Telecommunications companies and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria have finally put an end to their long-standing dispute over a debt of N120 billion resulting from the billing of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).
This was disclosed by Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) at the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF) held in Lagos on Thursday.
Dambatta said that the disagreement revolved around whether the billing should be directed to corporate billing rather than end-user billing as preferred by the DMBs.
According to the EVC, the intervention of Fola Shonubi, the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), led to the settlement to clear the accumulated debt and continue to pay for the USSD service going forward, under the corporate billing term.
He stated that the issue was resolved at a recent meeting between the acting CBN Governor, the NCC, the telecom operators, and the banks.
The resolution, he said, was achieved based on the realisation that the financial inclusion program would not have achieved about 70 percent without telecom services.
“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 was being paid nothing. This was despite the intervention of Isa Pantami, the immediate past Minister,” Danbatta said.
While noting that the situation had remained the same until recently when Shonubi intervened, the EVC said the CBN boss acknowledged that without the USSD service, there would be no digital financial inclusion and the penetration of the inclusion would be nowhere near where it is now.
“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,” Danbatta stated.