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MNOS, USSD, BANKS, and OTHER ISSUES

March 14, 2021

I received the following message in my inbox this morning. My comment follows the message.

“Trust you and your beautiful family are doing extremely well, please read the current state of N42 billion debts of USSD services issue between the MNOs and banking sector :

Please see the press release below as published by SA to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy

PRESS STATEMENT

IMPENDING SUSPENSION OF USSD BANKING SERVICES PUT ON HOLD

The Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, FNCS, FBCS, FIIM has directed that the impending suspension of the USSD services by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) be put on hold. The suspension, which was to take effect on Monday, 15th of March, 2021, was due to the lingering debt owed MNOs by commercial banks for the provision of USSD banking services.

Following the directives of the Honourable Minister on the 20th of October 2019, consumers of telecommunication services and the general public were notified of the immediate suspension of End User Billing for financial transactions through USSD channels.
Furthermore, as part of measures aimed at addressing the lingering issue of the impasse in the rendering of USSD services to Banks and other financial institutions by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), an amended Determination on USSD Pricing was issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the 24th of July 2020. However, the issue persisted, hence the decision to suspend the service.

The Honourable Minister sent a letter with respect to the issues to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria on the 3rd of March 2021, regarding the need to direct the banks to do the needful. In a bid to ensure an amicable resolution of the impasse, Dr Pantami has called for a meeting of all stakeholders, including the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, the MNOs and the financial institutions. The meeting is scheduled to hold on Monday, 15th of March, 2021.

The outcome of the meeting will determine the next steps regarding the status of the USSD financial services.

Dr Femi Adeluyi
Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the
Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy
13th March, 2021″

My COMMENT

My reading is that regulation is on its knees and that can only mean bad for investment.

There may not seem to be a problem if the Ministry and the Regulator are in synch on the subject. But indeed there is if the directive is not based on sound industry study and due consultations whether or not the Regulator is comfortable.

I do not know the details, but it is clear that this meeting scheduled for tomorrow (March 15) should have held prior to a pronouncement, at the instance of the Regulator, shows that all is not well. Things cannot be well when there is no order. As we speak, there is no order in the industry.

Certainly there may be justification for the decision that is being contemplated but it would be ideal if the Regulator had carried out a credible study which shows the direction to go and then holds necessary consultation before a regulatory direction (NOT ministerial directive) is made.

The economy is comatose and that may just be the reason why distress in the golden bird of the economy may mean nothing to anybody. Unfortunately what will follow is anarchy.

If 2023 were only a few months away, I would have just suggested that we keep fingers crossed. But can we ?
.

For additional reading, see

USSD CODE CBN Banks Telcos and the coming of anarchy

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