The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has announced to Nigerian Public that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has approved the disconnection of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Nigeria if they fail to pay their outstanding debt for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services which amounts to over N120 Billion.
The approval was granted due to the DMBs’ failure to make payments despite the efforts of multiple stakeholders, including the Hon. Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), the Nigerian Communications Commission, the Central Bank of Nigeria, MNOs, and DMBs, to resolve the situation and prevent any service disruptions. The DMBs have continued to accumulate significant debt without making corresponding payments, and despite some progress being made, they often provide reasons that cause stakeholders to regress in this matter.
In a statement jointly signed by the Chairman and Head of Operations of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo and Gbolahan Awonuga respectively, they said members of the public will 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 N120 Billion).
“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 N42 Billion 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.
“The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Deposit Money Banks (DMB) represented by the Chairman, Body of Bank CEOs subsequently met on 15 March 2021 to discuss indebtedness of DMBs to MNOs for USSD services. Further to the meeting, CBN and NCC issued a joint press statement on the agreement reached by all stakeholders”
The statement disclosed that the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have 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. 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.
“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,” ALTON chairman reiterates.