N42bn debt: Reps ask telcos to halt planned suspension of USSD services

The House of Representatives on Tuesday urged telecommunication operators in the country to halt the planned withdrawal and suspension of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services to banks and other financial institutions.

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria had threatened to disconnect financial service providers from USSD from Monday, March 15, 2021 until the concerned institutions pay the over N42 billion debt they owe the telcos.

But the House, while adopting a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) at plenary, mandated the 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 and report back to the House within six weeks for further legislative action.

Moving the motion, Ossai noted that the CBN, in a bid to realise one of its statutory mandates of promoting monetary stability and a sound financial system in Nigeria, designed a cashless policy that would provide innovations, easy mobile payment, cost reduction and convenient financial services to millions of Nigerians living in urban and rural areas.

He said one of the innovations introduced is the 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 do fund transfer and data balance enquiries or to receive one-time passwords or pin codes.

The lawmaker further noted that the USSD service which is controlled by Mobile Network Operators is a critical 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.

Ossai said the USSD infrastructure service houses all the Nigeria telecommunications operators – MTN, Glo, Airtel & 9Mobile – and internet service providers.

He observed that the USSD 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 the COVID-19 movement restrictions.


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