Comium’s GSM licence in trouble in Liberia

Telecoms

The post-hoc standardisation of regulation governing mobile operators is causing a number of public rows in Liberia. The Liberian regulator, LTA had to deny this week that it was going to close down Comium’s operation. And the local Chair of Comium was making a plea for even-handed treatment before a parliamentary committee. It seems that licences entered into under previous Governments may become a big political risk for operators.

The Executive Chairman of Comium Liberia, Monie R. Captan has said that he was happy for all GSM companies to be regulated, but this must be done in a fashion so that no one company is affected. Captan made the statement last week Friday when he appeared before the committees on Contract and Concession as well as Posts and Telecommunications at the National Investment Commission. There were later reports, denied by the regulator, that its operation was to be shut down.

Recently the Executive Branch of the Liberian Government submitted an Act to Repeal the Comium Concession; saying the company's agreement was ratified by the House and would be difficult for the newly established Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) to regulate it.

But the investment code of 2000 states that except through concession agreement for investment projects in the excess of US$10M and more, the qualifying investment projects shall be lodged with the National Investment Commission for evaluation and submission to the President of Liberia for approval and to the national legislature for ratification. This was done by Comium Liberia.

Appearing before the House committees on Post and Telecommunications and Contract and Concession at the National Investment Commission last Friday, Mr. Captan said, Comium did the right thing legally by going through the house. In addition to that, the company was also granted license by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to operate as a GSM company.

Captan said, there were two separate issues which were before the House. "One has to do with the investment incentives and the other is with the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry. I think each is different and there is no need for it to be put together. On investment, the NIC can deal with it and the licensing is squarely with the LTA."

"Comium has no problem with regulation for all the GSM companies at all. We need to be careful so that in trying to seek equity, we should not create inequality. If you repeal mine now when there is nothing to protect me while the others remain, then, we have not created equity."

But the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication has said in the past that Comium did not have any document to operate. To the disbelief of the lawmakers, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Jackson Doe, the Executive Chairman of Comium Liberia, Mr. Monie R. Captan, presented the original copy of its document, signed, probated and with all its legal work in place from the ministry and other relevant government institutions.

Captan said, "Comium is not against any standardization. All we need is harmony in the industry. But if you go now and repeal our investment incentive and take us to zero, the others will be enjoying theirs which will be unfair to us. If you can put all of us on par at the same time, that will be good. We need fair competition in the market." All GSM companies in the country have specific duty free privilege.

The Inquirer