Telecoms also known as Telecommunications companies are contemplating the withdrawal of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services from Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) as a final attempt to recover a long-standing debt of N120 billion related to USSD services. This ongoing issue, spanning approximately four years, has created a growing divide between the telecom sector and the financial industry, with telcos also threatening legal action against the banks.
Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), expressed disappointment that this matter has become politicized. He stressed that this is fundamentally a commercial matter that should have been resolved between willing buyers and sellers. Adebayo highlighted the negative impact of political interference in such issues and emphasized the importance of market forces in determining commercial terms.
During a recent meeting with the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, Adebayo mentioned that the minister acknowledged the issue and warned that service withdrawals might become necessary if the matter is not promptly resolved.
In a separate development, the Federal Government has initiated an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Scheme, intending to provide N5 million to 45 startups and researchers. The scheme aims to promote the integration of AI for economic advancement.
The Telecoms and Banks Dispute over Debt
Potential Impact on Consumers The ongoing dispute between Nigeria’s telecoms and banks regarding the USSD debt has consequences that extend beyond corporate interests. It has the potential to impact consumers in various ways, from service disruptions to cost implications.
One immediate concern for consumers is the looming threat of service disruptions. USSD technology is crucial for numerous daily services in Nigeria, including mobile banking, airtime top-ups, and access to essential information via mobile devices. If telecom companies decide to disable USSD services due to non-payment by banks, it could disrupt the daily routines of millions of Nigerians.
Consider being unable to check your bank balance or make payments via USSD on your basic phone. Simple tasks like recharging your phone through USSD could become cumbersome if these services are disrupted. This inconvenience could affect consumers, especially those who don’t use smartphones, potentially leaving them without access to vital financial services.
Moreover, if telecom operators are burdened with the financial responsibility of providing USSD services without payment from banks, they may pass these additional costs onto consumers. In a competitive market, telcos might need to adjust tariffs or fees to cover their losses, potentially resulting in higher costs for users.
The disruption in services can also lead to additional costs for consumers. If people cannot complete mobile transactions and are forced to visit physical bank branches, they might incur transportation expenses and waste time. This can be especially challenging for those in rural areas or with limited access to banking infrastructure.
The dispute’s potential to disrupt USSD services also raises concerns about its impact on financial inclusion. Many Nigerians, especially in remote or underserved areas, rely on mobile banking and USSD services for their financial needs. Unreliable or costly services could hinder financial inclusion efforts, leaving vulnerable populations with limited access to banking services.
A Call for Resolution Consumers and industry stakeholders are hoping for a swift and amicable resolution to this dispute. Both the telecom and banking sectors play critical roles in the lives of Nigerians, and any prolonged dispute that negatively impacts consumers is far from an ideal outcome.
As the situation evolves, it is crucial for all parties involved to consider the impact on consumers and work toward a resolution that safeguards their interests and ensures the continued availability of essential USSD services. Ultimately, it is consumers who bear the brunt of the consequences of this dispute.
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