West African Telecommunication shut down in Liberia, General Manager collapses


The General Manager of the West African Telecommunication (WAT) Gio Vannie, collapsed Monday as police officers shut down his company's operation over a frequency dispute. Although he was taken to hospital, the cause of his collapse was not established up to press time.

The incident occurred when the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) ordered the immediate closure of the company's operations for allegedly undermining its authority. But, the Commercial Manager of WAT, Yafar Baikpeh, rebuffed LTA's claims saying that the action to shut down the company was illegal. He explained that the company has been cooperating with the LTA to see how best their entity could regularize its status.

But the Chairman of the LTA, Albert N. Bropleh said the closure of WAT stems from the failure of the company to meet the necessary requirements for operation.

"Despite all efforts and a high degree of patience exhibited to ensure that WAT meets up with all necessary requirements, it sought to deliberately undermine the LTA by operating on a frequency that has not been granted to them by the LTA," Bropleh told reporters Monday at a news conference in Monrovia.

Flanked by other Commissioners of the LTA, Bropleh explained that their decision to shut down WAT was intended to protect the interest of Liberia and was in keeping with its statutory responsibilities.

He pointed out that LTA is aware that WAT was granted license in 2005 by the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications for the installation, operation, maintenance, exploitation of the telecommunications system.

"The same license stressed the need for the regulator to assign to the license frequencies to facilitate the installation and operation of the fixed wireless network as part of the system," he said.

According to Bropleh, WAT management was warned against rolling out in the absence of a legally issued frequency by the regulator, but has "cynically been acting in defiance of the repeated instructions and order of the LTA."

Addressing journalists Monday, Baikpeh accused police officers of using sticks and other objects to abruptly shut down the generator while employees were busy working. He claimed that LTA Management had an ulterior motive to shut the company down. Baikpeh said the company would file a writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court.

He contended that the management of LTA did not issue a writ from a court of competence jurisdiction to effect the closure of the company, but instead, wrote on a transmitter slip informing them that state security should liaise with their security to shut down their operation

The LTA has the statutory responsibility to issue licenses and allocate frequencies, set fees for these licenses and frequencies, as well as monitor and enforce compliance by licensee with conditions of their licenses; amend, modify, suspend or revoke licenses in accordance with the Act creating the LTA.