Telecommunication firms under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has announced that they will withdraw their Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services to financial institutions due to huge accumulated debt.

ATCON which made the announcement in a statement by its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo and its Head of Operations, Gbolahan Awonuga on Friday, said that after reaching an agreement with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), it would disconnect the Financial Service Providers (FSPs) from USSD services until the huge debt is cleared.

ALTON insisted that its members have resolved to undertake a phased process of withdrawal of USSD services, starting with the most significant debtors within the FSPs with effect from March 15.

The association noted that it recognized its great importance as its members had continued to provide USSD services because millions of Nigerian customers usually have access to financial services through USSD infrastructure on a daily basis and had become reliant on these services due to the COVID-19 movement restrictions.

“Unfortunately, due to huge indebtedness and the possibility to agree on a structure for these payments without asking end-users to pay, the government has been forced to intervene,” the statement said.

“The government intervened to ensure that a sustainable cost-sharing solution is agreed on, so that consumers do not get affected in the long-term.’’

The association said its members deeply regret reaching a point where the withdrawal of these services had become unavoidable and expressed its commitment to working closely with the relevant ministries and regulators to resolve the issue as quickly as possible to minimise the disruption to customers.

It, nonetheless, encouraged subscribers to explore alternative channels with their banks, while the withdrawal of USSD service was in place.