" ITREALMS: N120bn USSD debt: ALTON approves disconnection of banks - ITREALMS

Saturday, May 13, 2023

N120bn USSD debt: ALTON approves disconnection of banks - ITREALMS

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) is spoiling for war over some N120n billion debt arising from the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) by Nigerian banks, reports 
N120bn USSD debt: ALTON approves disconnection of banks - ITREALMS
USSD, ITREALMS gathered also referred to as 'quick codes' or 'feature codes,' is a communications protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the mobile network operator's computers.

ITREALMS gathered that ALTON has granted its members, the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to disconnect Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) if they fail to pay the debt owed to operators for USSD services amounting to over N120 Billion.

ALTON chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo and Head, Operations, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga in a jointly endorsed press statement available to 
ITREALMS noted that the approval was granted because despite multiparty stakeholder efforts to resolve the situation and prevent any impact on services, led by the Hon. Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) and including the Nigerian Communications Commission, the Central Bank of Nigeria, along with MNOs and DMBs.

"The DMBs have continued to incur greater and greater debt, without making the commensurate payments. Every time some progress is made, the DMBs come up with reasons to take stakeholders several steps back, in this matter," ALTON stated.

ITREALMS recalled 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," Adebayo pointed out.

Stressing, however, that 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 NCC, ALTON, ATCON and 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," he said.

Pantami, and NCC, he emphasised 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 Minister and NCC have been taken for granted by the DMBs, as two years after, the banks have failed to sign a final agreement," ALTON lamented.

The body of MNOs equally recalled that MNOs have invested billions of naira in expanding their systems to accommodate the USSD needs of DMBs over the years, which 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.

ALTON decried that 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."

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