The House of Representatives has urged telecommunication operators to halt the planned withdrawal of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services to financial institutions in the country.
This was the sequel to the adoption of a motion by Rep. Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta) at plenary on Tuesday, March 16.
Moving the motion, Ossai said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the Cashless Policy in a bid to realise its statutory mandate of promoting monetary stability and a sound financial system in Nigeria.
He said that one of the innovations introduced with the policy was USSD services used by Global System for Mobile Communication Technology to communicate with service providers’ computers via text messages.
He explained that it was to check account balance or mobile airtime, generate bank statements or do fund transfer and data balance enquiries, or to receive one-time passwords or pin codes.
“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.
“The USSD infrastructure service houses all the Nigeria telecommunications, MTN, Glo, Airtel & 9Mobile and internet service providers.
“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 COVID-19 movement restrictions,” he said.
Ossai said that between January and June 2020, the value of USSD transfer payment in Nigeria was over N390 billion.
According to him, since October 2019 till date, there has been a dispute between telecoms operators and the Nigerian banks over who should pay for USSD service sessions.
Ossai said that the banks had always wanted the telecommunication operators to charge customers directly while operators insisted that the services were being offered to the banks and they should pay.
“The dispute has lingered for a long time to the extent that parties have been finger-pointing each other, all efforts at resolving the dispute proved abortive and the debt kept increasing until it is presently N42 billion.
“The telecom operators have issued a notice, threatening to withdraw and suspend the USSD service from the Nigerian banks starting from Monday, March 15, 2021.
“If the USSD service is withdrawn, Nigerian telecommunication users will fall back and continue with their old traditional modes,” he said.
The house mandated 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.
Speaker of the House Femi Gbajabiamila mandated the committee to report back within six weeks for further legislative action.