Many customers of USSD services in Nigeria on Friday have said a pop-up message has notified them of the new N6.98 charges for each transaction.
USSD is a critical channel for delivering financial services, especially for those who do not have access to physical banking infrastructure or internet services.
“Welcome to USSD Banking,” one notice said. “Please note, a N6.98 network charge will be applied to your account for banking services on this channel.”
The decision to charge users was reached in March by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Channels reported.
The decision was part of an agreement reached with deposit money banks following a disagreement between banks and telecom firms over USSD and other text message transaction requests.
“Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs (Deposit Money Banks) and all CBN-licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction,” a March statement signed by the CBN and NCC partly read.
The charge is expected to be withdrawn from users’ bank accounts and remitted to mobile network operators, who provide infrastructure for the service to operate.
“The general public is reminded that the USSD channel is optional, as several alternative channels such as mobile apps, internet banking and ATMs may be used for financial transactions,” the CBN and NCC said in its joint statement in March.
“The CBN and NCC shall continue to engage relevant operators and all stakeholders to promote cheaper, seamless access to mobile and financial services for all Nigerians.”
Many Nigerians took to Twitter early Friday to express their dismay over the charges.
There are concerns about how the new charge will affect financial inclusion, particularly for people who do not have access to internet services.
Below are some of the reactions:
— Gabriel Ajigboye (@gabrieldicon) June 4, 2021
Nigeria, my country. With the whole thing happening, all banks could think about is imposing more legal charges on #USSD on their customers. Indeed, we’re at all time low. Nothing works anymore.
The poor must survive!
— CDC (@destinychukwu61) June 4, 2021
No information prior to this time, like we have 7 Naira to spare. What are the leaders bringing to the table, but they keep taking food out from our mouth. #USSD
— Jimol ð¯ (@JimolWest) June 4, 2021
Calculate your spendings, schedule your ATM withdrawals, Get your Mobile App installed. Buy recharge cards and keep.
— Maikel Ndubuisiâï¸ (@iam_maikelbrown) June 4, 2021
I no understand this rubbish oo…abi na the new #UAR policy ni? Let’s even forget the 6 naira, which one is .98 kobo again?..they just want to be spoiling person money with this new #USSD policy… Nigeria never hard enough?ð pic.twitter.com/tceEEU5d1z
— crown (@A_adedamolav) June 4, 2021
— Natasha Amaka (@Natashagoldd) June 4, 2021
Nigerians will have to get @TundeIrukera‘s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council @fccpcnigeria involved in this issue of charge for use #USSD. That decision should be tripatrite. It is not okay that only CBN and NCC will take such decision without input by Nigerians
— Solopenja (@solomonapenja) June 4, 2021
SaharaReporters, New York