Respite For Customers As MTN, Banks Sheath On USSD Disagreement

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Nigerian customers locked out from accessing their bank accounts for airtime vending on the network of MTN Nigeria can now heave a sigh of relief as the telecom network operator and its banking partners have agreed to sheath their swords on the unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) channels services restriction.

This came after the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, the two industry regulators, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), with the warring parties yesterday resolving to find a middle part to their disagreement.

At a virtual meeting held yesterday by the chief executive officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Karl Toriola; the group CEO of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe who is also the chairman of the Body of Bank CEOs in Nigeria; Group CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr. Segun Agbaje as well as MTN Nigeria’s chief financial officer, Modupe Kadri, they agreed to revert back to status quo of 4.5 percent commission on USSD airtime.

MTN had on Thursday, March 31, 2021, reduced the commission accruable to the value-added service (VAS) aggregators and banks from 4.5 percent to 2.5 percent with effect from Friday, April 1, 2021.

The sudden change in commission did not go down well with the aggregators and banks who immediately restricted the vending of airtime by MTN subscribers from banks accounts and USSD platform.

A letter cited by LEADERSHIP signed by the MTN CEO, Toriola and addressed to Wigwe which was a follow-up on the virtual meeting stated that, “In an attempt to resolve the current USSD impasse, given the intervention of our regulators, we hereby agree that the banks revert back to the status quo of 4.5 per cent commission.

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“However, the banks and MTN Nigeria Plc shall sit to agree on various options that will result in the costs on 6th of April 2021.” The letter was copied to the executive vice chairman/CEO of NCC.

Clarifying further when contacted by LEADERSHIP, Toriola said: “The document was issued by me to the banks on the specific intervention of the CBN governor and the minister for communications and digital economy. MTN’s intention has always been geared towards business optimization to the benefit of our customers and indeed the country.

“This is evidenced by the fact that through the USSD imbroglio, we never denied access to our customers. In the current case, customers have been denied access to services by the banks despite having monies in their accounts to purchase those services. MTN will naturally do all it can to minimize customers’ pain. It is not just about revenue for us.

“The good of our customers influence every decision we make. The CBN Governor’s intervention is in line with our core values. We acceded to his request and that of our minister. We will continue to live our values that everyone deserves the benefits of modern connected life.”

Meanwhile, MTN said its new partnership with financial technology companies (Fintechs) as alternative channels for airtime vending will continue, noting that subscribers can purchase MTN airtime from Flutterwave, JumiaPay, Kuda Carbon, BillnPay, myMTN Web, Mobile money agents, and OPay.