Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, has directed telecommunication companies to halt the planned withdrawal of unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) services.
This minister’s directive was contained in a statement issued on Saturday by Femi Adeluyi, his technical assistant.
Telcos recently announced their plan to suspend USSD services over N42 billion debt owed by financial service providers effective Monday, March 15.
“The honourable minister of communications and digital economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has directed that the impending suspension of the USSD services by the mobile network operators (MNOs) be put on hold, ” the statement read.
“The suspension which was to take effect on Monday, 15th of March, was due to the lingering debt owed MNOs by commercial banks for the provision of USSD banking services.”
Pantami said he has written to Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to instruct banks to settle their debts.
“In a bid to ensure 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 the NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission), the MNOs (mobile network operators), and the financial institutions, ” the statement added.
“The meeting is scheduled to hold on Monday, 15th of March 2021. The outcome of the meeting will determine the next step regarding the status of the USSD financial services.”
This is not the first time telcos would threaten to disconnect USSD services by banks.
In June 2020, the value of USSD transfer payments in Nigeria was estimated at N390 billion.
In 2019, telcos said they could no longer provide the services for free and proposed to take a cut of N4.50k per 20 seconds from the charges paid by customers to the banks.
However, the banks kicked against it, alleging that it would raise costs by 450 percent.