The Guardian

Alton rules out possibility of debt forgiveness for protracted N200b USSD crisis



.Bank CEO intervention recommended

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has disclosed that there is no scope for debt forgiveness regarding the Norwegian 200 billion Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debt owed by the Depository Money Bank (DMB).

In an interview with the Guardian, ALTON Chairman Gbenga Adebayo said there had been intervention from the Banking CEO Committee on the issue, adding that the parties involved in the issue were now more aware of the impact of the issue. Ta.

Mr. Adebayo said that although they are not in terms of finding a permanent solution on the issue, discussions are very much ongoing.

“The parties involved in this issue agreed that this is an issue that must be resolved. I think the situation is better today compared to the situation we were in when we were working on this issue at the beginning of 2023. and hope that the recovery process will improve. But certainly, there is some movement on this issue. We are not there yet, but the latest developments indicate that the problem will soon be resolved. This shows that there is hope that this will be resolved.

Chairman Alton praised the efforts of the CEOs of the Banking Committee on this issue and said the current chairman, the CEO of Zenith Bank, had done a good job on this issue.

“He has done well. We believe that in his time there were more positive moments in this respect compared to his predecessors. We also recognize his role and We must hope that the country will cooperate with him and that the spirit of progress we have seen on this issue will lead to better outcomes.

“I think it's too early to say what we will or won't do, but certainly the light is shining on the fact that there is a commitment and a desire on both sides to resolve the issue. But debt forgiveness I must add that there has never been, and will not be, any part of it. If all recovery measures and mechanisms reach failure, we must embark on recovery measures. However, this can be anything.

“It could be a withdrawal of services. It could go into a dispute resolution process or something like that. But it's not discussed whether this debt will be discharged. It's money for services rendered. We strongly believes that these funds were collected by DMB. We believe that our subscribers had large sums of money withdrawn from their accounts. , we believe that if you receive an economic benefit in return, you should at least pay the people who provided the service.”

He said banks are no longer building brick-and-mortar branches and rely on digital platforms to provide their services, which has benefited greatly from USSD and has had a positive impact on their revenues.

“The debt will have to be paid. There is no excuse for that in the conversation. We are neither unaware nor unappreciated of the ongoing efforts of the Chairman of the Bank CEO Committee. . He has done a good job in that regard. He is someone we have great respect for and we believe that with his efforts this matter will be resolved on time,” Adebayo said.

The Guardian noted that the conflict between telecom companies and the DMB entered its fifth year in 2024 without a major ceasefire. This challenge means that the federal government's 95 percent financial inclusion goal by 2024 may not be achieved after all.

The Chief Executive Officer of Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, Mr. Segun Agbaje, has described USSD as a clumsy technology, insisting that the only way to achieve financial inclusion in Nigeria is to drastically reduce the cost of data. Please remember that.

He said this in May last year, saying other developing countries like India do not use USSD as it is not a cutting-edge technology.

Mr. Agbaje argued that the ongoing battle between banks and telcos over USSD is nothing but a distraction for telcos from the real issue of high data costs. He said Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest data costs in the world. And this is not good for financial inclusion and the overall economic development of the country.

Source: guardian.ng

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