The row between Nigerian banks and telcos over who should pay a $103m Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debt may enter a fresh round.
Backstory: In December 2019, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) threatened to shut down USSD platforms in Nigeria over a $103m debt. According to ALTON, for two years, neither the banks nor customers paid for using USSD.
After two long years of negotiations, the price for USSD was pegged at ₦6.98 per transaction with Nigeria’s central bank and the Communications Commission passing on the fees to users.
It seemed like all was settled until last week
On an investor call last week, Herbert Wigwe, the CEO of Access Bank insisted that the banks have no obligation to telcos. According to him, “There is no such thing as an obligation due from banks to telcos.”
“We chose not to make a public statement out of it because it is not appropriate for us to be found fighting with telcos in public.”
He also added, “It is true that they continue to provide this service but this service has nothing to do with the banks.”
The dilemma: Because SMS costs money and millions of transactions happen via USSD, the question of who should pay has been at the center of a dispute between banks and telcos dating back to 2019.
Read more: Banks vs Telcos row over $103m USSD debt may enter another round
In other related news: After four months of suspending the registration of new SIM cards, Nigeria’s Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday announced that Nigerians can now register new SIM cards.