Feature: MTN Nigeria should not hold Nigerians Ransom on USSD airtime vending


by Abolade Adewale


The quest for financial inclusion in our country cannot be complete without mentioning the role that banks and telecommunications companies had played in recent times. One can also see this in the light of the current National Identification Number which was seen to be largely needed by the telecommunications company but it has been incorporated with the bank details of Nigerians.

The synergy of the banks and telecommunications brands has also led to the provision of many jobs within that ecosystem. For instance, various companies have been created to build platforms that have simplified life for Nigerians, some of these companies include Clickatell, Creditswitch, amongst others.

Also, when we consider the customer base of Nigerian banks and telecommunications companies; we will find out that there is a huge difference in the numbers; however the convergence of technology and platforms have aided financial inclusion. According to the last report released by the Nigerian Communications Commission, as of December 2020, MTN Nigeria has 80,764,128 subscribers; Globacom has 54,840,192; Airtel has 55,642,209 and Etisalat has 12,982,149. Further revelations should that there are 300,042,650 Mobile (GSM) lines in Nigeria for the year 2020.

According to a report by Nairametrics in August 2020, the telecommunications operator had about 64 million internet subscribers. These statistics showed that this telecommunications company has a large subscriber base than lots of banks in Nigeria. Equally, the USSD and integration of banks’ vending API into the telecommunications network have supported the financial inclusion plans of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Currently, the convenience experienced by Nigerians in vend airtime and data from directly from their bank accounts have become a well-embraced product for people and it would not be necessary to have it stopped by the most subscribed telecommunications network.

While speaking to a customer on the new experience, a subscriber of MTN Nigeria said, he got this message while attempting to recharge his line via USSD, “Dear Customer, our bank recharge channels are currently unavailable. Kindly recharge using physical cards. We apologise for the inconvenience. Thank you.”

In the words of the customer, “we should not be moving forward and backward on the same matter. The USSD and internet-backing recharge models have become accepted means of payment for Nigerians. We should not retrogress by stopping it. This is a slap on the face of Nigerians. I tried recharging through my Glo line and it went through. Whatever be the reason, MTN Nigeria should resolve it immediately to avoid Nigerians porting to other networks.”

Another customer mentioned that Nigerians are usually been taken for a ride. MTN Nigeria cannot hold us to ransom. He said, “I have the feeling that they are looking for ways of optimizing profit from the Momo channels, MTNTopit, card recharge, and MyMTN app. All the campaigns of the past urging customers to choose the environment and eco-friendly models would be sacrificed on the platform of selfishness.”

He continued, “MTN Nigeria is a Publicly Quoted company, on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the brand is supposed to see itself as Nigeria; support the financial inclusion culture of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Everyone must call the company to order before it goes out of hand. From insinuations, MTN Nigeria may have occasioned the meeting called recently by the Nigerian Communications Commission; the Central Bank of Nigeria, and others industry stakeholders that led to pegging the cost of USSD at N6.98k some weeks earlier.”

From our investigations, all Nigerian banks have been made to silently deregister from the MTN Nigeria platform from the 1st of April because of decreasing the current effective discount rate of 4.0% to 2.5%. This can be seen as a unilateral imposition of such drastic measures by the Mobile Network Operator (MNO). Speculations within the industry showed that if MTN Nigeria gets away with this other drastic move other MNOs may follow suit. It is time for the regulators to prevail on MTN Nigeria to order so that the journey of many years would not be reversed for selfish reasons.


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