To assess compliance with this directive, the report compared identical transactions carried out with the same provider, one via the USSD menu and the other via a mobile application.

Telecommunications operators in Nigeria say they have been granted approval by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to disconnect banks Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debt, which has amounted to N120 billion.

This was made known in a statement signed by Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), on Friday in Lagos.

According to him, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) would disconnect banks if they failed to pay the debt owed.

Adebayo said that the approval was granted because, in spite of the multi-party stakeholder efforts to resolve the situation and prevent any impact on services, banks continued to incur greater debt, without making commensurate payments.

“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 ₦42 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 the Federal Government’s digital and financial inclusion policy.”

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“Unfortunately, the 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.

The ALTCON chairman noted that the contract between MNOs and banks on using USSDs for banking transactions was strictly commercial and that MNOs were at liberty to withdraw the services if the transaction was unprofitable.

So far, MNOs have invested billions of naira in expanding their systems to accommodate the USSD needs of banks over the years.

Nigerians having access to banking services enabled banks to trim down costs by requiring fewer branches to service their growing customers.

According to the statement, he said that the MNOs were not getting paid for their services and the debt that stood at ₦42 billion in 2021 had now risen to over ₦120 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.

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