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Telecoms Threatens to Sue Bank over N130bn USSD Debt

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Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has threatened to drag Nigerian banks to court over the unpaid Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), which has accumulated over the years and has reached N130 billion as of September this year. The chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, revealed this during an interview at the weekend, saying the telecoms operators decided to take the option of a legal battle as the last resort, after several failed attempts to resolve the issue.

Adebayo noted that the issue of unpaid USSD debt was part of its submission to Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, when ALTON visited the Minister in Abuja last week.

According to him, the Minister was displeased with the issue of unpaid USSD debt that has lingered for too long without concrete resolution and advised Telcos to have an Independent Think-Tank that would look at the issues surrounding telecom operations in Nigeria and develop empirical data that would best explain the economic implications of the challenges.

“The issue of USSD debt was discussed with the Minister, and he was quite concerned and worried that the matter has lingered for too long unresolved.

Since the matter has dragged on for too long, the best bet is to withdraw the USSD service from the banks and challenge them to pay for the accumulated debt that has reached N130 billion as of September this year. To get this done, we are contemplating at going to court to resolve the matter,” Adebayo said.

He further said: “The issue has lingered for too long and debt accumulated, and I think it’s time to go to court to address the issue. We are thinking so because every effort made by Telcos and the government to make the banks pay their debt has not yielded positive results. It has been like taking two steps forward and taking one step backward.”

Adebayo explained that the Telcos had a commercial service agreement with the banks, several years ago, to provide them with the USSD service that would enable seamless financial transactions like money transfers through mobile phones, but regretted that the agreement went sour because the banks refused to keep to the agreement, which he said, had provisions for third party intervention, that includes legal action.

“The agreement permits parties to go anywhere, including law court to resolve issues. So instead of the continuous meetings that have not yielded results, we are contemplating taking the next line of action, which is to go to court,” Adebayo said.

Adebayo had last month, said discussions were ongoing and that there was increased commitment on the part of the banks to address the issue, unlike what was happening in the past when there was no commitment on the part of the banks to address the issue, which he said, led to the rise of the USSD debt to N130 billion as at September 2023.