N80bn Debt: Telecom Giants threaten to stop Customers from accessing USSD

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has threatened to stop customers from using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) over rising debt of banks.

Members of ALTON include MTN Nigeria, Airtel, Glo and 9Mobile, and other telecoms operators.

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

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

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

The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke at the ICT Growth Conference in Lagos on Thursday, September 29, said the debt owed by the banks to the telecommunications companies has increased from N42 billion in 2021 to N80 billion in 2022

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

He said the banks have been charging their customers for using their USSD platforms, but failed to pay commission to the telecoms.

In his words:

“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 getting close to that time when we have no choice but to discontinue the provisions of services to banks.

“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.”