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MTN, Airtel, others threaten to shutdown banks’ USSD services over N80bn debt



The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) on Thursday threatened to disconnect banks in the country from the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) over rising debt.

Members of ALTON include MTN Nigeria, Airtel, Glo and 9Mobile, among others.

The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke at the ICT Growth Conference in Lagos, said the debt owed by the banks to the telecommunications companies has increased from N42 billion last year to N80 billion.

The event was organized by the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA).

Adebayo said the debt arose from the USSD services the telecoms firms provide to the banks.

Some banks and the network providers disagreed last year after the former threatened to prevent bank customers from accessing the USSD platform.

The disagreement was settled after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) intervened in the matter.

A meeting between stakeholders the two industries’ stakeholders led to an increase in the USSD bank charge to N6.98 per transaction effective from March 16, 2021.

READ ALSO: USSD disagreement with banks, N40.3bn debts affect MTN Q1 revenue

The ALTON chief said the banks have been charging their customers for using their USSD platforms, but refused to pay commission to the telecoms.

He said: “The banks would want us to be silent about the USSD debt. But it is not going away until they pay. At the last count, the debt is now N80 billion.

“Some banks are responding while others are not. We are nearing that time when we have no choice but to discontinue the provisions of services to banks.”

He described the banks as “dishonorable” for refusing to honour their obligation to the service providers.

“Banks remove charges from their customers but refuse to pay telecom operators. You don’t expect us to keep rendering services when you don’t pay.

“The irony of it is that if it was the other way round you can’t owe the bank a cent,” Adebayo added.

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