09 May 2023
The debt accumulated by commercial banks in Nigeria for the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) provided by telecom operators now stands at more than 100 billion naira, as per Gbenga Adebayo, president of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ATCON).
According to Adebayo, some banks have already started to pay the amounts due, thanks to the intervention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Some financial institutions are still not cooperating, however.
The question of the pricing of USSD services has been the subject of disagreements between banks and Nigerian telecom operators since 2019. The MNOs had already threatened to withdraw their USSD services from banking institutions from 15 March 2021 due to the accumulated debt which then stood at N42 billion. They repeated their threats in September 2022 when the debt rose to N80 billion. Faced with the indifference of the banks, the telecom companies requested in December 2022 the authorization of the NCC to remove the service.
With the start of debt payment and improved cooperation between the two parties, banking institutions can continue to use USSD solutions to facilitate access to their services by Nigerian populations. This should help the financial inclusion and cashless economy ambitions of the CBN and the Nigerian government amid accelerated digital transformation.