The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta has shed more light on the ongoing rift on the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debts between the telecoms service providers and the financial institutions in Nigeria.
The EVC said that both parties have reached a consensus as the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Folashodun Shonubi have agreed banks will clear the accumulated N120 Billion USSD Debt.
Danbatta said this at the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF) organised yesterday by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in Lagos.
Recall, that Business Remarks reported that telecom operators have threatened to cut off the services provided to the banks upon which the banks rely to discharge USSD services to their numerous customers.
According to the EVC, the banks’ insistence on end-user billing as opposed to corporate billing led to debt accumulation despite several interventions.
Speaking about the meeting with the Acting Governor of CBN, Danbatta noted that the resolution was achieved based on the realization that financial inclusion cannot be achieved without telecom services.
Danbatta averred that the banks have agreed to clear the accumulated debt and continue to pay for the USSD service going forward under the corporate billing term
In his words, “The USSD service is being provided to the banks, who in turn provide the service to their customers. The question was who should be paying for the service.
“They wanted end-user billing, but we said the service is being provided to the banks, not to their customers.
“The banks charge their customers for the service, and they are to pay the telcos in the form of corporate billing, which is neat.
“Then along the way, there was a misunderstanding and the debt kept piling until it reached a humongous amount of over N100 billion. Even at that, the service was still being provided to customers by the banks using the telecom infrastructure and the telcos were being paid nothing. This was despite the intervention of the immediate past Minister,” Danbatta explained.
Speaking further on the USSD service charge, the EVC stated that the cost would not be pushed to end users rather it was sorted out by the banks.
“Digital financial inclusion index or penetration is currently about 70% because it is telco driven. And as such, there shouldn’t be any problem paying for the service. No service is free. Pay the telcos, that’s all we ask. Okay, and as we’re saying, Now, pay them for the debt, the accumulated debt, and then pay them for the service they are rendering as we speak.
“At a meeting between the acting CBN governor, the NCC, the telcos and the banks, it was acknowledged that the debt exists, that going forward, the service has to be paid for by the banks through corporate billing. It is an important development for the telecoms industry that we have found an amicable resolution to the problem because we’re all serving the same government. We do not want to disrupt financial services in the country.
“We want to see the financial inclusion penetration to even go higher. We want it to be ubiquitous, but we cannot do this without settling the legacy debt, as well as paying for the service that is being provided,” he said.