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Access Bank chief says banks are not indebted to telecoms firms

By on April 9, 2021 0 125 Views

Nigerian banks are not indebted to MTN Nigeria and other telecom companies for using telecommunication platforms to provide payment services, a bank chief executive said.

“There is no such thing as an obligation due from banks to telcos,” Herbert Wigwe, chief executive officer of Access Bank Plc, said on an investor call in Lagos.

“We chose not to make a public statement out of it because it is not appropriate for us to be found fighting with telcos in public,” he said Thursday.

Wigwe is the chairman of the body of bank’s chief executives that has been in discussion with MTN Nigeria to resolve a dispute that led some banks to cut off the company from their banking platforms last week.

This was after MTN, the local unit of South Africa’s telecom giant and biggest providers in Nigeria, had slashed the commission charged on airtime purchases through banking channels by almost half to 2.5 percent.

The action against MTN was an escalation of an ongoing dispute between lenders and telcos in Africa’s largest economy over fees chargeable on services carried out on each others’ platforms.

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Telecom operators through their umbrella union, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTCON), threatened last month to disconnect banks from providing payment services on telco platforms until they paid a N42 billion debt allegedly due to its members from end-user billing.

The threat was called off after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy intervened in the dispute leading to an agreement to charge a fixed amount and also settle any indebtedness for past services.

The telecom companies are asking the banks to remit money to them even for transactions that did not take place, Wigwe said. “It is true that they continue to provide this service but this service has nothing to do with the banks,” he said.

Access Bank’s transaction value on telco platforms more than doubled to N1.9 trillion in 2020 from N891 billion a year earlier, according to an emailed presentation.

The volume of transactions rose 80 percent to 590 million as more customers adopted the technology for payments. (Bloomberg)

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