The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, yesterday directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to sanction mobile network operators (MNOs) making deductions for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services from subscribers.
The Minister stated that after receiving briefing about the proposed USSD charges, he realised there was no justification for the new tariff, hence, the order for its immediate suspension.
He threatened that any telco violating the directive would be sanctioned appropriately.
The statement frowned at the activities of some MNOs who, in spite of the suspension, continued the illegal deduction from subscribers.
It said, “the minister had been inundated with allegations of deductions by some MNOs before the directive was issued and those who continued to engage in it.
“This also serves as a notice to the general public that anyone in possession of evidence of charges after the directive had taken effect should forward same to the NCC for further action.”
The statement added the procedure should be given utmost priority, as the government would “not condone any form of indiscipline and injustice.”
However, MTN yesterday said that the new charging model for USSD banking services has not gone into effect.
A statement by Uto Ukpanah, the company secretary, said that the telecommunication firm is willing to collaborate with all stakeholders in the interest of their customers.
Meanwhile, bank CEOs have applauded the USSDsuspension, saying they “look forward to working with the telecommunications industry to achieve the objectives of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. “We believe that with this new development, we will achieve 80 per cent financial inclusion in 2020.
“We are delighted that consumers will now be able to access their bank for free, using USSD. This is a giant leap for the National Financial Inclusion Strategy where, through Bank’s subsidising USSD, we have already been able to bring 20m Nigerians into the formal financial system in recent years.
The Banks, supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, have long advocated the designation of USSD services as a critical national asset to enable such free access to USSD. Indeed, in countries like India, free access to USSD channels have long been established to successfully drive financial inclusion.