Telecommunication companies in Nigeria have issued a fresh ultimatum, warning that they might withdraw Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services if banks do not settle their outstanding debt of N120 billion.
The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, expressed his frustration over the prolonged USSD debt issue during an interview with journalists. He emphasized that a court resolution may be necessary, as banks appear unwilling to clear the debt.
This recent development comes despite recent attempts by telecom companies and banks to resolve the lingering USSD issue, which has spanned nearly four years.
Adebayo stated, “I think it’s 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.”
He emphasized that the matter is fundamentally commercial and noted that political interference has hindered telcos from enforcing the commercial terms. He stressed the importance of leaving certain issues, such as price review, to market forces rather than government intervention, which he deemed unsustainable.
In a meeting with the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, the minister expressed sympathy for the telcos but urged all parties to behave responsibly, indicating that the matter wouldn’t have escalated to this point if they had done so.
The unresolved USSD debt issue has been a cause of concern and is considered to be hindering financial inclusion in Nigeria. Despite discussions on a repayment plan, it appears that a final resolution is still pending.
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