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Just in: Minister halts planned USSD charge of N4 per 20 sec on banking service by MNOs

Following massive outcries of telecoms subscribers’ over a viral sms sent out by MTN Nigeria between Saturday and Sunday announcing the commencement of new USSD charge of N4 per 20 seconds on every digital banking service, the Minister of Communication, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami on Sunday, halted the tax, saying he was not aware of such new charge.

Checks by Business Hilights showed that majority of MTN subscribers had received two sms from the network between Saturday and today, Sunday with different message but all indicating a strange new charge which it linked to customers’ bank.

The sms received by MTN subscribers on Saturday said “Yello, as requested by your bank, form October 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking service. Please contact your bank for more info.”

While on Sunday, that is today, MTN message went ahead to say as follows: “Yello, please note that from October 21, we will charge N4 per 20 second for USSD access to banking service. Thank you.”

However, in a swift regulatory move, the Federal Ministry of Communications has ordered a discontinuation of the idea by MTN or any other telecoms service provider in the country.

In a tweet Sunday evening via the ministry’s official Twitter handle @ngrcommtech, Federal Government said “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to the viral text message allegedly sent by the Mobile Network Operator MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators notifying subscribers of a four naira (N4:00) charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019.

MTN Shuter
President and CEO of MTN Group, Mr. Bob Shuter

Continuing the tweet averred that “The office of the Honourable Minister of Communications Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is unaware of this development and has hereby directed the sector regulator; the Nigerian Communications Commission ensures the operator suspends such plans until the Honourable Minister is fully and properly briefed.”

The statement was signed by Uwa Suleiman (Mrs), Spokesperson to the Honourable Minister of Communications.

However, some bank officials who spoke to Business Hilights on grounds of anonymity expressed shocks on the development saying, even though there had been discussions, it has not reached to the level of sending out messages as there are still issues of framework and understandings that are yet to be trashed out between banks, networks and the relevant federal agencies.

Besides, efforts to get additional details from some of the networks failed.

Business Hilights recalls that few years ago when the network announced to subscribers via sms that new data price regime is about to resume, the Federal Government reacted ahead of time to halt the move.

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