“Unbelievable! MTN set to cut off text messages from Nigerian banks due to staggering R5 billion debt”

It has been reported that mobile-phone operators in Nigeria, including MTN and Airtel Africa, will discontinue dedicated text message services to banks unless the lenders pay a staggering 120 billion naira (R4.9 billion) in arrears.

According to Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, the operators will sever the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data connections based on their contracts with the banks.

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Shockingly, some banks will already be disconnected from this vital service as early as today. This announcement arrives at a time when mobile banking is crucial for Nigeria, particularly for the 40% of the population without bank accounts. The USSD service enables financial transactions such as transfers, bill payments, and airtime recharges.

The dispute over USSD pricing models, mode of collection, and responsibility for unremitted fees between mobile network operators and banks has been ongoing for two years.

This unresolved matter has led to the telecom operators claiming that arrears have surged from 42 billion naira in 2021. Regulators and the Central Bank of Nigeria have intervened in previous years, leading to the agreement of a flat fee of 6.98 naira per transaction. However, the situation has now escalated, with Adebayo indicating that withdrawal of the service might pressure the banks to resolve the issue.

Herbert Wigwe, CEO for Access Holdings Plc, and the head of the team responsible for engaging with the telecom operators has not publicly commented.

However, in 2021, Wigwe refuted allegations that banks owed arrears to mobile-phone companies. We urge readers to stay informed and rely on reliable sources, such as Bloomberg, to navigate this complex and dynamic situation.

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