Communications minister Pantami stops USSD charge by telecom operators


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Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has stopped Telecom network operators from imposing a N4 charge charge on subscribers for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) access to banking services.

Spokesperson for the minister, Mrs Uwa Suleiman, said the minister the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) to suspend the charge.

The charge according to the notice by network operators is expected to go into effect from Monday.

The CBN governor Godwin Emefiele has also opposed the charge, saying the banks should bear the cost.

The Minister’s statement:

“The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to the viral text message allegedly sent by the Mobile Network Operator MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators notifying subscribers of a four naira (N4:00) charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019.

“The office of the Honourable Minister of Communications Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami FNCS, FBCS, FIIM is unaware of this development and has hereby directed the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ensures the operator suspends such plans until the Honourable Minister is fully and properly briefed”.

In Washington, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor said he is also opposed plans by MTN to charge their subscribers for the USSD access to banking services.

Godwin Emefiele, gave the bank’s position at a news briefing by the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington on Sunday.

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MTN, in an SMS message to its subscribers said the decision was on the request of the banks and would take effect from Oct. 21.

“Yello, as requested by your bank, from Oct. 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more info(rmation),’’ the message said.
Responding to a question seeking his reaction to the announcement, the CBN governor said the bank would not allow that to happen.

“About five, four months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria at Central Bank, Lagos.

“At that time, we came to a conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost. What we mean by a sunk cost is that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom company.

“But the telecom companies disagreed with us, they said it is an additional investment on infrastructure and for that reason they needed to impose it.

“I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen. The banks are the people who give this business to the telecom companies and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage.

“I have told the banks that they have to move their business, move their traffic to a telecom company that is ready to provide it at the lowest possible, if not zero cost.

“And that is where we stand, and we must achieve it,’’ he said.

The transactions to be affected by the charges include intra- and inter-bank money transfers, through USSD, among others.

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