Liberia: GSM Companies Warned of Political Actions If They Refuse to Pay Money Owed Government

Monrovia — Representative Moses Acarous Gray (CDC- District #8 Montserrado County) has told GSM companies operating in Liberia to leave Liberia if they want to or "pay money they legally owe the Government of Liberia.

Addressing a news conference Thursday, the Montserrado County lawmaker declared that he would do everything politically and legally possible to make them pay.

Rep. Gray played down rumors and fears that if the government continues to press for their money from companies, they will pack up and leave Liberia, terming the move as a scare tactic imposed by the companies to institute measures to the detriment of the Liberian people.

Rep. Gray also threatened to lead a protest at the steps of the Orange GSM company in District #8 Montserrado County if it is established that they are funding people to protest against the government.

"If it is clearly established that these people are taking money and giving it to protesters, there will be a counter resistance force in District #8. We will protest, we will get permit to protest. It is a constitutional right. We don't want to reach that level so pay our money this is similar situation with petroleum companies on the road fund."

Rep. Gray also told reporters that the agreement between the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) and GSM companies was minutes on call and that never in the history of Liberia has there been unlimited calls. "The LTA and GSM companies agreed on floor charge since September and since then companies have collected the money but are refusing to pay to government its percentage. Their quest not to pay the surcharge is an exploitation that must be halted as the agreed to have started the payment since March. They had such agreement with the LTA and have faulted by running to the court while they daily collect revenues. It's on the extra revenue that the surcharge is on and not to put it on the Liberian people as being indicated by their propagandists."

The GSM companies recently requested a stay order on the government from proceeding with the matter but according to Gray the Justice-in-Chambers Jamesetta Howard-Wolokollie denied such request. "They have to pay the money. If they cannot, we have options, and one of those is to insist that the LTA revoke the order and I will use all the means. They cannot be collecting money and cannot pay the government."

The lawmaker also denied rumors that the government had earlier imposed new taxation on data during the COVID-19 period. "Besides that option; I will move to preach the gospel to my colleagues that what these people are doing here, they cannot do in other countries. So, I will craft a bill on self-regulation.

Said Rep. Gray: "Since September they been collecting that money, now when it's time to pay, they don't want to. Despite the agreement with government, they ran to court and the Justice-in-Chamber has denied a prohibition; so, the matter is before the full bench of the Supreme Court."

The surcharge is a government revenue generated from the telecommunications sector and which was recently implemented to replace the 5 percent tax.

Although Justice Wolokollie did not prescribe any punishment against the LTA for disrespecting the court, while the case is pending, the LTA attempted to institute the surcharges fees' collection against Orange-Liberia. But Justice Wolokollie mandated the LTA to immediately stop its enforcement of the surcharge fees pending the hearing of the Orange-Liberia contention against then Judge Scheaplor R. Dunbar of the Civil Law Court 'B' ruling.

Judge Dunbar by then ruled that: "The petition for judicial review is denied and dismissed, and the resistance is sustained. The stay order of April 15, 2019 is lifted. LTA may proceed to enforce and implement the order and costs ruled against Orange-Liberia."

Dunbar also explained that the LTA's order was promulgated in conformity with the Telecommunication Act of 2007 and that the said order does not violate any provision of the Revenue Code.

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