New Telegraph

Telecom Companies May Sue Banks Over N120bn USSD Debt

The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), have threatened to drag Nigerian banks to court over the unpaid Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), which has accumulated over the years and has reached N120 billion as at September this year.

According to the telecommunications  the issue has dragged on for too long and a court resolution might be needed since the banks do not seem to be ready to clear the debt.

The Chairman, of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo who disclosed this over the weekend while speaking to journalists said the telecoms operators decided to take the option of legal battle as the last resort, after several failed attempts to resolve the issue.

The telcos claim that the matter has been delayed too long and that, given the banks’ apparent unwillingness to pay up the debt, a judicial solution may be required, threatened that the to stop offering the USSD service if banks don’t pay the outsanding they are owing.

Adebayo claims that this is happening in spite of the banks and telecoms recently striking to an agreement to end the USSD dispute, which has been going on for almost four years.

“I think it’s just best to withdraw the services,” he stated. If parties must go to court in order to reach a definitive conclusion to this USSD debt issue, then so be it. This is due to the fact that despite everyone’s best efforts, we will always take multiple steps backward before moving forward.

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“This is a business deal that didn’t work out. If it is permitted to end its own life, the parties will determine where to take it from there. This agreement provides for third-party intervention through arbitration or going to court. Parties would follow the agreement to choose where to go rather than travelling to Abuja for meetings with the minister or the CBN.

Adebayo further emphasised that the issue is commercial and that the service should be discontinued. He did point out, though, that political meddling has made it impossible for telecom companies to uphold the provisions of the contract.

Consequently, this kind of issue arises when commercial agreements are subject to political meddling. Because government control over certain topics, like price reviews, is unsustainable, we strongly advocate leaving them to the forces of the market.

Furthermore, Adebayo revealed that during a recent meeting with Dr. Bosun Tijani, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, the minister expressed sympathy for the telcos’ predicament and emphasised that the situation would not have escalated to this degree if all parties had acted appropriately.

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