The House of Representatives has asked Telecommunication Operators in the country to halt the planned withdrawal and suspension of USSD services to the Nigerian and other Financial Institutions in the interest of Nigerians.
Adopting a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), the House asked its Committee on Telecommunications to liaise with Telecommunications Operators, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Banks and other Financial Institutions with a view to resolving the impasse between the banks and the telecom operators.
Hon. Ossai said that in a bid for the Central Bank of Nigeria to realize one of its statutory mandate of promoting monetary stability and sound financial system in Nigeria, designed a cashless policy that will provide innovations, easy mobile payment, cost reduction and convenient financial services to millions of Nigerians living in urban and rural areas.
According to him, one of the innovations introduced by the CBN is the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services which is used by Global System for Mobile Communication Technology to communicate with their service providers’ computers via text messages to check account balance or mobile airtime, generate bank statement or does fund transfer and data balance enquiries or to receive one-time passwords or pin codes.
He said further that the USSD service which is controlled by Mobile Network Operators, is a critical price of infrastructure used to provide mobile financial services to banks and other financial institutions in cell phones at very low cost, without requiring access to the user’s SIM card.
He said further that the USSD infrastructure service houses all the Nigeria telecommunications, thus: MTN, Glo, Airtel & 9Mobile and internet service providers, adding that the USSD has made it possible for millions of Nigerians who do not have smartphones or data/internet connections to access banking and other financial services on a daily basis, especially during COVID 19 movement restrictions.
He maintained that between January to June 2020, the value of USSD transfer payment in Nigeria amounted to over N390 Billion (about One Billion U.S Dollars).
He argued that since October, 2019, there has been a dispute between Nigeria Telecommunication Operators and the Nigerian banks over who should pay for USSD service sessions, adding that the banks have always wanted the Telecommunication Operators to charge customers directly, while the Telecommunication Operators insisted that the services were being offered to the banks and as such the banks should be the one to pay the Telecommunication Operators.
He said further that between the months of July and August 2020, the Operators had an agreement with the Federal Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that Nigerian banks should pay the Telecommunication Operators for the use Of USSD at an agreed individual price mechanism.