The Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has come to the defense of telecom companies in Nigeria over the purported N4.00 charges on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) users.
The umbrella body of all licensed telecom operators in Nigeria, who spoke through its Administrative Secretary Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga, noted that the N4.00 charges was determined by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s telecom regulator.
According to Gbolahan, the determination of the USSD charges started via a study conducted by the regulator in 2017 and by May 2019, the determination was issued. The study on USSD, he disclosed was conducted by the NCC and industry working group (IWG), after the Central Bank of Nigeria set a committee that was made up of members from the Bankers’ Committee.
ALTON also questioned the statement credited to the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, directing the telecom operators to discontinue the charges until he is fully and properly briefed. ALTON stated that the issue being discussed is not policy, but regulation.
“We are confusing regulation with policy. There was a determination on this USSD, even before the appointment of the Minister,” Gbolahan explained today during an interaction in a Whatsapp Group.
He argued that the CBN is protective of the banks, but wondered why the telecom operators cannot be protected. “It is not about the good boy, but this is a commercial and the normal things has been done. Operators did not come up over night to charge N4. It was deliberated upon and a decision taken,” he explained further.
Some subscribers have raised the alarm that they received SMS from a certain telecom operation, notifying them of a N4.00 charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019.
But in a swift reaction, the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami through his Spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman (Mrs) issued a statement instructing the Mobile Network Operator MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators to discontinue the alleged USSD service charge.
The statement added that the office of the Minister of Communications is unaware of this development and has hereby directed the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ensures the operator suspends such plans until the Minister is fully and properly briefed.
The Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigeria’s telecom regulator is yet to make a statement or comment on the issue.