Telecommunication firms have once again threatened to withdraw Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) service if banks fail to pay the N120 billion debt owed them.
Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, disclosed this over the weekend in a media interaction.
He decried that the issue had protracted for too long and a court resolution might be needed since the banks do not seem to be favourably disposed to clearing the debt.
The former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, had in September this year, disclosed that the impasse surrounding the N120 billion USSD debt owed by banks had been resolved, following the realisation that financial inclusion cannot be achieved without telecom services.
He said the issue was resolved at a meeting between the former acting CBN Governor, the NCC, the telecom operators, and the banks, following accusations by the elecom operators that banks were politicising the issue and exacerbating the situation, turning what should be a straightforward commercial agreement into a protracted and contentious issue.
However, Adebayo , “I think is just best to withdraw the services. On this issue of USSD debt, if parties have to go to court to get a final resolution, so be it. This is because every effort that is being made by everyone, where we move one step forward, several steps backward, is not going to work.”
Ccording to him, this was a commercial agreement that went south, adding that the agreement has a provision for third-party intervention, whether arbitration or heading for the Court of Law, and if it is allowed to take its own life, parties will decide where to go.
“Instead of going to meetings in Abuja with the minister or the CBN, parties would decide where to go according to the agreement,” he added.
Adebayo further pointed out that because of the commercial nature of the matter, it was appropriate to withdraw the service, even as he lamented the role of political interference, which had ensured that telcos remain unable to enforce the commercial terms.
“So when you open commercial agreement to political interference, you get into this kind of problem. That is why we say emphatically that some issues, including price review, should be left to market forces, not to be determined by government because it is not sustainable.”