Telecommunications operators in Nigeria say the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has given them permission to disconnect banks with debts of N120 billion in Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).
This was revealed in a statement released on Friday in Lagos by Mr Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON). He stated that if banks did not pay their debts, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) will disconnect them.
According to Adebayo, the consent was granted because, despite multi-party stakeholder attempts to address the matter and avoid any impact on services, banks continued to accrue more debt without making comparable payments.
He said members of the public would recall that MNOs and banks had protracted disagreements concerning the appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions, transparency of charges, mode of collection and liability for payment of the outstanding and continuous service fees due to the MNOs.
“Due to the inability of MNOs and banks to reach an agreement on the issues, MNOs in 2021 sought to disconnect banks due to the unpaid debts which stood at N42 billion as at that time.
“However, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, intervened and asked the MNOs not to disconnect banks as the action will negatively impact on the digital and financial inclusion policy of the Federal Government.
“Unfortunately, the patriotic intervention of the minister and the NCC have been taken for granted by the banks, as two years after, the banks have failed to sign a final agreement,” he said.
Adebayo also out that the contract between MNOs and banks on the use of USSDs for banking transactions was entirely commercial, and MNOs were free to remove the services if the transaction was unprofitable for them.
He stated that throughout the years, MNOs have committed billions of naira in developing their infrastructure to meet the USSD demands of banks.
According to Adebayo, this has resulted in more Nigerians having access to financial services, as well as allowing banks to save costs by requiring fewer locations to service their rising client base.
He said that unfortunately, MNOs were not getting paid for their services and the debt that stood at N42 billion in 2021 had now risen to over N120 billion.
“It is obvious that the level of debt is unsustainable given the time or value of the huge cost of the continuous upgrade, operation of the systems and infrastructure dedicated to supporting USSD transactions of banks.
“In view of the foregoing, unless banks meet their debt obligations, MNOs will disconnect all banks indebted to them for USSD services rendered,” Adebayo said