Deposit Money Banks owe telecommunications companies N42bn for services provided by the mobile network operators through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, the Nigerian Communications Commission announced on Thursday.
Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, announced this during his lecture at the virtual 2021 edition of the Bullion Lecture.
He explained that the indebtedness of the banks to mobile network operators had been an issue over time, but stressed that the NCC was working hard to address the concern.
Danbatta said, “The issue of the USSD has become an issue between the telcos and the banks. The telecommunication companies provide the infrastructure which the banks leverage on to provide banking services of all kinds.
“Therefore it is expected that for this service someone should pay. No service is free. The investment in infrastructure that is driving the USSD service is a huge investment that the telcos made.”
The NCC boss added, “It is expected that they (telcos) will recoup their investments in order to continue and to expand the service. About N42bn that is owed the telcos has not been paid by the banks for the provision of this service.”
Danbatta said the telecommunications firms could not withdraw their services to the banks because such action would not go down well with the Federal Government.
He said, “The telecommunications companies cannot unilaterally withdraw this service because it will be seen as a subversive act, undermining the digital inclusion strategy of the present government.
“And no government will sit back and watch while services that empower citizens are being tampered with or withdrawn. No government will standby and watch this to happen.”
To address the situation, Danbatta said the NCC would soon engage the DMBs and ensure that the matter was resolved.
“So in the next couple of days, we are poised to engage the banks and ensure we reach an amicable resolution where the first item on the agenda that will feature is the payment of this N42bn accumulated debts to the telecommunications companies.”
The NCC boss further stated that it was important for the country to meet the critical requirements needed in order to succeed in its drive towards digital inclusion in Nigeria.
He said digital financial services were offered through the use of a mobile phone, which many residents in rural areas could not afford.
“They (rural residents) need phones that are affordable and therefore we must direct our resource in a manner that will bring affordable handsets to the rural population,” Danbatta stated.