"Avoid Service Shut Down": MTN, Airtel, Others Drag Nigerian Banks Over N200bn USSD Debt

"Avoid Service Shut Down": MTN, Airtel, Others Drag Nigerian Banks Over N200bn USSD Debt

  • Telecom operators are demanding the payment of USSD debt from Nigerian banks
  • The debt estimated at N120 billion earlier in the year has now reached N200 billion
  • Telcos have called for immediate action on the development, adding that such stifles the progress of the sector

Legit.ng journalist Zainab Iwayemi has over three years of experience covering the Economy, Technology, and Capital Market.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has asked Nigerian banks to pay the debt they owe its members for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) transactions or risk a possible service shutdown.

The association stated this on Thursday, November 16, 2023, at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) industry interactive session with the new Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Dr Aminu Maida.

MTN, Glo, Airtel, Others Threaten to Shut Down Services Over N200bn USSD Debt by Nigerian Banks
Photo Credit: FG Trade, Westend61
Source: Getty Images

Debt continues to increase

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The amount owed is now estimated at N200 billion from the N120 billion it was earlier in the year. Some months ago, Legit.ng reported that the amount was N150 billion.

Both sectors have been in disagreement since the USSD debt repayment in 2019. By 2020, the debt was just N17 billion but has since risen astronomically.

Gbenga Adebayo, ALTON Chairman, said the banks have since kept mute, but the debt has hindered progress for the telecom sector.

Confirming that there has been an ongoing conversation on the issue, Adebayo said:

“Of course, we can confirm that there had been talks, largely before now, but no progress has been made. The matter needs to be resolved as fast as possible to avoid service shut down.”
“If operators had to shut down their services, bank customers would no longer be able to carry out transactions such as fund transfer through shortcodes, check bank details and account balances among others through their mobile phones."

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The chairman also noted that the debt would continue to rise due to the forex challenge.

The bank's chief information officer who spoke to The Guardian assured that the matter would be resolved. He also called for the need to act on time.

“This is becoming ridiculous, we just hear figures upon figures. I remember the last discussion I had on this matter, the figure peddled then was N120 billion in April or May, now, you people are just brandishing figures here and there, now it has climbed to N200 billion. I think it is high time the banks and telcos resolved this matter. It is becoming embarrassing.”

Segun Agbaje, the Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, had earlier argued that reducing the cost of data was the only way to actualise financial inclusion. He described the USSD as a clumsy technology.

"Not the right time": NCC speaks to telecom consumers on tariff hike

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In an earlier report by Legit.ng, the NCC said the elimination fuel subsidy would not bring about hike in telecom rates.

Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, the NCC's executive vice chairman (EVC), gave the assurance while accepting the Titans of Tech (ToT) award in Lagos.

His remark came after the NCC reeled out new guidelines for telecommunication companies in Nigeria to improve customers' experience and relations.

Source: Legit.ng

Zainab Iwayemi avatar

Zainab Iwayemi (Business Editor) Zainab Iwayemi is a business journalist with over 5 years experience reporting activities in the stock market, tech, insurance, banking, and oil and gas sectors. She holds a Bachelor of Science (B.sc) degree in Sociology from the University of Ilorin, Kwara State. Before Legit.ng, she worked as a financial analyst at Nairametrics where she was rewarded for outstanding performance. She can be reached via zainab.iwayemi@corp.legit.ng

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