Finacial institutions are owing telecommunications operators N17 billion in Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) charges.
Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, made the disclosure during a webinar organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) titled “Telecoms and ICT Consumers in the Era of COVID-19 and Post COVID-19 Pandemic cum Digital Economy Era with a View to Meeting the New Broadband Target.”
He said the debt mounted from last October when the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, directed the mobile network operators (MNOs) to stop charging consumers the N4 per 20 seconds USSD fee.
The hornet’s nest was stirred by MTN when it notified its over 60 million customers in Nigeria of the development via a text message which read: “Please note that from Oct 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for USSD access to banking services. Please, contact your bank for more info. Thank you.”
The issue raised a serious dust between the upper echelons of the financial and telecoms sectors as well as players.
As part of the compromise, the minister immediately directed the networks to suspend the move.
But on Wednesday, the NCC, in a statement, directed the MNOs to pass the N1.63 per session charge to banks, adding that the cost should form the basis of negotiation between the MNOs and other service providers.
Meanwhile, Pantami and others at the event called on service providers to prepare for the post-COVID-19 era through fresh investments and improved telephony services for the over 190 million subscribers in the country. ATCON president, Olusola Teniola, harped on ensuring a competitive environment through inter-dependence and collaboration for consumers to get value for their money.
His Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS) counterpart, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, urged the regulator to ensure improved services.
He implored NCC to prevail on service providers for compliance with the data rollover directive of the minister.