Telecommunications operators have not foreclosed legal action in compelling Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to pay the lingering N120 billion Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debt owed them.
The impasse, which has lasted for about four years, is brewing a rift between the telecoms sector and financial industry.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos at the weekend, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, regretted that the issue had become political.
He stressed that the matter is commercial, alluding to issue of willing buyer and willing seller, adding: “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 agreement 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 government, because it is not sustainable.”
According to him, when ALTON met with the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, recently, “the minister was sympathetic to us and stressed that if parties behave as responsible as they should be, the matter shouldn’t reach this level. It should have been resolved long before now. He agreed to take it up.”
Adebayo, however, warned that if the matter is not resolved promptly, withdrawal of services would be inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Scheme, through which it plans to award N5 million each to 45 startups and researchers.
Tijani announced opening of applications for at the weekend.
He said the objective was to support mainstreaming of AI for economic prosperity