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Telcos Threaten USSD Service Withdrawal From Banks Over N200Bn Debt

In what has now become a recurring issue in the nation’s banking sector,  the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the umbrella body of telecommunications companies in Nigeria, has again threatened to withdraw unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) service from deposit money banks (DMBs) following their indebtedness now estimated at  about  N200 billion for the service by the telcos.

The chairman of the ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, spoke on the latest position of the members on Thursday at industry interactive session with the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida, in Abuja

Adebayo, lamented that despite past efforts of stakeholders on the banks’ lingering debt, the lenders’ refusal to pay the debt would have negative consequence on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) cashless policy for the country.

He said: “The banks owe us money. The debt is now over N200 billion. It won’t go away, no one will forget the debt if the money is not paid.

“The debt is rising and has not been paid by the banks. As of November 2022, the accumulated debt rose to over N80 billion. When we started the argument in 2019, it was N32 billion, and they continue to claim that they are not owing, but our investigation shows that they are still using the USSD platform to offer banking services to their customers, yet they are not remitting to telecom operators who own the USSD platform.

“Time will soon come when we will be constrained to withdraw the service and many bank customers that depend on the USSD service will suffer for it and it will affect the economy. It is honourable to pay their debts and they have to pay.

“We are warning that the banks’ action in refusing to pay their debt, will have negative consequence on the CBN’s cashless economy agenda for the country. It will be a threat to cashless economy. So, CBN should advise money deposit banks to pay up the accumulated debts”, the ALTON boss added.

In his remarks, the NCC boss promised to urgently address the problem in view of the negative implications for the current digital economy drive of the government and urged the telecom operators to exercise patience on the matter in order to find a lasting solution to it.

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