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USSD Services: Nigerian Commercial banks owe telecoms over N17bn, says Danbatta

*As Pantami, Teniola address Sectoral Forum

From Cyriacus Nnaji, Lagos

Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has disclosed that commercial banks in Nigeria owe telecommunications companies over N17bn for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) access.

According to Danbatta, the debt was accumulated subsequent upon the regulator’s suspension of its determination on USSD pricing in 2019.

Danbatta made the disclosure at ATCON’s virtual forum, which has the theme ‘Meeting the Interests of Government, Consumers and Telecoms Companies in the Era of Covid-19 and Post COVID-19 Pandemic for Digital Economy Development’ on Thursday.

He said that to protect the interests of consumers and support a strong telecommunications sector, the commission has revised the determination on the USSD.

Danbatta said that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, had already been briefed on the development with a view to ensuring a speedy settlement of the debt.

He enumerated the commission’s efforts at resolving consumer-related issues, noting that when the commission introduced the Do-Not-Disturb code in 2015, less than 500,000 people activated the code.

Danbatta said there are now 22,722,366 lines on the DND, stating that 98 per cent of the total service-related complaints received from telecoms consumers within a 15-month period, spanning January 2019 to April 2020, had been successfully resolved by the commission.

On quality service delivery, Danbatta said, “The commission has monthly engagements with operators as well as quarterly industry working group on quality of service and short codes, and is currently monitoring 2G Key Performance Indicators, while the KPIs for 4G are being prepared.”

On his part, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, disclosed that an executive order with objective of protecting telecommunications infrastructure across the country would soon be ready, adding that the executive order for protecting telecommunications infrastructure across the country which had been reviewed by the relevant authorities was awaiting presidential assent.

Pantami also stated that his administration was devoted to the protection of the right of consumers, especially telecom consumers who were struggling to survive in the country.

He maintained that his ministry was harmonizing the right of way (RoW) charges based on agreement reached with the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF).

Danbatta called on MNOs not to compromise on the agreement by paying exorbitant RoW charges to state governments, adding that they should report illegal taxes to the ministry for appropriate resolution.

Olusola Teniola, President ATCON in his Welcome Address said that it should be emphasized that interdependence and collaboration among the government, telecom and ICT Companies and Nigerians are clearly necessary but each of separate stakeholder has limitations and potentials hence the forum is expected to make an attempt to address the challenges and turn them to advantage for the development of Telecom and ICT Sector in the era of COVID-19 and Post COVID-19 Pandemic.

Teniola Thanks major participants, saying “This event would not have been possible without the support of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), IHS, VDT Communications, IpNX Limited, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), PPC Limited, Galaxy Backbone, MainOne, Pan African Towers Limited, Medallion Communications, NIGCOMSAT and Layer3 Limited.”

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