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.”
Ecobank Posts $352 Million Pre-tax Profit in Nine Months Ended September 2021
Ecobank Group, one of Africa’s leading financial institutions, posted strong revenue growth in the nine months ended September 2021. Net revenue grew by 4 percent or $52 million to $1.3 billion on the back of funded income, cash management, trade finance, mobile and online payments.
The lender disclosed in its audited financial statement obtained by Investors King on Monday.
Return on assets and tangible equity also improved by 1.3 percent and 17.9 percent, respectively, compared with 1.0 percent and 14.1 percent recorded in the nine months ended September 2020.
Strong revenue growth was recorded in the bank’s payments business, rising by 34 percent to $140 million or 11 percent of the Group’s total revenue. Ecobank Group grew profit before tax to $352 million in the period under review.
Profit available to ETI shareholders grew by $215 million year-on-year to $182 million from -$32 million recorded in the corresponding period of 2020. Customer deposits increased by $1.5 billion or 9 percent year on year to $18.9 billion, attributed to client relationships, partnerships, and increasing consumption of our digital platforms.
Customer loans increased by $334 million or 4 percent year on year to $8.9 billion. While the bank’s Non-Performing Loan (NPL) ratio reduced further to 6.9 percent from 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 and 9.9 percent in the third (3Q) 20.
Book value per share up 8 percent year-on-year to 6.04 cents, and tangible book value per share (TBVPS) up 11 percent to 5.52 cents.
Commenting on the company’s performance, Ade Ayeyemi, Ecobank Group CEO, said: “We reported strong results, reflecting the continued diligence of Ecobankers in putting our customers first and ensuring that we meet their respective needs. For the nine months period up to September 2021, we earned $352 million in pre-tax profit, a 41% increase compared to the prior year and revenues of $1.3 billion, a 4% growth. Hence return on tangible equity increased to 17.9%, and we grew the per-share value of our shareholders’ equity by 11% to 5.52 US dollar cents.
“These results also demonstrate the hard work invested in driving efficiency in all our businesses in line with our deliberate focus on driving down our cost-toserve, sustain improvement in the quality of our credit portfolio, and strengthen liquidity and capital buffers. As a result, our cost-to-income ratio has been declining consistently quarter on quarter, currently 58.3%. In addition, the stock of nonperforming loans as a percentage of loans outstanding is now at 6.9% compared to 9.9% a year ago. At the same time, we are proactively building loan reserves, currently at 91.2% of nonperforming loans, close to our near-term target of 100%.
“We have boosted the firm’s liquidity profile, thanks to growing customer deposits fueled by an acceleration in digital channel adoption, partnerships with Fintechs, Telcos, and businesses in the Payments Ecosystem,” Ayeyemi added.
“During the quarter, Arise B.V., a major institutional shareholder of ETI made a $75 million Additional Tier 1 (AT1) investment in the firm. Adding onto the $350 million Tier 2 Sustainability Note ETI successfully issued to investors in June. The AT1 further improves our Tier 1 capital and double leverage ratio and demonstrates stakeholder confidence in our strategy and business prospects,” Ayeyemi continued.
“Finally, we continue to invest in new digital and mobile capabilities to enhance customer experience, alongside the investments we are making in our people, processes, and controls, to ensure the continued resilience of our business and service delivery to our clients. I am deeply grateful to all our customers and the Ecobank team for the remarkable job.” Ayeyemi concluded.
Zenith Bank GMD, Onyeagwu Emerges “CEO of the Year” as Zenith Bank Wins ‘Most Responsible Organisation in Africa’ at SERAS CSR Africa Awards 2021
Zenith Bank’s Group Managing Director/CEO, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has emerged CEO of the Year for a second consecutive year at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) CSR Africa Awards held at the weekend in Lagos.
According to the judges, he was selected for a number of reasons, including engendering a culture that promotes the continued investment in social initiatives in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under his leadership, the Zenith Bank’s social investments totalled NGN3.285 billion in 2020, representing nearly 2% of the Bank’s profit after tax.
The judges found him worthy for his commitment to promoting sustainability and responsible business practices in Nigeria, by his frontal leadership of sustainability in Zenith Bank, thereby enabling best industry practices in the banking sector, and for his passion for reducing carbon emissions in the Bank’s operations.
Zenith Bank Plc also emerged winner in four other categories at the SERAS CSR Africa Awards, carting home the awards for “Best Company in Reporting and Transparency”, “Best Company in Infrastructure Development”, “Best Company in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment”, and the coveted “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa”.
Zenith Bank was adjudged the Most Responsible Organisation in Africa, winning the overall best sustainability award, for its continued commitment to the tenets of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, within its immediate community and in the society at large.
The Bank also emerged as the winner in the category for Reporting and Transparency for its consistency in disclosing and communicating its sustainability journey and progress annually vis-a-vis environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, in line with the guidelines and protocols set by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP), NigerianExchange (NGX), United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). The Bank also ensures the assurance of its sustainability report by reputable independent third parties. In 2021, the Bank’s 2020 sustainability report was assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and disseminated through the Bank’s website for the public and sent to all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
In the infrastructure development category, the Bank was voted winner for its nation-building initiatives and investments, including supporting efforts towards establishing basic services and functional security, governance, and economic and infrastructure systems, especially in Nigeria. As a testament to this and in demonstration of its commitment to the development (often referred to as reform, restructuring and rebuilding) of the Nigeria Police Force for the preservation of law and order, protection of life and property, and law enforcement in Nigeria, the Bank supported the Lagos State Security Trust Fund with N500,000,000.00 for the provision of security-enhancing facilities and infrastructure. This is in addition to contributions to other state security trust funds.
Zenith Bank was adjudged winner in the category for the Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment for its Z-Woman initiative, which offers credit facilities to women-owned businesses at a single-digit interest rate and for a gender-balanced workforce (Women make up about 50% of employees). During the reporting period, the number of women and women enterprises supported by the Bank, through the Z-Woman initiative, grew by 88.7%, from 391 in 2019 to 738 in 2020.
The Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS) is an initiative of TruCSR which celebrates and promotes investments by corporate organisations in the society through CSR and sustainability initiatives. It made its debut in 2007, and participation was opened to other countries of Africa in 2016.
The 2021 awards featured 387 projects by 97 organisations across Africa. The SERAS Jury Board consists of global thought and best-practices leaders from around the world such as Maria Sillanpaa (Finland); Nyasha Gwatidzo (Zimbabwe); Adesuwa Onyenokwe (Nigeria); Amjed Achour (Morocco); Charles Ojei (Nigeria); Ellen Gunning (Ireland); Gina Din-Kariuki (Kenya); Indira Kartallozi (England); Lampe Omoyele (Nigeria); Paul Kapelus (South Africa); and Scott Walker (England).
Having a FirstBank Salary Account Can Ease Your Money Problems, Find Out How…
“There is always a lot to spend money on, and sometimes the bills can’t wait for the salary to be paid” Tope complained when his wife informed him that they had run out of cooking gas and had to refill.
He had just moved to a new location with his family and the bills seemed to be coming at such speed that he could hardly keep up. Barely three weeks in the new apartment, the electricity bill had arrived. The new apartment was bigger than the last and their two double-seater cushions left too much space vacant in the seating room. They needed to get a couple more pieces of furniture to fill the space. His wife had not stopped reminding him of the car he promised to get, in order to ease mobility for the family.
Everyone has been a Tope at some point in time, and that is why everyone needs a financial partner like FirstBank, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services brand. FirstBank offers a variety of loan products that can help you ease off the pressure as you work towards meeting pressing and urgent needs, as well as medium-term goals.
FirstAdvance is a digital product tailored for Salary Account holders, who have an urgent cash need and would want to access salary advances from the bank. If you have held a salary account with FirstBank for up to two months, you can access 50% of your monthly net salary and as much as half a million naira (N500,000).
A physical visit to the bank branch is not required as you can access it via the FirstMobile (FirstBank’s Mobile banking app) and USSD channels. To access the service via USSD, dial *894*11# from the phone number linked with your FirstBank account. This has proved to be the solution for many people while emergencies arise before payday. There is no point in waiting for month-end before you can take on those pressing financial obligations.
FirstCredit is another digital product designed to cater for non-salaried individuals. All that is required is for your account to have been active and transacting in FirstBank for six months or more to access FirstCredit. It provides customers with quick and easy access to loans to fund urgent transactions. You do not need a smartphone or a physical visit to the bank to get this done as well. This credit facility can be accessed using a mobile phone and the USSD banking code, *894*11#. You can access as much as N300,000 to be repaid within 30 days.
No physical documentation or collateral is required, neither do you need a physical visit to the bank to access both loans. Imagine the confidence that comes with sorting out your bills within minutes and without having to wait till month-end.
Salary accounts should do more than receive your monthly payments from your employer. It should be instrumental in making your day-to-day living easier, and this is what having your salary account with FirstBank can achieve for you. You can get a Personal Loan Against Salary (PLAS) if you have a longer-term project at hand or investments to make. It may be paying school fees for your kids, acquiring assets or renovating your properties, paying rent, taking professional examinations. Customers who qualify can access Up to N50 million based on their net monthly income and rates are competitive while offering long-term and flexible repayments up to 48 months tenor.
Despite all these benefits and ease in access to loans, it literarily costs nothing to open a FirstBank Salary Account. Zero opening balance, Zero minimum daily operating balance, Zero account maintenance charge, plus you even get your first debit card issued for free.
Truly, it is always “YOU FIRST” from FirstBank.
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