February this year, Africell Gambia Limited came on the receiving end of severe criticisms.
Hearsay also was bandied about by hordes of people of a then ongoing mobilisation intent on leading people onto the streets to vehemently protest against the mobile company.
The growing resentment was fuelled by the unearthing of a scandal involving ripping the Gambian public of their data funds by Africell.
Rumours of this have been rife but none took it seriously until an online platform pieced an article putting together what they believed were strong arguments suggesting the Lebanese-owned institution have been stealing from the public with their claim of an unlimited data bundle whose billboards are littered on all streets.
As have become the trend lately even during Jammeh’s era, momentum towards this anti-Africell campaign, like all previous other campaigns, began shaping up online, as virtually all posts smacked the Kairaba-based institution in the face.
Continuing to turn the heat on a beleaguered Africell, a group styled as Concerned Citizens, comprising mostly activists, endeavoured to petition the Gambia government through spokesperson Ebrima Sillah and Gambia’s parliament. The dossier of complaint, submitted to the assembly’s public enterprise committee, also detailed a comparison of data rates across the sub-region for assessment.
A reply is still to be heard from the lawmakers’ committee about two months on at a time when restriction is imposed on movements through the state of emergency and data bundles would best be used at home.
Public Utility Regulatory Authority – a body who by their name, are tasked to curb if not curtail service providers’ excesses on the vulnerable masses – were themselves not spared amid flying allegations they’re given shut-up money by mobile companies to throw things under the carpet.
Consequently forced to act or risk being labelled accomplices in the Africell scandal, PURA moved menacingly slapping a retributive action by ordering the Lebanese outfit refund subscribers who bought the bundles and have lodged complaints.
No further monetary fines were imposed, at least not to public knowledge.
By sheer numbers, Africell have a strong base but coming out of this thieving scandal sure, most reckon, would take years leaving them with a battered reputation.
However, the coronavirus has sort of accorded Africell’s marketing department platform to redeem their bruised egos.
Aware the nation is rocked by an ailment that has brought well-to-do nations to their knees, and considering Gambians are needy during these torrid times, Africell thought it best to splash some cash -12 million Gambian dalasis to government.
Like everything about the adage “protecting the brand”, Africell and the media outlets they bankroll, made much fuzz about the gesture.
And being the forgetful populace Gambians are, majority are already commending the company’s initiative –the same Africell Gambia Limited that not only hoodwinked but looted them of their hard earned monies potentially worth God knows how many millions.
One positive out of this Africell gesture in addition to their D2000 and D1000 pay to frontline health workers, is other GSM companies will be forced to come out an donate in a bid no to be outshone.
Noteworthy though is these gestures won’t deflect the public’s attention from their thieving habit, media scrutiny of their rates and the impending ruling by parliament on their case.