CBN Rejects MTN’s Planned Charges for USSD Transactions

Minister of Communications Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Sunday directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure the immediate suspension of the plans by MTN to charge their subscribers for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data access to banking services from October 21.

This was coming as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has also expressed opposition to MTN’s plans.

MTN Nigeria and other mobile operators have been notifying subscribers of a N4 charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from October 21.

“Yello, as requested by your bank, from October 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services.

“Please, contact your bank for more info,’’ the message said.

Reacting to the development, Pantami, in a statement by the Spokesperson, Minister of Communications, Uwa Suleiman, said he was never briefed on the proposed plans.

“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,” the statement added.

In the same vein, Emefiele has said the bank was not in support of the planned move. He stated this during a news briefing by the Nigerian delegation to the just-concluded World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington on Sunday, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has reported.

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 the CBN office in 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 was 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.

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

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