The accumulated debt from the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) banks are owing the telecommunication companies (telcos) has risen to N80 billion as at November this year.
The Chairman, Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, who revealed the figure in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said it would soon come to a point where the telcos would be forced to withdraw the USSD services, since the banks have refused to pay.
“The debt is rising and has not been paid by the banks. As of November 2022, the accumulated debt rose to over N80 billion. When we started the argument in 2019, it was N32 billion, and they continue to claim that they are not owing, but our investigation shows that they are still using the USSD platform to offer banking services to their customers, yet they are not remitting to telecom operators who own the USSD platform,” Adebayo said.
According to him, the issue has to be addressed because they cannot wish it away.
“Time will soon come when we will be constrained to withdraw the service and many bank customers that depend on the USSD service will suffer for it and it will affect the economy. It is hounorable to pay their debts and they have to pay,” Adebayo warned.
“We are warning that the banks’ action in refusing to pay their debt, will have negative consequence on the CBN’s Cashless Economy agenda for the country. It will be a threat to cashless economy. So CBN should advise Money Deposit Banks to up the accumulated debts,” Adebayo further said.
USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, particularly for the underserved and the financially excluded, offered by telecoms operators to banks.
Banks use different USSD codes to support transfer of money through the use of mobile devices, without internet data connectivity.
Deposit money banks and the telecom operators had been at loggerheads over the non-remittance to telcos for all USSD fees charged by banks since 2019, accumulating to N42 billion as at March 2021 and N80 billion as at November 2022.
The Minster of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, had written to CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, highlighting the impending danger of the disagreement and stressing the need for banks to pay the accumulated debt or risk suspension of the USSD code.
The letter dated March 3, 2021, and addressed to the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, reminded him of the USSD pricing issued by NCC on July 23, 2019, as well as the subsequent amendment on July 24, 2020.
The banks, telcos, CBN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) respectively have had several meetings in the past to resolve the issue but the banks remained adamant and have refused to settle the rising debt.