made of copper

Slippers; products on the markets made of copper

This resulted in long power outages and a drop in the company's revenue.

The theft normally happens at the Company’s ground-mounted stations on the outskirts of its operational communities.

One of the few preventive methods is to have power in cables when wired.

This is usually harmful if any attempt is made to remove the wires.

Thieves risk being electrocuted if there is power in cables on site.

It is believed that about 133 people have been electrocuted since 2014 while attempting to steal ECG cables.

However, the Energy Commission and ECG do not permit supplying power to development that has not been fully completed.

It is time to rethink this policy.

If power could be supplied to buildings and metered or given a flat rate, there could be temporary lighting on site as work goes on, and also prevent cable theft to a large extent.

Those in the space should start the debate.

Where is the Ghana Institution of Engineering?

Where are our Electrical Engineers?

Where are our Electrical Engineering Contractors?

Due to cable theft on site, electrical contractors are now beginning to hike up their rates.

At the end of the day, the developer is the one paying.

Our clients are those paying.

Would the IGP and his team do Ghanaians the honour to put a team together to look at this phenomenon?

The Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service should do Ghanaians a favour and start some mystery shopping here.  

Too many people are quietly suffering and this is just not good enough for this country.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

The writer is an architect.

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