BusinessReps Wade Into Banks Vs Telcos N42bn Rift, As CBN Fixes New...

Reps Wade Into Banks Vs Telcos N42bn Rift, As CBN Fixes New Charges For USSD Services


BEVERLY HILLS, March 16, (THEWILL) – The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has fixed new charges for customers using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data services (USSD).

The apex bank said, taking effect from Tuesday, customers would pay a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction every time they use USSD services.

The charges were part of the agreements after banks and telecommunication operators met on Monday to discuss the N42bn debt owed mobile operators by banks.

A statement on Tuesday and jointly signed by the apex bank’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi; and Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, Ikechukwu Adinde, explained: “We are pleased to announce that after comprehensive deliberations on the key issues, a resolution framework acceptable to all parties was agreed thus:

“Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs (Deposit Money Banks) and all CBN-licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction.

“This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion.

“This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.

“To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.”

The Federal Government last week asked telecommunication operators to put on hold their impending suspension of USSD services over N42 billion debt owed by banks.

Similarly, in a motion of urgent public importance, the House of Representatives on Tuesday, asked the Telecommunication Operators to halt their planned withdrawal and suspension of USSD services in the interest of Nigerians.

Adopting a motion sponsored by Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), the House asked its Committee on Telecommunications to liaise with Telecommunications Operators, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Banks and other Financial Institutions with a view to resolving the impasse between the banks and the telecom operators.

Hon. Ossai said that in a bid for the Central Bank of Nigeria to realise one of its statutory mandates of promoting monetary stability and sound financial system in Nigeria, designed a cashless policy to provide innovations, easy mobile payment, cost reduction and convenient financial services to millions of Nigerians living in urban and rural areas.

According to him, one of the innovations introduced by the CBN is the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services which is used by Global System for Mobile Communication Technology to communicate with their service providers’ computers via text messages to check account balance or mobile airtime, generate bank statement or does fund transfer and data balance enquiries or to receive one-time passwords or pin codes.

Ossai further said that the USSD service, which is controlled by Mobile Network Operators, is a critical price of infrastructure used to provide mobile financial services to banks and other financial institutions in cell phones at very low cost, without requiring access to the user’s SIM card.

He said that the USSD infrastructure service houses all the Nigeria telecommunications, thus: MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9Mobile and internet service providers, adding that the USSD has made it possible for millions of Nigerians who do not have smartphones or data/internet connections to access banking and other financial services on a daily basis, especially during COVID 19 movement restrictions.

The Lawmaker explained that between January to June 2020, the value of USSD transfer payment in Nigeria amounted to over N390 Billion (about One Billion U.S Dollars).

He argued that since October, 2019, there has been a dispute between Nigeria Telecommunications Operators and the Nigerian banks over who should pay for USSD service sessions, adding that the banks always wanted the Telecommunications Operators to charge customers directly, while the Telecommunication Operators insisted that the services were being offered to the banks and as such the banks should be the one to pay the telcos.

Ossai said further that between the months of July and August 2020, the Operators had an agreement with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that Nigerian banks should pay the Telecommunication Operators for the use Of USSD at an agreed individual price mechanism.

He expressed concern over the dispute between the Telecom operators and the banks has lingered for a long time to the extent that parties had been finger-pointing each other, adding that all efforts at resolving the dispute proved abortive and the debt kept increasing until it is presently N42 Billion.

Hon Ossai disclosed that the Telecommunication Operators have issued a notice, threatening to withdraw and suspend the USSD service from the Nigerian banks starting from Monday, 15th of March, 2021.

He expressed concern that if the USSD service is withdrawn, Nigerian telecommunication users will fall back and continue with their old traditional modes and channels, such as mobile bank apps, internet banking, ATM, PoS, that makes banking services uninteresting, inconveniencing, with high cost of financial transactions, which will further endanger our health in the midst of the current pandemic.

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