By Nyima Bah
Suspended GSM operator Comuim has expressed shock and surprise over the decision of PURA to suspend them for a month despite dues settlement and promising negotiations.
Addressing a press conference on the matter yesterday, the technical director for Comium, Lamin Drammeh said: “The surprising news came after thorough positive meetings that were held between Comuim’s new management and PURA, in which Comium and its new international investor showed a sign of goodwill by paying the amount of 14,000,000 Dalasi of its gross dues, and also expressed its determination to pay out remaining amount, without even relating this payment to its due receivable of D21,000,000 Dalasi from Gamtel.
Despite the dues from Gamtel, Comium’s new management and its international investor are still committing to proceed immediately in settling the remaining, and they shall provide within one month period, a full-year of network upgrade plan, provided that PURA stops immediately the network suspension and will not tie them to any conditions that would jeopardize the kick-off of the new era of telecommunication in the company and the country.”
Drammeh also claimed that Comuim has signed a management agreement with new investor Monty Mobile to resolve “all current financial and network issues including bringing 4G and 5G network to the Gambia at a later stage.
Noting that this new move of comium will not only improve the economic situation in the Gambia with the new investment but will also create additional job openings and increase the existing Comium workforce by at least 30 percent while safeguarding the main source of living of the current 125 employed families in the company.
“The company has been struggling financially from 2019- to date as a result of Covid-19, and unfortunately, we had another incident in 2020 when we had one of Pre-p platforms going down that lasted for almost two months. We lost almost 50 percent of our customers,” he lamented.
He said Covid-19’s impact alone accounted for a decrease of the number of subscribers from 400,000 to 150,000.
Haddy Dandeh Jabbie, legal adviser for comium, said apart from license which is the main asset that has been contested by PURA, the company does not owe any liabilities when it comes to corporate tax, social security and many more. She added that as a GSM, it is difficult to shut down the network even for an hour as this will put Comuim in despair and kill the company. “So, it is important that the suspension be lifted by PURA and they negotiate with us to find a way that we can continue, having our staff and the contracts we have with external investors as well as continue to work with the Government,” Jabbie stated.
She also clarified that the Government does not owe Comuim any money.
“We have an institution that does owe us money and that is Gamtel, which owes us an amount of D21 million,” she said. The lawyer added Comuim has paid D10 million towards the license payment and it was paid directly to GRA based on negotiation done by the external lawyers.
She also added that the proposal for payment plan agreement with PURA is such that “we will pay all arrears owing by the 30th January, 2022.”