CBN Wades Into N120 Billion USSD Debt Dispute Between Telcos And Banks as NCC Gives Nod to Disconnection

CBN Wades Into N120 Billion USSD Debt Dispute Between Telcos And Banks as NCC Gives Nod to Disconnection

  • The Central Bank of Nigeria has moved to resolve the USSD debt between the telcos and the financial institutions
  • The apex bank, via its spokesman, said the issue is mainly technical as there is confusion over what successful transactions are
  • The telcos allege that the banks owed them about N120 billion in USSD debt

The Central Bank of Nigeria has waded into the protracted dispute between telecommunication companies and Nigerian banks over the N120 billion debt the banks owe to telcos.

The telcos say that the banks are indebted to them to N120 billion for service provided through Unstructured Supplementary Service (USSD).

CBN, Telcos, Banks
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele Credit: Bloomberg
Source: Getty Images

NCC backs telcos to disconnect banks

The heated dispute led to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) giving the telecom companies the go-ahead to disconnect the banks.

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Daily Trust reports that the NCC, the CBN and the Minister of Communications intervened twice in the issue in 2020 and 2022 when the debts were N42 billion and N80 billion.

CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Isa Abdulmumin, said the apex bank knows the dispute between the two sectors.

He said the CBN is working to resolve the issue between the banks and the telcos.

Confusion trails USSD charges by telcos

He said there needs to be more clarity among the duo as to what amounts to a successful transaction and the amount to be charged by them.

The CBN spokesman said the issue is mainly technical, bordering on pricing.

He said:

“Indeed, it was due to the direct intervention of the CBN (or CBN Governor) in March 2021. The banks and telcos agreed upon a per session price of N6.98 (including settling any outstanding fees). As far as we know, since 2021, DMBs have continued to collect the USSD fees and remit the same on behalf of the telcos based on that agreement.

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“We understand the latest dispute concerns technical issues regarding the definition of a successful transaction from a bank and telco perspective.
“USSD fees are charged by DMBs using an automated system which bills the customer for a successful transaction only after a banking service is consumed.
“For the Telcos, a successful transaction happens once the customer has dialed the USSD short-code, which may not lead to the consummation of banking service.

According to him, USSD is a critical channel leveraged primarily by the financially excluded, vulnerable, and critical masses. The CBN remains committed to ensuring that the areas of contention related to the collection of telco charges for USSD are resolved in the interest of the financial system and the overall economy.

MTN, Glo, Airtel secures govt approval to disconnect *894#, *901#, *737# other banks' USSD codes earlier reported that Mobile telecommunication companies in Nigeria have disclosed that they have received approval from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to disconnect banks' Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services.

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The decision was taken following the failure of banks to pay their outstanding debt to telcos for USSD services, Punch reports.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators Chairman of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, who signed the statement, revealed that the outstanding amount exceeds N120 billion and has been pending for several years.


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