The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, has stated that the banks’ N120 billion Unstructured Supplementary Service Data debt to telecommunication providers is impeding financial inclusion.
According to The Punch, he pointed out that without the service, the country would not have reached its current level of digital financial inclusion, which he estimated to be between 60% and 70%.
The benefit of the service, according to him, is that without it, there would be no digital financial inclusion, and penetration would be much lower than it is now.
“Currently, due to telco-driven growth, the index or penetration of digital financial inclusion is at 70%. Therefore, paying for the service shouldn’t be a problem.”
He added that there is no such thing as a free lunch. “All we ask is that you pay the telcos. Okay, as we are now stating, pay them for the debt they have incurred, as well as the service they are currently providing.”
Danbatta made this announcement on Thursday at the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum hosted by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria in Lagos.
He claimed that after persistent involvement from the NCC and the acting governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Folashodun Shonubi, banks had finally agreed to pay for the service.
“I think this is a significant development for the telecoms industry, that we have been able to resolve the issue amicably because we all work for the same government,” he continued.
“We want it to be pervasive and present everywhere. Okay, but we cannot accomplish this without paying off the legacy debt and the cost of the service being rendered.
The lengthy dispute between banks and telcos over the payment of USSD infrastructure is expected to be resolved as a result of this. Since 2019, USSD debt has risen steadily, from N32 billion to N120 billion by the end of 2022, and telcos have threatened to stop banks from utilizing the infrastructure on various occasions.
According to the Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators’ Head of Operations of Nigeria, Gbolahan Awonuga, some banks had begun to pay their USSD debt, although the amount had not moved high.