By Alagie Manneh
Dozens of staff members of Comium GSM company yesterday afternoon converged at the entrance of their main office building to demonstrate over the closure of their business.
The demonstrators held up banners and placards some of which read: ‘Pura, I am a consumer too”, “Save our jobs”. They chanted slogans like “We are Gambians too”.
The peaceful demonstration which lasted for several hours.
The demonstrators told journalists on the ground that they were calling on the utilities regulator, Pura, to listen to their plaintive cries and allow their employer to re-open.
“Since we have now settled all our dues and arrears for 2019 and 2020, they must help us. With this commitment, they should come to our aid,” Joe King Mendy, marketing, and sales assistant unit manager, said.
Comium, one of the country’s four GSM operator which started operations in May 2007 and has 150,000 subscribers and approximately 125 employees.
The GSM company was suspended after failing to pay licences and spectrum fees. It owed over D65 million and over D3 million in international voice gateway fees.
“Effective 5th October 2021, you shall not provide any services incidental to any of the licences you hold,” information minister Ebrima Sillah ordered then.
However, Mr Mendy argued that things have changed since the company has now settled almost all of its bills.
“As of now, we are just left with 2021, and this 2021 is due in December. So, why is Pura silent?”
Mr Mendy said most of the staff “are suffering” because they get their livelihood from Comium.
“The staff are so concerned because since we wrote to Pura some two weeks ago, we did not get any feedbacks from them. Now, you pin us for something, we settled it and wrote to you and said this is how we want things to be. Pura could have written back, but they did not. And now, the silence is killing. As citizens, we have the right to have our jobs secured.”
One demonstrator who said he has been working at Comium for more than a decade described their condition as “extremely difficult”.
“My brother, it is not easy. We just want this to be resolved. I don’t see any reason why the responsible authorities should not listen to our management,” he said.
Some observers said Comium took on a trajectory that has stifled its growth and innovation over the years. Ebrima Sowe, a radio access network manager for the company, agreed, and suggested that the company must work to be more creative if it resumes operations.
“Obviously [we must become more innovative] because technology is evolving. We need to upgrade as well. With the coming of a new investor, trust me it’s going to be a different ballgame in this country.