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Nigerian banks' USSD debt soars to ₦200 billion

From May 2023 until now, the USSD debt of Nigerian banks has surged by 66.67%, reaching a total of ₦200 billion, according to ALTON.

Nigerian banks' USSD debt soars to ₦200 billion
USSD in Nigeria

Nigerian deposit money banks are grappling with a mounting USSD debt, as payments to telcos remain unpaid. According to Gbenga Adebayo, Chairperson of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the debt has surpassed ₦200 billion, a 66.67% increase since May of this year.

“The banks owe us money. It won’t go away, no one will forget the debt if the money is not paid,” Adebayo said. He disclosed this during a meeting with Aminu Maida, the newly appointed CEO and executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC).

Maida’s predecessor, Umar Danbatta, who had held the position since 2015, even predating the bank-telco USSD debt issues, alleged earlier this year that the issues related to the debt have been resolved. The resolution, Danbatta, was that the banks would pay for the debt and future USSD services through corporate billing terms, instead of end-user billing as the banks preferred.

However, the banks have not kept to this agreement. Last month, we wrote an article suggesting that due to his experience working with banks as the former director of tech and operations at the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, Maida might bring an end to the debt dispute.

During the meeting with the NCC boss, Adebayo said: “If that problem is not solved, it will continue to haunt progress in the sector. I ask you today to please look at this issue on the debt owed to us by the banks. There is no discussion about forgiving the debt, payment needs to be made.”

ALTON has threatened to withdraw the USSD services and also take legal action if the payment is not made. “Banks remove charges from their customers but refuse to pay telecom operators. You don’t expect us to keep rendering services when you don’t pay,” the telcos chairperson said.

In Nigeria, USSD plays a crucial role as a primary transaction channel. The value of e-payment transactions through USSD reached ₦4.494 trillion last year. Currently, Nigerian banks collectively operate a minimum of 100 USSD codes.

However, some bank executives have argued that it is an outdated channel. “Even if the service is overrated as this executive claims, it should not be a reason to incur debt,” a telco expert told Bendada.com.

Related Article: How did the USSD debt get to over ₦200 billion?

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