Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy
Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy

Pantami, Emefiele Settle Banks, MTN’s Dispute Over USSD

TECH DIGEST – Four days after commercial banks disconnected customers of MTN Nigeria from the use of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code for airtime vending, the banks yesterday reconnected them following the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

The banks on Thursday night had disconnected only MTN customers from accessing the USSD code on airtime vending from all channels linked to USSD code.

According to the banks, they took the decision because MTN reduced the discount offered to banks on airtime sales from four per cent to 2.5 per cent.

MTN’s action did not go down well with the banks, who cited the cut making the cost of managing the infrastructure and other operational costs they incurred as being unprofitable for them.

TechDigest investigation showed that as at yesterday, the customers were reconnected and they could access the USSD code.

Majority of MTN customers who accessed the code yesterday bought MTN airtime from their bank accounts.

Both MTN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, confirmed to THISDAY yesterday that the banks had reconnected all MTN customers that were disconnected.

Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, told THISDAY that the minister was upset with the disconnection, just like the telecoms operators, adding that he had to intervene by calling Emefiele, to a meeting yesterday.

According to him, the CBN governor and the minister addressed the commercial issue that led to the disconnection and directed the banks to reconnect the telecommunication company immediately, in order not to further disenfranchise MTN customers that were adversely affected by the disconnection order.

“Now that the customers have been reconnected, the telecoms industry is happy, MTN customers are happy and the banks are also happy,” Adinde said.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, had earlier expressed his displeasure over the disconnection and blamed the banks for taking such action without first discussing the issue with the NCC.

““If this is the way the banks want to react to the USSD issue between banks and telcos, by disconnecting innocent subscribers belonging to MTN, only time will tell, but I can assure them that their action will not lead to the N42 billion debt forgiveness because the telecoms industry will not overlook the N42 billion the banks are owing telecoms operators over the use of USSD code for financial transactions. The banks had claimed that they do not charge for USSD transactions, but report has it that the banks have been charging customers for USSD transactions,” Adebayo had earlier told News Media

 

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