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Banks Wriggle to Avoid Payment of N43Bn Owed Telcos

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The dispute over the N42 billion owed telecommunications operators in the country by money deposit banks took a new dimension at the weekend as the banks claimed they are not indebted to the telcos for using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platforms to provide payment services.

Banks Wriggle to Avoid Payment of N43Bn Owed Telcos

Banks collect the money for the service on behalf of the telcos, which are the owners of the infrastructure.

Telcos believe the banks are bent on bullying them to maximize their revenues while the banks on the other hand say there is no such thing as an obligation due to the operators.

Investigations showed that the telcos never stopped the service despite mounting debt, but the minute the banks went into a dispute with telcos on commission payment, the banks pulled the plug with total disregard for customers.

Context

The telcos and banks were in March caught in a web of claims and counter charges as the telcos under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) demanded N42 billion the banks owed them.

ALTON threatened to withdraw USSD services to financial service providers due to huge indebtedness to telecom network operators.

The telcos explained that the service withdrawal had become necessary due to the lack of agreement on a payment structure with the banks that did not involve the end-user being asked to pay.

Intervention

As the dispute lingered, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) waded in and issued a joint statement on the March, 16, 2021.

The statement signed by Osita Nwanisobi, head, Corporate Communications, CBN and Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, director, Public Affairs, NCC, read:

Joint Statement by Central Bank of Nigeria & Nigerian Communications Commission on Pricing of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) Services

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have had protracted disagreements concerning the appropriate USSD pricing model for financial transactions. This resulted in the accumulation of outstanding fees for USSD services rendered leading to threat of service withdrawal by the MNOs.

USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, particularly for the underserved and/or financially excluded. To resolve the lingering dispute and ensure uninterrupted services to customers on this channel, the Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy on March 15, 2021 chaired a meeting of key stakeholders to discuss an amicable resolution in the interest of the general public.

Represented at the meeting were the various MNOs, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), DMBs (represented by the Chairman, Body of Bank CEOs) and the sector regulators – Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

We are pleased to announce that after comprehensive deliberations on the key issues, a resolution framework acceptable to all parties was agreed thus:

  1. Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs and all CBN – licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98k per transaction. This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion. This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.
  2. To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel.
  3. A settlement plan for outstanding payments incurred for USSD services, previously rendered by the MNOs, is being worked out by all parties in a bid to ensure that the matter is fully resolved.
  4. MNOs and DMBs shall discuss and agree on the operational modalities for the implementation of the new USSD pricing framework, including sharing of Application Programme Interface (APIs) to enable seamless, direct and transparent customer billing.
  5. DMBs and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services.
  6. With the above resolutions, the impending suspension of DMBs from the USSD channel is hereby vacated. Therefore, DMBs shall no longer be disconnected from the USSD channel.

The general public is reminded that the USSD channel is optional, as several alternative channels such as mobile apps, internet banking and ATMs may be used for financial transactions.

The CBN and NCC shall continue to engage relevant operators and stakeholders to promote cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians.

Twist

But at the weekend, Nigerian banks claimed they are not indebted to the telcos for using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data shortcode service to provide payment services.

“There is no such thing as an obligation due from banks to telcos,” Herbert Wigwe, chief executive officer of Access Bank Plc, said on an investor call in Lagos, according to Bloomberg.

“We chose not to make a public statement out of it because it is not appropriate for us to be found fighting with telcos in public,” he said Thursday.

Wigwe is the head of a team of bank CEOs that has been in discussion with MTN Nigeria to resolve a dispute that led some banks to cut off the company from their banking platforms last week.

Implications

The banks’ reluctance to pay the N42billion debt has far reaching effects on both the telcos and subscribers.

Already, the telcos have lost some ₦30 billion as a result of inactive SIM cards occasioned by the NIN-SIM registration.

And according to figures by the NCC, telecom subscribers in the country dropped by 11.84 million in four months.

The unpredictable nature of business in Nigeria is the reason why the telecommunication sector is struggling to attract new investments’.

From the monetary authorities playing god with foreign exchange to multiple taxes to epileptic power supply, the industry is swimming in challenges.

In trying to control both the demand and supply of dollars, the CBN plays god in forex market, and scares off investors. Telcos rely on forex to import equipment for expansion.

Telcos are still seen as cash cows and are subjected to all kinds of taxes, leveis and fees by all tiers of governments.

Because of Nigeria’s notorious unreliable power supply, operators are forced to provide their own electricity to power their facilities.

For now, telcos in Nigeria are clutching expensive bags of operating expenses and subscribers are bearing the burden.

Unfair Practices

The banks intended to hurt the telcos by pulling the plug on the USSD service but ended up hurting customers to secure their profit.

The silence of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is worrying.

The action the banks took is collusion of the highest order and goes to the root of competition and anti-trust.

And it is worrying that ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the NCC and CBN have not spoken out against the lingering settlement that further impoverishes consumers.


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WhatsApp to Deactivate Support for Certain Phone Models over Incompatibility

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WhatsApp has announced that it will no longer be supported on a variety of phone models starting from the summer of 2024.


WhatsApp to Deactivate Support for Certain Phone Models over Incompatibility

This decision affects a significant number of devices from popular brands such as Samsung, Motorola, Huawei, Apple, Sony, and LG.

Users are advised to check the list of incompatible devices to determine whether their phones are affected and whether they need to upgrade to continue using WhatsApp securely.

Surprisingly, some of the models on the list are quite old, but due to their decent hardware or lack of upgrade options, some users have been clinging onto WhatsApp for dear life.

At present, WhatsApp is recommending that users only use the app if they have a device running on Android 5.0 or later, or an iPhone with iOS 12 or newer.

The affected models include popular devices like Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus, Motorola Moto G, and various iPhone models like 5, 6, and SE.

This development highlights the rapid evolution of technology and the need for users to stay current with their devices to access essential services like WhatsApp.

As we move towards a more advanced digital age, it becomes increasingly crucial for users to regularly check for updates and ensure compatibility with the latest software and applications.

In light of WhatsApp’s decision to discontinue support for certain phone models, there are several key points that users should be aware of regarding this future incompatibility issue.

One of the main challenges associated with WhatsApp ceasing support for older phone models is the potential security risks involved.

Unsupported devices may become more vulnerable to security threats as they will no longer receive essential updates and patches from WhatsApp.

Additionally, users who are unable or unwilling to upgrade their devices may face difficulties in communicating with friends and family who continue to use WhatsApp.

On the controversial side, some users argue that tech companies should provide support for older devices to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for all users, regardless of their device’s age or specifications.

However, from WhatsApp’s perspective, maintaining support for outdated models may hinder the app’s ability to innovate and introduce new features that require more advanced hardware.


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Glo Deploys AI Services for Customers to Earn Millions while Learning

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Digital solutions services provider, Globacom, has unveiled three innovative AI-focused services that aim to improve customer satisfaction and provide users the chance to profit from AI and win rewards on the network at the same time.

In addition to offering users the possibility to win thrilling rewards through lottery draws, Globacom disclosed in a press statement that the services would offer priceless insights into utilizing AI for everyday requirements.

One of the services, called “Glo Awoof Win EverWage,” is a gaming platform that gives users the chance to either win a lifetime wage or take part in a monthly draw that offers a N12 million prize.

Subscribers will also get regular payments from this service, thus having a steady source of income free from the limitations of a conventional job. Globacom stated that Glo EverWage “promises peace of mind in today’s dynamic economic environment, whether you seek supplementary income or financial stability.”

Subscribers can participate in the drawings for EverWage by calling *20791# and following the instructions to be eligible for a chance to win N12 million per month and daily cash prizes.

In a similar vein, “Glo Awoof Win SMS-to-Ai” uses artificial intelligence (AI) to give users rapid, precise information on any subject without requiring an internet connection.

The “Ask AI by Glo” service is an SMS-based platform that provides users with access to a variety of informational resources, including news, sports scores, weather predictions, traffic updates, educational advice, and celebrity information. By dialing *20791# on their handsets, subscribers can also take part in the network’s jackpot draws for a chance to win thrilling prizes.

Subscribers can also use Glo SMS-to-AI to ask queries even in the absence of internet access, by texting their inquiries to 20791 and the AI platform will respond to them right away. Regular questioners will be informed through their Glo lines and have a chance to win interesting rewards.

The third one, “Glo Awoof Win Ai Fortune”, is an educational service designed to empower users by teaching them how to leverage Ai for generating income and improving business processes.

“From foundational Ai concepts to advanced business strategies, our comprehensive curriculum equips you with the skills to harness Ai for income generation and business enhancement. Subscribers can engage in interactive learning modules, earn certifications, and showcase their expertise in monthly competitions”, the company disclosed.

Subscribers to AI Fortune can obtain study packets to read and enter to win prizes by dialling *20791# and following the instructions.

According to Globacom, users who want to take advantage of the three AI-powered services should dial *20791# on their mobile devices in order to choose among the available options. Daily one-time or auto subscriptions to the services cost N100, weekly one-time or auto subscriptions cost N200, and monthly one-time or auto subscriptions cost N500.


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Y’ello Care since ‘07: 17 Years of Unwavering Commitment to Community Development

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For nearly two decades, MTN has demonstrated a steadfast dedication to community development through its flagship corporate social responsibility initiative, Y’ello Care.

The annual program with the theme “Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow”, now celebrating its 17th year, exemplifies the telco’s commitment to making a positive impact across the various communities it serves.

Launched in 2007, Y’ello Care has evolved into one of the most significant corporate volunteer programs in the telecommunications sector. Each year, employees take time off from their daily tasks to give back to the community and participate in meaningful charitable initiatives, reflecting the company’s fundamental principles of innovation, leadership, and integrity.

The heart of Y’ello Care lies in its volunteers. MTN employees from different departments and regions come together to contribute their time, skills, and resources. This culture of volunteerism not only benefits the communities but also fosters a sense of purpose and camaraderie among its staff.

Since its inception, the Y’ello Care initiative has tackled various social challenges, from education and health to environmental sustainability and economic empowerment. The program’s success is measured by the number of projects completed and the lasting positive changes it brings to the lives of individuals and communities.

Speaking about this year’s edition, Tobe Okigbo, Chief Corporate Services & Sustainability Officer, MTN Nigeria, said “Y’ello Care is about the MTN ecosystem giving back and contributing their time, money, and resources to make a positive impact. This year, we’re focusing on education in remote areas, supporting three projects that will provide access to quality education for young Nigerians,” said

One of the cornerstones of Y’ello Care this year is its focus on education and this year the initiative is supporting the KNOSK charity education initiative (Study Better Packs),building and refurbishing Iwerekun Community High school, providing learning materials, and organizing vocational skills workshops. These efforts aim at bridging the educational gap and equipping students with the skills needed for the future.

Also, Y’ello Care has made significant contributions to improving healthcare services. Through medical outreach programs, health awareness campaigns, and the provision of essential medical equipment, it has helped enhance the quality of healthcare in underserved areas.

Beyond everything,

As Y’ello Care completesits 17th year, the company further proves its committment to deepening its impact on its community. MTN Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to community development through the Y’ello Care initiative is a testament to the power of corporate social responsibility.

The 17-year journey of Y’ello Care tells a remarkable story of dedication, impact, and hope. It serves as an inspiration for other organizations to engage in meaningful community service and underscores the importance of giving back to the society in which they operate.

 

 

 


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