Telecoms Threaten Legal Action Against Banks for Unpaid N120 Billion USSD Debt

The long-standing dispute over the N120 billion Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debt between telecommunications operators and Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria may escalate to a legal battle as telecoms operators consider pursuing their dues.

This ongoing impasse, spanning four years, has begun to create a growing divide between the telecoms sector and the financial industry, with significant implications for both.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, expressed his regret that the issue has taken on a political dimension, emphasizing that it is fundamentally a commercial matter. 

He likened it to a willing buyer and willing seller scenario, noting, “When they didn’t pay, it was appropriate to just withdraw the service. 

But because there was political interference, nobody could enforce those commercial terms. So, when you open commercial agreements to political interference, you get into this kind of problem.

 That is why we say emphatically that some issues, including price review, should be left to market forces, not to be determined by the government, because it is not sustainable.”

Adebayo revealed that during a recent meeting with the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, the minister expressed sympathy for their situation and acknowledged that if all parties acted responsibly, the matter should have been resolved earlier.

He pledged to take up the issue.

However, Adebayo issued a stern warning that if a resolution is not reached promptly, telecoms operators may be forced to withdraw their services, which could have severe consequences.

In a separate development, the Federal Government has introduced an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Scheme, which will award N5 million each to 45 startups and researchers. 

The Minister, Dr. Bosun Tijani, announced the opening of applications for this scheme with the aim of supporting the integration of AI into the economy for enhanced prosperity.

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