Telcos Disconnects Banks Over N120bn USSD Debt


May 13, 2023

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Telecommunication operators would disconnect Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) from their service, if they fail to pay the debt owed to operators for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services which has amounted to over N120billion LEADERSHIP learnt.

ADULAWO NEWS recalls that Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had earlier ordered members of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) to disconnect Banks if they fail to pay the N120billion debt owed to operators.

The approval was granted because despite multiparty stakeholder efforts to resolve the situation and prevent any impact on banking services, led by the minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), NCC, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), along with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), the DMBs have continued to incur higher debts, without making the commensurate payments.
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Chairman of ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, disclosed in a press statement made available to LEADERSHIP that all efforts to make the Banks fulfil their obligations failed.

Recall that MNOs and DMBs have 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. which currently stands at over N120nillion.

Adebayo lamented that every time some progress is made, the DMBs come up with reasons to take stakeholders several steps back, adding that, “due to the inability of MNOs and DMBs to reach an agreement on the issues, MNOs in 2021 sought to disconnect DMBs due to the unpaid debts which stood at N42billion as at that time. However, the Hon. Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali ibrahim (Pantami) intervened and asked the MNOs not to disconnect DMBs as the action will negatively impact on the Digital and Financial Inclusion policy of the Federal Government.”
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The chairman recalled that the NCC, ALTON, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and DMBs represented by the chairman, Body of Bank CEOs subsequently met on March 15, 2021 to discuss indebtedness of DMBs to MNOs for USSD services, adding that, further to the meeting, CBN and NCC issued a joint press statement on the agreement reached by all stakeholders.

Adebayo disclosed that the honourable minister of Communications and Digital Economy and NCC had made several efforts to get the banks to show good faith and sign an agreement, in the national interest, based on the resolutions reached at that meeting, but unfortunately, the patriotic intervention of the Hon. Minister and the NCC have been taken for granted by the DMBs as two years after, the banks have failed to sign a final agreement.

“It is pertinent to note that the contract between MNOs and DMBs on the use of USSDs for banking transactions is strictly commercial and MNOs are at liberty to withdraw the services if it is established that the transaction is unprofitable to them. MNOs have invested billions of naira in expanding their systems to accommodate the USSD needs of DMBs over the years.
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“This has resulted in more Nigerians having access to banking services in addition to enabling banks to trim down costs by requiring less branches to service their growing customers. Unfortunately, MNOs are not getting paid for their services and the debt that stood at N42 Billion in 2021 has now risen to over N120 Billion.

“It is obvious that the level of debt is unsustainable given the time/value huge cost of the continuous upgrade and operation of the systems and infrastructure dedicated to supporting USSD transactions of DMBs. In view of the foregoing, unless DBMs meet their debt obligations, MNOs will disconnect all banks indebted to them for USSD services rendered,” the ALTON chairman averred.

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