Power Theft Operations Left One Dead -As Lawmakers Issue 72-hr Ultimatum

By: H. Matthew Turry

MONROVIA: What appears to be an effort to curb power theft turned sour in Caldwell New Georgia last Saturday when a team of police officers led by a Power Theft Unit of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) allegedly beat to death a 42-year-old man identified as Joecephus S. Tukpeh  following an argument between him and the team son whether his residence has meter or not, but two lawmakers that were raged by the incident while sympathizing with the bereaved family, issued the government 72-hours to serve justice to the victim.

This incident took place on Friday, March 1, 2024 during an operation of the LEC’s anti-power theft team in Caldwell where Jocephus Tukpeh was allegedly beaten and murdered by officers of LNP from and the LEC power theft team.

But the wife of the victim, Mrs. Vanell Tukpeh told journalists that her family was never engaged in power theft as claimed by LEC power theft unit, but added that their residence was connected legally to a meter they purchased from the Liberia Electricity Corporation.

Explaining in grief Vanell said a tenant that moved into their residence advised against the theft of meters from the resident and suggested that we install our meter indoors instead of it being displayed on an outside wall.

“So we agreed because we had just experienced something like that, and therefore placed the meter in the house and told our tenant that indeed we didn’t need power theft.”

Vanell who said she works with City Builder said she went to work and while she was away from the house, her husband called her and requested that she send him the tenant’s phone number.

When she sent her husband the number of the tenant, “I asked what was going on, he said LEC people were in the area and wanted to see the meter of our house.”

Vanell further explained that at that time her husband told her the tenant, whose name was not disclosed was anywhere around. However, she narrated that when Jocephus placed a call to the tenant on speaker to allow his answer heard by the anti-power theft team, the tenant said he was not available to come readily, and pleaded that the team come back the next day.

“When I called my husband at this point, I couldn’t hear him, not knowing the LEC people had already beaten my husband to death”, she lamented, as she clarified that the tenant was in possession of the keys to the place where the meter was positioned in the house.

“According to those who were around, my husband ran into a lady’s shop for rescue, but the LEC people entered the house and beat the son of the woman, who is the shop-owner along with her husband, adding that when they beat Jocephus and killed him, they took him to the clinic and forcibly open the clinic door and dashed him on the bed.

Detailing her family relationship as she wept, Vanell, who said she was expecting her husband to pick her up from work on that day, noted that she and her husband married last year March 25, 20323 and planned to celebrate their wedding’s first anniversary this year.

Eyewitness account has it that the LEC team chased the victim, shouting as though that he had stolen a material thing and was escaping. Fredrick Segar, who said he was on the scene, narrated that the LEC power theft people were shouting, “… rogue, rogue” as they chased the victim.

“When I went in the house, the LEC people were shouting rogue, rogue; when I asked where the rogue was, one of the powerful anti-theft men questioned me for identity, saying who are you? So I inquired from him on what merit was he questioning me for identity when he was at my house, at which time I retorted, and told him, “Okay this is my house, at which time he informed me, ‘he is the rogue”, Segar said.

Notwithstanding their aggression that was being meted to Jocephus, ‘I told them, this man is not a rogue; he immediately slapped the man again, and I asked why did you slap the man. Then the other guy turned to me and slapped me, and I returned his slap”, the eyewitness narrated.

At this point, Frederick said the “The guy took off his safety helmet and hit the head of Joecephus with it; right there Jocephus bent his head down, and I noticed that he was unconscious, while I saw the other guys started running in the house with one PSU officer who started asking for the man as I started to show him, “here is the man lying helpless.”

Lawmakers issue 72-hour ultimatum

Meanwhile, the Representative of Montserrado County District #15, Abu Kamara who visited the area and sympathizes with the bereaved family over the weekend issued the government a 72-hour ultimatum to investigate and give Jocephus Tukpeh’s family justice. “We herewith give the government 72 hours to investigate and give Josephus Tukpeh Justice,” he added.

In sympathy with the family of the deceased and his wife, Vanell, the Montserrado County District #15 Representative visited the area. He described the killing of Jocephus on allegation of power theft as a wrong, wicked, evil and devilish act to the highest extent, which, for no reason, has taken away the life of someone for claiming that the person has committed power theft.”

The Representative assured the family that justice will be served to the fullest without delay, frowning at the corporation, “LEC, I don’t think the government sent you to come and kill people. If that is the case, District #15 is a different place. If you suspected that he was power theif, you should have taken him to justice, and not killed him.”

Also visiting the area was Margibi County Senator Nathaniel McGill, who upon hearing the sad news, led a team to Caldwell residents to sympathize with the aggrieved family during the early morning hours of Saturday, a day after the incident.

“I am very speechless, Joecephus was a very young man who had a family. All I can say to you is that justice will prevail.

“This will be the last death that LEC will ever orchestrate. I asked the family to be strong. I want the community to be calm, do not lead to violence, we are here to stand with you to the end”, he said.

Senator McGill said the government needs to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and prosecute those responsible for the death of Mr. Jocephus Tukpeh.

“We give the government of Liberia 72 hours to give Jocephus Tukpeh and his Family Justice. The death rate and police brutality towards citizens in the country in recent times is escalating and President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr. needs to do the needful to keep the peace”, he noted.

Both Lawmakers strongly emphasized the need for swift action in addressing the unfortunate incident to uphold the rule of law.

When contacted, the CEO and Administrator of the Stockton Creek Health Center, Dr. Mohammed Ali Bah, said he was not around when the LEC power theft team took the body of Joecephus at the center, but was called in by the nurses.

“At about 1:30 PM to 2PM yesterday, I was at the AM Dogliotti College of Medicine when I received call from one of the nurses that I need to come quick, so I hurriedly came and saw people all around the clinic, some throwing stones while others were destroying things,” Dr. Mohammed Ali Bah.

He explained how he asked, considering what was happening around his clinic, and the nurse told him that people in an LEC car came and stopped at the gate, just got down with this man and stepped the gate, forcibly entered and dashed this man on the ground.”

He further told the CEO of the medical center that the nurse indicated that the man the LEC people dropped in their Health Center seemed lifeless, although they jumped in their car and ran away with another police officer in the LEC fence.

In another development, the Liberia Electricity Corporation, expresses deep regret and sadness over the tragic incident that occurred in the Caldwell New Georgia involving assigned police officers and the anti-power theft team, which resulted in the demise of one Mr. Jocephus S. Tukpeh a resident of the community.

The LEC, in a release issued Saturday March 2, 2024, said it denounces any form of violence and assures the public of its unwavering support to the police investigation to ensure that justice is served.

The management of  LEC said the Corporation is collaborating with law enforcement authorities, who have launched an investigation to ascertain the facts surrounding the incident, and LEC pledges its fullest cooperation and support to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation”, the release said.

The release noted that LEC immediately dispatched a team Friday evening, at 7:00 pm, and met with the immediate family of the deceased, including parents and other relatives at the victim’s residence in Caldwell.

The LEC release added that the management convened Saturday morning at about 11:00 am with the entire family present, and will continue to engage with the family and all stakeholders to gather further information and offer support during this challenging time.

“With heartfelt sympathy, the management of Liberia Electricity Corporation extends its deepest condolences to the bereaved family. The corporation assures the family of its unwavering support throughout the investigation process and during this period of mourning”, the release concluded.

Similarly, the Liberia National Police said they have arrested every member of the power theft team that were on the scene and that they are in Police custody, even though they failed to tell the number of suspects that were arrested.

Speaking at the press conference at the LNP Headquarters, on Saturday, March 2, 2024, the police Inspector General Col. Gregory Coleman assured the family and the public that the investigation will be void of any interference.

“I understand how trust and legitimacy in the law enforcement body has been degraded over the period of time, but we are going to be as transparent as possible. The Liberia National Police is at the journey of a new dawn, this new leadership will be transparent”, he said.

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