Telcos to begin withdrawal of USSD services as talks with banks collapse

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Mobile Network operators said it would begin a phased withdrawal of USSD services to the banks over a N42 Billion debt owed by the banks for access charges for the use of the telecoms infrastructure.

Recall that the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Ibrahim Pantami, at the weekend intervened in the matter, calling for tripartite intervention, including the Ministry, NCC and the MNOs.

However, National Daily gathered that talks may have collapsed following the stubbornness of banks CEOs to shift ground on the debt.

A source in the industry said the banks had, with the tacit approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, constituted themselves into a huge cartel that were too powerful to either take instructions from anybody or give room to common sense analysis of the issues involved in the matter.

But the President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Ikechuckwu Nnamani, said talks had not collapsed. He said talks were still ongoing despite the commencement of phased withdrawal of USSD services to banks.

Chairman, Association Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, who had signed the statement announcing the service withdrawal to the banks said the MNOs were compelled by the prevailing circumstance to take the decision.

In an interview, he said: “It’s unfortunate that we came to a point like this. It’s a step that circumstances forced us to take, it’s not something that we are not very happy about but that is what it is. That huge debt is capable of crippling the entire industry if care is not taken.”

He lamented that despite the intervention of Pantami and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NCC, Prof Garba Danbatta, the matter remained unresolved.

“The matter remained unresolved, there’s no traction on the issue. At some point, the minister intervened himself; we are aware of correspondence to the CBN. It is an issue that has been with us and it’s quite unfortunate.

“The banks insisted that the telcos should bill the end users and we said no, it will amount to double billing if you deduct money from their account for delivering USSD service into your system, and we again charge them for the same service but the banks said no, this is the only option that they want,” he said.

According to him, when the services are withdrawn, all the USSD code that is used for fund transfers will stop working, the one used for balance enquiry will not work, and it will also have an impact on those who rely on these codes for transactions to access the platform of the bank.