- CBN Kicks Against USSD Charges, Says Financial Inclusion at Risk
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has kicked against MTN Nigeria’s recent message to subscribers, stating the telecommunication giant will start charging them for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) access to banking services from Monday 21st October 2019.
The message read: “Yello, please note that from October 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for the USSD access to banking services. Thank you.”
Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor, CBN, said the move to start charging subscribers for USSD access would hurt CBN’s financial inclusion initiative.
The Governor, who was responding to questions from the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund holding in Washington DC, USA, said: “About five months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria and the issue of USSD came up.
“At that time, we came to the conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost, which is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom companies. But the telecoms companies disagreed with us and said it is an additional investment and they needed to impose it.”
Emefiele added that “I appealed to them that they should review it downwards and they refused. I understand that three or four weeks ago, rather than reduce it, they went ahead to increase it by 300 percent.
“I opposed it and I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen; the banks gave this business to the telecoms companies, and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage.”
The Governor, however, said he has instructed Deposit Money Banks to move their business to any telecom company with the lowest service rate if not zero cost.
“And that’s where we stand and we must achieve it,” he added.
Dr. Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications, said he has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to suspension the USSD plan by MTN.
While MTN Nigeria has claimed the charges were from Deposit Money Banks, who have been paying and now want subscribers to bear that responsibility, Pantami said he was unaware of the development.
In a statement released on Sunday, he said, “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to the viral text message allegedly sent by the mobile network operator MTN Nigeria and other mobile operators notifying subscribers of a N4:00 charge per 20 seconds on the USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019.”
“The office of the Honourable Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, is unaware of this development and has hereby directed the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, to ensure the operator suspends such plans until the minister is fully and properly briefed.”