Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy

N42bn Debt/USSD Channel: We will resolve MTN Nigeria consumers’ challenge soon ─Minister

*I engaged with both regulators, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and EVC Nigeria Communications Commission on the fallout between MTN Nigeria and some banks on USSD services…, and we have reached an advanced stage of resolving the issues, for the services to be restored to our citizens: Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to the Federal Government’s earlier interventions in the outstanding business debt dispute between the Nigerian banks and telecommunications firms, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, has assured the stakeholders that the challenge encountered by MTN products and services consumers through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) channel will be fixed soon.

ConsumerConnect reports that subscribers to the leading mobile Telco in the country earlier Friday, April 2 has taken to social media to lament as Nigerian commercial banks disconnected them from banking channels, including the USSD and banking apps.

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) March 15 had settled a row between banks and Telcos over fees by imposing a new charge for the banks’ short-code service.

USSD allows millions of Nigerians to use their mobile phones to access financial services daily.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) as well disclosed that Nigerian banks owed its members N42 billion, and threatened to suspend service if the outstanding debt was not settled.

Subsequently, several MTN consumers complained of their inability to recharge their MTN phone lines using USSD and other banking channels.

MTN was also reported to have sent a message to its customers, asking consumers to recharge their lines through physical cards.

The message read: “Dear Customer, our bank recharge channels are currently unavailable. Kindly recharge using physical cards. We apologise for the inconvenience. Thank you.”

A top industry official told Premium Times on the condition of anonymity that banks cut off the service to protect their profits. He described the move as “tyrannical”.

The source was quoted as saying: “Banks have tried to remove the cost of using USSD, but are willing to cut off subscribers to protect their own fees earned through the channel.

“This only has to do with the preservation of bank profits, which are already substantial and growing despite the wider economic conditions.”

An insider in one of the affected commercial banks also said: “The N42 billion they are owing us (MTN and others), they don’t want to pay.

“Rather, they want to surreptitiously factor it into a new price regime, so that customers will unknowingly help them pay what they had already billed them.

“Of course, we refused, which is why they are fighting us now.

“Meanwhile the overnight suspension of airtime sales by some of the banks is not restricted to USSD channels alone, but includes airtime purchases through all banking channels – bank apps, bank USSD codes, even debit cards.”

Nonetheless in a move to resolve the trade dispute between the concerned banks and the telecom firms, Dr. Pantami a post via his verified Twitter account Friday, however, stated that id the difficulty was due to fallout between MTN Nigeria and some banks in the country.

It has intervened in the feud and the situation will soon be resolved, noted the Minister.

He tweeted: “On the fallout between MTN Nigeria and some banks on USSD services today, I engaged with both regulators, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and EVC Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC).

“We have reached an advance stage of resolving the issues, for the services to be restored to our citizens. Many thanks!”

A feud between Nigerian banks and MTN in particular was said to have left millions of subscribers unable to recharge their phones, using the USSD services Friday.

That development followed banks’ action to shut off the telecom firm over fees charged for the service.

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