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Telcos To Begin Disconnection of Banks’ USSD Services Monday Over N42B Debt

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria has said telcos will disconnect Financial Service Providers from Unstructured Supplementary Service Data services from March 15 until they pay their over N42bn debt.

The association announced this in a statement titled “Withdrawal of USSD services to financial service providers due to huge indebtedness to telecom network operators”.

The statement was signed by ALTON and Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, and Head of Operations, Gbolahan Awonuga.

ALTON explained that the service withdrawal had become necessary due to the lack of agreement on a payment structure with the banks that did not involve the end-user being asked to pay.

It noted that following the issuance of the USSD pricing determination by the Nigerian Communications Commission which resulted in a price review of USSD service by the telcos, the banks decided that they would no longer pay for USSD service delivered to their customers and requested the telcos to charge customers directly for use of the USSD channel.

The telcos complained that the banks, however, provided no assurances that such service fees charged to customers’ bank accounts for access to bank services through the USSD channel would be discontinued post implementation of end-user billing by the telcos.

The statement said, “It has been more than eight months since the NCC issued an updated pricing methodology for USSD services for financial transactions in Nigeria.

 “The methodology explicitly restricts Mobile Network Operators from charging the end user for the services and mandates the banking sector to enter into negotiations to settle outstanding obligations and agree individual pricing mechanisms to be applied going forwards.

“During this time, MNOs have continued to provide access to USSD infrastructure and our members have continued to pay all bank charges and fees to access the banking industries assets and customers, despite the fact that obligations due from banks to telecoms companies for USSD services has reached over N42bn.”

The telecom operators said this was in consideration of millions of Nigerians who had become more reliant on accessing financial services through the USSD infrastructure due to COVID movement restrictions.

They noted that due to the inability of the banks to agree on a payment structure, the government had been forced to intervene to ensure a sustainable cost-sharing solution was agreed that did not disadvantage the consumer in the long-term.

The association said the removal of the service fees by the FSPs would have meant that if bank customers were charged only the USSD costs communicated by telcos per USSD session, bank customers would be paying far less than what they were currently being charged by the FSPs, which in some instances were as high as N50.

They added that both the banks and telcos would be applauded for collaborating towards the financial inclusion objectives of the Federal Government.

ALTON said, “We deeply regret that we have reached a point where the withdrawal of these services has become unavoidable. However, we remain committed to working closely with the relevant ministries and regulators to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

“To minimise the disruption to customers, and with the concurrence of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission on the huge debt to network operators; MNOs will disconnect debtor FSPs from USSD services until the huge debt is paid.

“Therefore, our members are initiating a phased process of withdrawal of USSD services, starting with the most significant debtors within the FSPs effective Monday March 15, 2021.”

They encouraged subscribers to explore alternative channels with their banks.

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Envoy Considers Establishment Of Chinese Banks In Nigeria To Boost Economy

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Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria- Investors king

Mr Cui Jianchun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, says he is in talks with Chinese owned Banks to establish operations in Nigeria.

This, the envoy said, is to boost Nigeria’s economy and expand trade relations between the two nations.

Cui made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing Journalists during the commemoration of the 2021 Chinese Moon Festival and China-Nigeria Cultural week.

According to Cui, the establishment of Chinese Banks in Nigeria will also be one of the key areas of discussion during the China-Nigeria Binational Committee meeting, which he is also pushing for the establishment.

He said that an efficient financial institution was a key driver to achieving a strong economy, one Nigeria can learn from China’s experience.

“Before my departure from Beijing to Abuja, I talked to several banks in China. When you list the World’s 10 big banks, six are in China.

“The Banking sector is very important, because, without money, we cannot build our industries.

“What I am thinking here is best to talk to the governor of Central Bank and how we can allow the Chinese Banks to run office here and now, they are doing the feasibility studies on that.

“I am working hard that in the Bi-national meeting, I hope we can make a big decision and give a big push to let the banking industry and insurance industry because financial integration and institutions are key.

“If you go to China, you will find our banking industry is very powerful, not only for business but the change in the way of life.

“Because of the COVID-19, the Banking Industry is a little hesitant, but I told them Nigeria has a lot of human resources and as long as we work together, we can do big things.

“And that is why it is important to invest in the banking industry, to solve this problem,” Cui said.

Extolling the extant China-Nigeria trade relations, Cui noted that the volume of trade between China and Nigeria is nearly 20 billion US Dollars, with an increase from 2020’s 19.2 billion dollars.

Cui said the Chinese economy is restoring to the normal post-COVID-19 pandemic and both governments are working hard on how to expand imports and exports.

Speaking on the event, Cui said the China’s moon festival is a very important and significant one for China as it symbolises family reunion, national peace and social harmony.

The envoy said the 2021 celebration is also a special one as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of China-Nigeria’s bilateral relations.

He said that both countries also share Oct. 1 as their National Days.

He said it is also on that note that the Chinese Embassy is honouring 50 Nigerian employees of Chinese Companies in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contribution to strengthening diplomatic ties.

Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, also lauded the Nigeria-China relations.

She said the relations had recorded great successes over the past five decades.

“The five decades of co-operation had since witnessed several cultural activities and exchanges in the spheres of arts, music, dance, exhibition, cultural administration, training and capacity building of cultural officers.

“And recently, the development of Cultural Industries centres in Nigeria, among others.

“I must add that China, through the youth-oriented programmes such as the photos competition and similar activities in the past is surely a dependable ally.

“In redirecting the energy and mind of our youth to creative ventures, thereby furthering the Nigerian government’s policy of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”, Anyanwukatu said. (NAN)

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Lagos Prohibits Open Cattle Grazing, Sanwo-Olu Signs Bill Into Law

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herdsmen

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, assented to the bill prohibiting Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land, signing the legislation into law 11 days after it was unanimously passed by the State House of Assembly and transmitted to the Executive arm for authorisation.

By implication, it is now criminal in Lagos for cattle rearers to occupy unapproved public areas and private land with their livestock for grazing. The law also prohibits the act of moving cattle round public places by herders.

The signing of the anti-open grazing law by the Governor followed the decision of Southern Governors’ Forum last August, setting the September deadline to pass the law across member States.

There have been crises witnessed in some States, resulting from alleged open grazing.

Although farmer-herder crisis is not pronounced in Lagos, the anti-open grazing law is expected to prevent the spillover of the menace into the State.

Sanwo-Olu, who assented to the bill during the State’s Executive Council meeting in Alausa, directed the security agencies to swing immediately into action and enforce provisions of the law.

He said: “By the powers vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I am signing the bill on Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land into law to prohibit issues associated with open grazing of livestock.”

The Governor also signed legislation transforming the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) into a full-blown agency.

The development coincided with the commemorative month dedicated to raising awareness on gender-based violence in the State. The Governor and members of the State’s cabinet wore attire with purple shades to support the campaign against sexual violence.

The DSVRT legislation provides for the establishment of Sexual Offenders’ Register that would help the State efficiently tackle violations in the communities.

After signing the law, Sanwo-Olu said: “Raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence is an important piece of working to end the cycle of violence. It is important to reiterate the State Government’s zero tolerance to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. We will not rest on our oars until the menace is reduced to the barest minimum in Lagos.”

The Governor appointed Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi as the Executive Secretary of the new agency.

Vivour-Adeniyi was the coordinator of the response team before the legislation was signed into law.

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ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Guinea Junta Over Coups

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ECOWAS Bans Junta-Investors King

West African leaders have decided to impose travel bans and freeze the financial assets of members of Guinea’s ruling junta and their families after a coup more than a week ago.

The decisions were announced Thursday after an Extraordinary Summit on Guinea in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Mediators with the regional group had traveled to Guinea to meet with junta leaders and check on the condition of deposed President Alpha Conde.

ECOWAS president Jean Claude Brou said the West African leaders have also insisted that there should be no “need for very long transition for the country to return to democratic order.”

The targeted sanctions come after Guinea’s coup leaders set a number of conditions for releasing Conde, according to the foreign minister of Ghana.

ECOWAS had already warned it will impose penalties on the junta in Guinea unless it immediately releases Conde, who has been held at an undisclosed location since being detained during the Sept. 5 coup in Conakry.

“We are coming to address a burning issue in the region,” said Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current chair of the regional bloc, ahead of the summit. He was joined by presidents or high-ranking officials from eight of the other 15 ECOWAS countries.

Members of the ECOWAS delegation that visited Conakry after the coup presented their reports at Thursday’s meeting, said Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway. The junta has set a number of conditions for complying with the demands of regional mediators, she said but declined to disclose what they are.

The delegation has spoken with Conde’s doctor “who ascertained that indeed physically, he’s very well,” she said. However, she said, the ex-president is still coming to terms with the fact that his government has been toppled after more than a decade in power.

“For anybody who has gone through such a traumatic experience like he did, mentally, it’s not the best, not to say that mentally we found anything wrong, but he was quite shocked; he’s still in a state of shock,” she added.

Meanwhile, in Conakry, junta leaders were also set to meet with mining company representatives on the third day of a special summit to chart Guinea’s political future. Junta leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya has sought to reassure the country’s most vital economic sector that the political changes will not impact existing mining projects in the country, which has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite.

Guinea’s coup leaders have yet to make public their proposed timeframe for handing over power to a civilian transitional government, nor have they outlined how quickly new elections can be organized.

Conde had sparked violent street demonstrations last year after he pushed for a constitutional referendum that he used to justify running for a third term, saying term limits no longer applied to him. He ultimately won another five years in office last October, only to be toppled by the coup 10 months later.

At the time he came to power in 2010, he was Guinea’s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.

The regional bloc also planned to tackle concerns over whether a second member state, Mali, is making enough progress toward a return to democracy more than a year after a military takeover there.

In Mali, the ruling junta led by Col. Assimi Goita has committed to holding new elections by February 2022, though mediators who recently visited have expressed concern about whether that deadline now can be met.

Goita overthrew Mali’s president in August 2020 and then agreed to a civilian transitional government and an 18-month timeframe for holding a vote. However, only nine months after the first coup he effectively staged a second one, firing the civilian interim leaders and ultimately naming himself as president of the transition.

ECOWAS has not reinstated Mali’s membership in the bloc, marking the first time since 2012 that two of the 15 member states are suspended concurrently.

ECOWAS President Brou said there was the need to revisit the organization’s 2001 protocol on good governance “because a lot of things have changed or improved.”

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