USSD Crisis: Telecoms Operators Threaten to Disconnect All Banks Soon

L-R: ALTON Secretary, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga, Chairman ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, Coordinator Technical, Mr.Olajide Aremu

Mobile Network Operators in Nigeria threaten to disconnect all banks in the country from their network due to the unwillingness of regulators in both the banking and the telecoms industry as well the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to resolve the impasse between the MNOs and the banks.

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The MNOs which spoke through their umbrella body, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), expressed displeasure over the undue silence of the key stakeholders in resolving the crisis of the USDD by calling for a meeting to determine if the banks should continue to charge their customers while the telecoms operators offer same services to the banks for free.

The Federal Ministry of Communications had ordered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to direct mobile network operators to suspend a four naira (N4:00) charge per 20 seconds on USSD access for banking services, which MTN Nigeria had recently said it would introduce.

And following that directive, MTN Nigeria had asked all parties concerned in the USSD End User Billing crisis to approach the table and engage constructively towards a solution, putting the consumer at the fore of all decisions.

But at the time of filing this report there had not been any response from the key regulators or the government. Soon once the MNOs carry out their threat, the entire economy will be grounded.

ALTON said that they are no longer willing to offer free access to their network for the banks to do their businesses.

Chairman of ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo told ICT journalist during a press conference today in Lagos, South West, Nigeria, that when the MNOs are ready all banks in the country will be disconnected from the network of its members.

According to him, ALTON has details of what the banks are making from their customers through the short code banking services they provide for them which is made possible by the MNOs stressing that the MNOs have made huge investment running their network.

Adebayo explained that not minding the implication of the disconnection on the economy and banking services in the country, ALTON will take any action to bring all stakeholders to a roundtable for discussion.

He disclosed that ALTON had agreement with the banks that profit from the money the banks collect from their customers should be shared but that the banks later turned around asking the MNOs to charge their subscribers.

He noted that charging their subscribers for the same services that the banks are already charging them will amount to double billing of the subscribers for the same services that adding that it is not different from the double taxation issues that the MNOs presently had with the government at different levels.

The ALTON chairman also raise the alarm over the impact of the border closure on telecoms services at the border noting that most the base stations by the border are out of diesel supply to power their electricity generating plant.

He said that trucks supplying diesel to the base stations have been impounded by men of the Nigerian Customs Services and called on the Federal Government to allow diesel supply to sites to continue to the security implications of closing down those sites.

Adebayo said that ALTON has instructed all its members to take note of the cost that they have incurred due to the inactions of government in the management of the sector noting that when the times come they are going to ask for refund by way tax rebate.

He said that while government continues to benefit from the N200 billion taxes that the MNOs pay, it should also prepare to share in the loss of the MNOs adding that industry has so far attracted foreign direct investment of $68 billion into the economy.

Isaiah Erhiawarien

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