High Court supports Comium in suspension dispute

4 Nov 2021

Gambian newspaper The Standard reported that Banjul High Court issued a ruling on 28 October permitting cellco Comium Gambia to resume full operations, overriding its one-month service suspension ordered by the Ministry of Information & Communication Infrastructure (MOICI) which was due to end on 4 November. Justice Ebrima Jaiteh ruled on an ex-parte motion filed by Comium against MOICI and the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), issuing a restraining order against MOICI/PURA ‘from doing anything that would affect the subsistence and validity’ of Comium’s operating licences, whilst granting Comium seven days to file a writ of order of prohibition to stop MOICI/PURA from further suspending or revoking its licences. The judge decided the application filed by Comium had merit to warrant the intervention of the court to preserve the status quo of the Gambian mobile network operator market before Comium’s licences had been suspended by the actions of MOICI/PURA. The case was adjourned to 9 November.

MOICI ordered a month’s suspension of Comium’s GSM mobile network operations with effect from 5 October 2021, in line with the notice of suspension issued by PURA on 16 September which demanded Comium pay GMD69.1 million (USD1.3 million) to settle licensing, spectrum and international gateway fees.

According to Comium it settled all dues and arrears for 2019 and 2020 during the suspension period, leaving only a portion of fees due for payment in December 2021, but the regulatory authorities did not consequently lift the operating ban. Comium, which recently forged a strategic partnership with UK-headquartered Monty Mobile, has also argued that state-owned rival Gamcel has outstanding dues but has not been subject to a suspension order.