Lagos — Nigerian banks are not indebted to MTN Nigeria and other phone companies for using telecom platforms to provide payment services, a bank CEO has said.
“There is no such thing as an obligation due from banks to telcos,” Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Bank, said on an investor call in Lagos on Thursday. “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.”
Wigwe is the head of a team of bank CEOs that has been in discussion with MTN Nigeria to resolve a dispute that led some banks to cut the company off from their banking platforms last week. This was after MTN, the West African nation’s biggest telecom services provider, reduced a commission charged on airtime purchases through banking channels by almost half to 2.5%.
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.
In March, Telecom operators, through their umbrella union, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, threatened to disconnect banks from providing payment services on telco platforms until they paid a 42-billion naira ($103m) debt allegedly due to its members from end-user billing.
The threat was called off after the Central Bank of Nigeria 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.”