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Banks N120bn debt to telcos unresolved, discussion ongoing

New USSD price leaves bank customers with new headache

Telecom operators are yet to get firm agreement from commercial banks who they allege are owing N120 billion for Unstructured Supplementary Services Data (USSD).

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had in September at the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF) said the deposit money banks agreed to pay the debt after the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of the NCC, said the issue between the banks and telcos was resolved at a recent meeting between Folashodun Shonubi, the interim CBN Governor, the NCC, telecom operators, and the banks.

However, Gbenga Adebayo, President of the Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said on Thursday, that while there was some admission by the banks that certain amount of debt is being owed, they were yet to agree with the telcos on how to flesh out the details and modality for payment.

“Discussions are ongoing, it has not been resolved. But there is some admittance by the banks that they owe telcos. It is now the mechanism for payment that has not been reached,” Adebayo said.

Read also: Telcos, banks resolve N120bn USSD debt dispute

Nevertheless, Adebayo said there was progress given that the banks have agreed they owe the banks.

Other telecom stakeholders also confirmed they were yet to get a definitive statement from the banks on how the money will be paid.

Danbatta has said that the delay in paying the debt could impact the financial inclusion drive of the CBN.

According to him, 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 said.