Telcos take on Minister, banks over directives on USSD service

The umbrella body of the companies, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has accused banks and the authorities of insincerity over a directive that telcos should stop charging for services they offer to financial institutions.

It would be recalled that the Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Patani, had issued a directive to telcos to stop charging the N4 for every 20 seconds during a banking USSD usage.

Reacting to the directive, ALTON’s chairman, Gbenga Adedayo, wondered why stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and Body of Bank Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), have kept silent.

Adebayo also said it was wrong to describe the cost of providing the service as ‘sunk’, wondering how the cost of building a house could be described as sunk.

Adebayo also argued that the companies invested huge cash to put the infrastructure in place, adding that they have been spending money to keep the base transceiver stations (BTS) running, in addition to other costs.

He said the operators will soon apply the relevant sections of the Nigerian Communications Act to stop providing links to the banks.

The carriers insisted that stakeholders are yet to meet to discuss the way forward, “but the banks have continued to charge as much as N55 per transaction, using the same telecoms operators platform.”

Adebayo said: “I am saying it again that the USSD links will not be offered free of charge. The records are there. We are tracking how much the banks are charging and making on the USSD. When the time comes, and we agree on way forward, we will show them what they have been charging. For the telcos, it cost them so much to provide the service.

“What should have happened is that when we first raised this issue, we made public statement and expected that a stakeholders meeting should have been called to discuss the matter.

“When the time comes, we shall treat it as interconnect debt. We shall invoke the right of the provider of service under the Act of the NCC. So, if the banks will continue to enjoy the service and they won’t pay, telcos will make a case to the NCC for proper disconnect.”