Banks/Telcos clash: Why Airtime/Data purchase Services were suspended by Nigerian Banks | N42Billion Debt

Users of MTN who made efforts to recharge their MTN lines via USSD code, My MTNapp, and FinTech firms like FETS in the past 24hours had suffered a response, “Dear Customer, this service is temporarily unavailable. Kindly contact your Telecom service provider.”

This is becaused MTN Nigeria Airtime and Data purchase Services have been blocked by Banks which means that subscribers cannot recharge their lines or buy data plans through their banks channels.

MTN Nigeria had confirmed the development in a mail sent to some of its partners, which in part read the,

“Dear Customer, Please be informed that some of Mycustomers may not be able to purchase airtime, and data recharge via banks including MOD, and myMTNApp.

Please pacify Mycustomers and educate them to use MTNTopit, MoMo channels, as well as the debit card options on MOD or myMTN App.”

Why the Airtime and Data purchase Services were suspended

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria had, Tuesday 16th March, 2021, announced that "effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs (Deposit Money Banks) and all CBN-licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction".

The charge, the CBN noted, were part of the agreements after banks and telecommunication operators met to discuss the ₦42bn debt owed to mobile operators by banks.

Recall: Breaking: Nigerians to pay N6.98 per USSD Service Transaction - CBN

The Federal Government had asked the telecommunication operators to put on hold their impending suspension of USSD services over the debt owed by banks hence halting the disconnection which was supposed to take effect from March 15, 2021. 

This made the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami convene a meeting of the Central Bank Of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission. Subsequently, both parties introduced the flat fee of N6.98 per transaction every time customers use USSD services.

The CBN and the NCC in the meeting agreed that a settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by mobile network operators would be worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.

However, a top source in the sector, who craved anonymity, told The PUNCH that banks were unwilling to pay the N42bn debt but rather want to start deducting the debt afresh from customers using the USSD services.

The source said, “We had a meeting but the banks don’t want to pay the N42bn they owe us. Rather, they want to surreptitiously factor it into a new price regime so that customers will unknowingly help them pay what they had already billed them. Of course we refused, which is why they are fighting us now.”

The source added as a protest for not being part of the plan to exploit Nigerians, the banks decided to block the airtime sales channels of telcos including MTN.

“The overnight suspension of airtime sales by some banks is not restricted to USSD channels but includes airtime purchases through all banking channels: bank apps, bank USSD codes, even debit cards,” the source said.

The source also added that the banks were poised to bullying all operators to maximise their profit, adding that “the government needs to step in and deal with this once and for all. Nigerian banks need to stop their tyrannical posture”.

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