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Banking Sector

Banks USSD Debts to Telcos Hit N47 Billion

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USSD - Investors King

The total debts owed by banks to telecommunications service providers arising from the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) have risen from N42 billion to N47billion.

USSD is a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) protocol that is used to send text messages. USSD is similar to Short Message Service (SMS) but in the banking industry, allows users without a smartphone or data and internet connection to do mobile banking through the use of codes. USSD-based mobile banking can be used for fund transfers, checking account balance, generating bank statement, among other uses.

The huge debts came as a result of deductions made by way of commission by the banks during the course of banking transactions but were never remitted to the telecoms operators that own the infrastructure on which the transactions rode.

An industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lamented the helplessness of the operators to take a decisive action on the issue.

“The debts have grown sharply from N42 billion to N47 billion and it will continue to grow because bank customers will continue to use our platform to carry out convenient banking services. The impact of the N47 billion debt on the industry is significant, especially now that private and public organisations are counting the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the source said.

According to the source, banks are emboldened by the support they are getting from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, adding that it is that support that has bred impunity.

“Unfortunately, after the last spat we had the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ibrahim Pantami, Emefiele, the banks CEOs and the MNOs met to settle the matter. The resolution was that the status quo ante be retained.This regulatory intervention has tied the hands of the MNOs because they would not want to be seen as being recalcitrant. The MNOs wish they too could get the type of support the banks are getting,” the source added.

Early last month, the banks denied being indebted to MTN Nigeria and other MNOs for using telecommunication platforms to provide payment services.

“There is no such thing as an obligation due from banks to telcos. We chose not to make a public statement out of it because it is not appropriate for us to be found fighting with telcos in public,” Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, had said on an investor call in Lagos.

Wigwe is the head of a team of bank CEOs that has been in discussion with MTN Nigeria to resolve a dispute that led some banks to cut off the company from their banking platforms last week. This was after MTN, the West African nation’s biggest telecom services provider, reduced a commission charged on airtime purchases through banking channels by almost half to 2.5 per cent.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, had maintained that at a meeting with CBN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) terms of the settlement had been discussed and would be agreed in an MoU with both regulators.

“We also don’t want to join issues with the banks but the fact remains that the banks used the USSD channels over more than a year without paying and they can’t deny that the USSD channels services were not made available to them by the telcos.

“The banks debited their customers for use of the USSD channels and they did not pay the telcos for the use of the services.

“They cannot enjoy a service and would not pay. Because no service is free. Not even the banking services offered to telcos.”

Adebayo said the debt remained outstanding and the banks have to pay the telcos because it has become a moral burden since the banks used the services, debited their customers’ accounts but refused to pay the telcos.

The ALTON boss said telcos hoped that the regulators (CBN and NCC) having intervened by preventing operators to disconnect the USSD services will resolve the lingering debt issues.

According to him, the banks owed the operators “and they will pay. Otherwise, let us ask them where the money is deducted for USSD services from their customers. You and I know we were charged for USSD transactions, what is the deduction meant for?”

MTN Nigeria had accused the banks of owing it N40.3 billion as at the end of first quarter of the year, according to its financial reports for the first quarter ended March 31, 2021.

MTN Nigeria Chief executive Officer (CEO), Karl Toriola had said: “As at the end of Q1, N40.3 billion was due to MTN Nigeria. In the meantime, we continue to account for USSD revenue on a cash basis.

“We continue to engage with the NCC, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and deposit money banks (DMBs) to conclude the operational modalities for the new pricing framework that has been agreed upon for USSD services. The mechanism for and timing of the recovery of the industry-wide outstanding debts that exist for USSD services provided to the DMBs form part of this process.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

Banking Sector

Jaiz Bank Boosts Chairman’s Income to N24m Amidst Strategic Expansion

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Jaiz Bank

Jaiz Bank has announced a 20% increase in its chairman’s annual income to N24 million.

This decision was unveiled in a recent statement filed with the Nigeria Exchange Limited, highlighting the bank’s commitment to rewarding leadership amidst its expansion plans.

The bank, renowned for its pioneering role in non-interest banking in Nigeria since 2012, also approved a remuneration package of N20 million for each non-executive director.

The announcement was made by the bank’s secretary, Mohammed Shehu, highlighting the importance of competitive compensation for board members who provide crucial oversight and strategic guidance.

Shareholders at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) expressed confidence in the board’s leadership by approving the resolution on directors’ fees.

This move aligns with Jaiz Bank’s ongoing efforts to enhance its capital base to N70 billion by the end of 2024.

The bank also announced a dividend of 4 kobo per share, which will be distributed to shareholders on July 16, 2024.

This dividend declaration was welcomed as a testament to the bank’s operational success in a challenging economic climate.

Also, the AGM saw the re-election of Muhammadu Indimi and Muhammad Abdulmutallab as non-executive directors, reaffirming shareholder trust in their leadership capabilities.

Jaiz Bank’s financial performance has been impressive, with a 67% increase in profit before tax, reaching N11.1 billion in 2023.

Gross earnings also rose by 42% to N47.2 billion from the previous year, showcasing the bank’s successful growth strategy.

As Jaiz Bank continues to expand its services, the enhanced remuneration package signals a commitment to maintaining strong governance and leadership, paving the way for future achievements in ethical banking.

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Banking Sector

Nigeria Plans 50% Windfall Tax on Banks’ Currency Profits

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has announced a one-time 50% tax on windfall profits that banks reaped from currency gains following last year’s naira devaluation.

This decision was part of the government’s strategy to navigate the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

The naira, which has depreciated by about 70% against the dollar since foreign exchange rules were relaxed in June 2023, allowed banks holding dollar assets to significantly boost their income.

However, the Central Bank of Nigeria had advised lenders to retain these profits as a buffer against potential future losses.

The proposed tax will apply to the 2023 financial year, with non-compliance resulting in hefty fines.

The move has already impacted the NGX Banking Index, which fell by 1.3% as of midday trading in Lagos. Notable declines were seen in FBN Holdings Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, dropping 3.2% and 2.5% respectively.

This initiative mirrors similar actions in Europe, where countries like Italy and Hungary have imposed taxes on banks to address what they view as excessive profits during periods of high inflation and interest rates.

European banks have criticized these measures, warning of potential impacts on economic growth due to constrained lending capabilities.

President Tinubu’s administration believes this tax will help manage Nigeria’s fiscal challenges while addressing social needs.

Lawmakers are expected to support the measure, alongside a proposal to increase government spending by 6.2 trillion naira ($3.8 billion).

While banks have benefited from currency revaluations, many customers, particularly manufacturers with dollar-denominated loans, faced significant losses as they struggled with the weaker naira.

The new tax policy highlights the government’s broader efforts to stabilize the economy and attract foreign investment, aiming to ensure a more equitable distribution of financial gains.

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Banking Sector

Unity Bank Customers Win Over N4 Million in Cashtoken Rewards Promo

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Unity Bank customers have claimed over N4 million in cash rewards in its ongoing loyalty programme recently rolled out with Cashtoken, a Cash Reward-as-a-Service company.

The winners included no fewer than 40 customers who adopted and transacted on the Bank’s digital banking platforms, including the UniFi mobile banking application, the *7799# USSD platform or activated their Unity Bank Verve Card to transact on e-payment terminals across Nigeria.

Beginning from onboarding in our customer lifecycle journey, the Unity Bank Cashtoken Partnership commenced as a loyalty and reward scheme to reinforce the benefits of e-banking platforms. To begin, Customer transactions earn cash tokens, which are then redeemed to qualify for the monthly Cashtoken Rewards draw. Consequently, winners emerge from the draws to claim the cash prizes.

Recall that the retail lender announced the ongoing Cashtoken Rewards loyalty programme in December 2023 in partnership with Cashtoken Rewards Africa to empower customers and improve customer satisfaction. The partnership with Cashtoken Rewards also provided an opportunity for the Bank to migrate customers—old and new—to a platform that will continually create exciting rewards and appreciation for loyalty.

Eghomware Iyamu, Unity Bank’s Head of E-Business, commenting on the success of the Cashtoken Rewards loyalty program, stated: “We are excited to see our customers win over N4 million in cash rewards through our partnership with Cashtoken. This initiative demonstrates our commitment to recognizing and rewarding the loyalty of our customers”.

“By leveraging our digital banking platforms, including the Unifi mobile banking application and the *7799# USSD platform, we are not only enhancing customer experience but also providing life-changing opportunities. The Cashtoken Rewards program is a testament to our dedication to improving customer satisfaction and creating meaningful rewards along our customer lifecycle journey. We look forward to seeing more of our customers benefit from this exciting program as we continue to innovate and deliver exceptional value to them.”

Unity Bank has robust electronic banking products which include mobile and digital banking channels, including ATM, PoS, or any digital payment channels which support retail product transactions across the country. New-to-Bank customers are invited to open a Unity Bank account, onboard onto the digital platforms and begin transacting on the various platforms to earn cash token rewards and cash prizes while existing customers are encouraged to onboard and transact to win even more rewards and cash prizes.

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