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Nigeria’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, has introduced new charges for customers using the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) for transactions services.

Beginning Tuesday, this week, bank customers will now pay N6.98 flat rate per USSD transaction. Before the new CBN guideline, customers using the service were charged N4.25 for every 20 seconds of USSD transaction.

The new charges followed the new deal signed by banks and mobile network operators (MNOs) over N42 billion debt owed the telcos by banks.

Following the deal in a Monday meeting presided over by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, MNOs also agreed to suspend their plan to unplug banks from the USSD.  The high-level meeting drew stakeholders from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Association of License Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) the umbrella body MNOs,  the financial services providers (FSPs) including banks, and Association of Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ATCON).

The decision of the CBN is contained in a statement jointly signed by the apex bank’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi; and Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, Ikechukwu Adinde.

Read the full statement below.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • DMBs and MNOs are committed to engaging further on strategies to lower cost and enhance access to financial services. 
  • 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 may 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. 

Signed

Osita Nwanisobi                                                         Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde

Head, Corporate Communications                               Director, Public Affairs

CBN                                                                               NCC

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