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Financial Inclusion: Banks’ N120bn USSD service debt disrupting progress in digital ecosystem –NCC

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of NCC

*Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, at a forum in Lagos, discloses how the telecoms sector regulator and Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention has yielded ‘an amicable resolution to the problem’ threatening to disrupt digital financial services in the country

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has urged telecoms service providers and other industry stakeholders to continue to ensure their actions do not disrupt the digital financial services in the country.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, who addressed the stakeholders at a Telecoms Executives and Regulators Forum Thursday, September 7, 2023, in Lagos, highlighted how the outstanding N120 billion debt the banks owe the telecoms companies for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services has been hindering financial inclusion efforts in the country’s digital services space.

ConsumerConnect reports the hitherto controversial USSD service debt had increased from N32 billion to N120 billion as of the end of 2022, thereby creating tension between the affected telecoms firms and banks, disrupting the progress of digital financial services in Nigeria.

Danbatta also emphasised that digital financial inclusion, currently at 70 percent, largely relies on USSD services provided by Telcos, and non-payment of the outstanding debt still disrupts progress.

The EVC/CEO of the Commission informed the audience at the forum, that Nigerian banks had agreed to pay for the service after the NCC and Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention.

“I think this is an important development for the telecoms industry—that we have found an amicable resolution to the problem because we’re all serving the same government.

“We do not want to disrupt financial services in the country. I’m talking about the telecommunication service providers, and we want to see the index on penetration even go higher,” said Danbatta.

He further told the audience: “We want it to be ubiquitous and everywhere.

“Okay, but we cannot do this without settling the legacy debt as well as paying for the service that is being provided.”

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