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And the USSD Load Returns to the Subscriber, By Okoh Aihe



And the USSD Load Returns to the Subscriber, By Okoh Aihe

When a significant matter of interest nearly boiled over in the telecommunications industry the other day, the stakeholders came together on a round table, perhaps minus one party, and at the end arrived on an ingenious solution which returned the load to the subscriber. How very unfortunate!

They say in my part of the world that when birds are being roasted, the hen goes around with red eyes, supposing those are the children. So, it is with Nigerian banks. They don’t kid around with the issues of money; everything must be in their vault or it is considered lost. Playing such game with the tacit support of the Central Bank, the Nigerian banks massed up a debt of N42bn in just an aspect of electronic money transaction, thus providing a voracious answer to Ola Rotimi’s question in Hopes of the Living Dead that sugar can dissolve only in their mouth.

Nearly always, matters come up in the telecommunications industry that need a deus ex machina approach for resolution. A while back, it was the forced romance between Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) and National Identification Number (NIN) decreed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, without which Nigerians will not have access to certain services in the country. The forced love which was targeted at resolving security challenges would nearly invalidate the importance of the National ID Card, the International Passport and even the Bank Verification Number (BVN). The SIM/NIN registration was the new gobbledegook from the crest of creativity and must thus be given revered reception by the ordinary mortals!

READ ALSO: USSD Service: CBN Introduces N6.98 Charges Per Transaction

Nigerians didn’t love the forced romance. But they loved their phones, one of the few visible democratic dividends since 1999. They poured on the streets in defiance of the deadly COVID-19 to scramble for the lives of their phones, not their own lives, and drew outrage from the remaining few but bold Nigerians who can still look at government eye-to-eye and rebuke its officials for misgovernance and inconvenient decisions.  Shamefaced, the registration exercise window has been extended severally, after several COVID-19 casualties that nobody would ever compute or accept, and the exercise is grinding on. What of reported fraud at the centres, of monies being collected from these desperate, and, some very poor Nigerians, whose only proof of relevance and importance, is their phones? No explanation has ever diced such contumelies. Yet, life goes on, more like a machine grinding for existence, longing for hope, which those in authority are not anxious to release, even piecemeal.

The advantaged is never happy when the yoke bearer complains. And most arrogantly they always compute that such complaints will amount to nothing. But not this time. Unable to bear the malignant yoke foisted upon them by the banks, the telecommunications service providers who supply the pipes that enable electronic money transaction through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), threatened to unplug their pipes by way of remonstrating the debts being owed them. The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators in Nigeria (ALTON) who had been corralled into several meetings by the CBN in the absence of the NCC, the telecoms industry regulatory authority, raised a cry that it could not carry the debt any longer, and live to continue to serve the subscribers.

A government that claims credit for everything apart from the evil in the land, didn’t want the unfolding scandal to add to the convoluted ones already in place, and quickly called for a meeting. In attendance at the March 15, 2021, meeting called by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy were Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Deposit Money Banks (DMB), ALTON, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the sectors regulators – NCC and CBN. Look very closely, dear friend, the subscribers that remain critical stakeholders of the industry were never represented – and there are associations where picks could have been made from.

READ ALSO: NIN Linkage Deadline Extended

And this is what happened. When you are absent from a meeting, oftentimes, your hair could be shaved on your behalf. Here are some of the decisions “we are pleased to announce after comprehensive deliberations …..”

“Effective March 16, 2021, USSD services for financial transactions conducted at DMBs and all CBN –licensed institutions will be charged at a flat fee of N6.98 per transaction. This replaces the current per session billing structure, ensuring a much cheaper average cost for customers to enhance financial inclusion. This approach is transparent and will ensure the amount remains the same, regardless of the number of sessions per transaction.

“To promote transparency in its administration, the new USSD charges will be collected on behalf of MNOs directly from customers’ bank accounts. Banks shall not impose additional charges on customers for use of the USSD channel,” the statement jointly signed by the NCC and CBN said.

The MNOs and DMBs, according to the statement, will also engage each other to work out a payment pattern for all residual debts. It’s all smiles that a knotty issue has been resolved through a collegiate effort!

For an industry with a regulator, such collegiate triumph is not salutary. July 23, 2019, the NCC released a Determination on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to the effect that the subscriber will have to pay for such services.

The regulator does not arrive on a Determination lightly. Determination is the result of painstaking effort, near error-free research and in fact application of local and international industry best practices in order to create a local solution. The Determination may not assuage the feelings of every party of interest but a professionally informed decision would have been taken.

After such USSD Determination, the Minister, Dr Isa Ali Pantami forced the regulator to reverse itself in August 2020, suspending the commencement of end-user billing, submitting that he was “genuinely besieged with a barrage of complaints at the attempted commencement of end-user billing by service providers.”

It would be hackneyed to say that the Minister’s intervention has no place in the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 which empowers the NCC with regulatory responsibilities. There can be no bigger proof than the collegiate decision taken recently by the industry stakeholders, which is a modification of the regulator’s initial Determination.

The subscriber must be given documented dues not based on political considerations or the massaged ego or countenances of any politician. The regulator must be allowed to live its own life, even with mistakes.


Okoh Aihe writes from Abuja

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Airtel Nigeria Appoints New Chief Executive Officer



Surendran Appointed As New Chief Executive Officer Of Airtel Nigeria

Airtel Nigeria, a telecommunication company, on Wednesday announced the appointment of Mr. C Surendran as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer with effect from Aug. 1, 2021.

Airtel made the disclosure on Wednesday in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

Surendran would also be appointed to the Executive Committee (ExCo) as Regional Operating Director, reporting to the CEO of Airtel Africa plc, and onto the Board of Airtel Networks (Nigeria) Limited.

READ ALSO: Ogunsanya Appointed As CEO, Airtel Africa

Surendran replaces Mr. Olusegun Ogunsanya who has been appointed as the Managing Director of Airtel Africa plc with effect from  Oct. 1, 2021.

“Surendran has been with Bharti Airtel since 2003 and has contributed immensely in various roles across customer experience, sales and business operations.

“He was the Chief Executive Officer of Karnataka, which is the largest circle in Airtel India, with over one billion dollars in revenue.

“Surendran delivered an exceptional performance with significant movement in Revenue Market Share (RMS) over last few years, currently at 54 percent. He has over 30 years of business experience, including 15 years at Xerox, ” the statement said.

Airtel said that Surendran would transition into his new role from June 1, 2021, and spend the time onboarding into the business until  July 31, 2021.

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Flutterwave Makes The List On TIME’s 2021 Most Influential Companies



Flutterwave Makes The List On TIME’s 2021 Most Influential Companies

Flutterwave, a Nigerian fintech firm, @theflutterwave, has been named a “Pioneer” on TIME’s 2021 list of the 100 Most Influential Companies in the World.

In a list, which includes big wigs like Apple, Twitter, and Stripe, the firm makes history as the only African company to make it this year.

The list was divided into 5 categories; Pioneers, Leaders, Innovators, Disruptors, and Titans.

READ ALSO: Dangote Refinery Listed Among World’s Most Influential Projects

TIME reports that the fintech company was chosen for its efforts in recharging retailers after the pandemic slowed travel in Nigeria.

Flutterwave co-founder and CEO, Olugbenga Agboola, explained that the digital payment provider launched a free promotion called “keeping the lights on.”

When pandemic lockdowns hit brick-and-mortar businesses in Africa, the digital payment service was able to rapidly set up digital storefronts for 20,000 customers, throwing them a lifeline.

Agboola, compares the infrastructure of digital transactions across nations and platforms, “you don’t want to think about it, you just want it to work.”

The Flutterwave CEO called the free campaign “keeping the lights on.”

It would be recalled that Flutterwave hit tech-unicorn status in March when it secured 170 million dollars in Series C funding from global investors, valuing the company at more than one billion dollars.

TIME gathered nominations from its global network of editors and correspondents, as well as industry experts, to compile the list.

Health care, entertainment, transportation, technology, and a variety of other industries are among those represented.

The relevance, impact, innovation, leadership, ambition, and success of each company were then evaluated.

Other companies listed under ‘Pioneers’ include Rihanna’s SAVAGE X FENTY, Bumble, Beyond Meat, Hello Sunshine, Strava, Klutch Sports Group.

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Interswitch Commences Sale of 2021 JAMB ePINs



Interswitch Commences Sale of 2021 JAMB ePINs

Interswitch Group, Africa’s leading technology-driven company focused on the digitization of payments in Africa has announced the opening of its platform for the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) registrations.

Parents and guardians of prospective candidates intending to register for the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) can now obtain their ePINs from enabled Interswitch platforms such as Quickteller Mobile App/Web, Quickteller Paypoint (Agents), via payment with Interswitch WebPAY on JAMB’s website and through payment using Interswitch Paydirect at any bank branch nationwide from Thursday, April 8, 2021.

READ ALSO: UTME: JAMB To Prosecute Offenders Of Admissions Process

The Interswitch platforms simplifies the registration process and eliminates the cumbersome JAMB registration process faced by many candidates nationwide. Registration for the exam (UTME) will last for six weeks and end on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Candidates are advised to optimize this registration period.

For a seamless registration process, prospective candidates including those registering from foreign countries should follow these easy steps:

1. Candidates should obtain the National Identification Number (NIN), this is mandatory

2. SMS ‘NIN’, space, & your 11-digit NIN number to 55019 e.g [NIN 00123456789]. Note that there should be a space between the word ‘NIN’ and your 11-digit NIN.

3. You’ll receive an SMS with your 10-digit profile code and your registered NIN name.

4. Visit JAMB website, click purchase of 2021 application document, and enter your 10-digit

5. Select ‘Pay Online’ to pay on the website via Interswitch or pay via the Quickteller website/app or at the nearest Quickteller Paypoint outlet.

6. Your ePIN will be delivered to your registered telephone number.

READ ALSO: UTME: Beware Of Fraudsters, Rumour-Mongers, JAMB Warns Public

The cost of registration is N3,500 as directed by Federal Government since 2018. However, each candidate will also pay an additional N500 for reading text to be provided by CBT Centres at the point of registration. Consequently, every prospective candidate will pay a total of N4,000.

According to Tomi Ogunlesi, Group Head, Corporate Marketing, “At Interswitch, as the leading enabler of electronic transaction solutions in Nigeria, we have provided a variety of payment platforms that are reliable, user-friendly and secure, to ensure JAMB’s UTME registration process is seamless for prospective candidates”.

“Since our accreditation by JAMB in 2017, Interswitch has successfully enabled a seamless registration process for UTME candidates. Our services are available online, across more than 18,000 ATMs, at all bank branches nationwide and through over 32,000 Quickteller Paypoint Agents across Nigeria” Ogunlesi added.



About Interswitch

Interswitch is a leading technology-driven company focused on the digitization of payments in Nigeria and other countries in Africa. Founded in 2002, Interswitch disrupted the traditional cash-based payments value chain in Nigeria by supporting the introduction of electronic payments processing and switching services.

Today, Interswitch is a leading player with critical mass in Nigeria’s developing financial ecosystem and is active across the payments value chain, providing a full suite of omni-channel payment solutions. Interswitch’s vision is to make payments a seamless part of everyday life in Africa, and its mission is to create transaction solutions that enable individuals and communities to prosper across Africa. Interswitch’s broad network and robust payments platform have been instrumental to the development of the Nigerian payments ecosystem and provide Interswitch with the infrastructure to expand across Africa.

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