CBN asks banks to ditch telcos raising USSD charges

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has told banks to move their business from telecommunications companies that are working on increasing the charges on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) banking transactions.

Godwin Emefiele told the media on Sunday in Washington DC that there had been previous efforts to reach an understanding with telcos which didn’t yield the desired results.

“About 5 months ago, I held a meeting with some telecoms companies and leading banks in Nigeria at the CBN in Lagos and the issue of the cost of USSD came up,” he explained.

“I hear it is N1500 per minute and at that time, we came to a conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost, meaning that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecoms companies.

“The telecoms companies disagreed with us and said it was an additional investment in infrastructure and that for that reason, they needed to impose it. I appealed to them to please review this downwards and they refused.

“I understand that about 3 to 4 weeks ago, rather than reduce it, they went ahead to increase from N1500 to N4500 that is a 300% increase. I opposed it and I have told the banks that we would not allow this to happen.

“The banks are the people who give these businesses to the telecoms companies and I leave the banks and the telecoms companies to engage.

“And I have told the banks that they have to move their business and move their traffic to a telecoms company that is ready to provide it at the lowest possible and if not at zero cost and there is where we stand and we must achieve it.”

In a notification sent to customers, MTN had said it would charge N4 for every 20 seconds spent using the USSD channel.

Banking services were introduced on USSD channels to ensure easier access to banking services.

Emefiele said he has made a commitment to deepen financial inclusion to 80% by 2020 from the current 65%.

The ministry of communications has already directed that implementation should be suspended until Isa Pantami, the minister, has been briefly.

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