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Telcos seek engagement from NCC, CBN on USSD dispute

ALTON has called on the NCC and CBN to summon financial and telecoms industry stakeholders for a meeting as regards to the USSD dispute.

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USSD Gbenga Adebayo, Multiple taxes scare investors, stifle economic growth, ALTON warns , Why telecoms poor services persist 

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to summon the stakeholders of financial and telecoms industries for a meeting concerning the USSD dispute.

The meeting, the association said, would be beneficial to the consumers and stakeholders at large as it would help to address and clarify the controversial issues that occurred in the past few days regarding the USSD charges.

The ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo explained that the USSD channel had changed over time from a channel used only for telco-related services such as balance inquiry and recharges, to one that can be used for services relating to financial, insurance, agricultural and government services, among others.

[READ ALSO: NCC orders immediate suspension of USSD charges by telcos]

Financial Technology

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According to Adebayo, the USSD channel is now delivered using the Standalone Dedicated Control Channel (SDCCH) which is also used for call set-up, SMS set-up, and delivery. The high usage of the USSD channel has made the telcos to bear additional costs which emanate from additional SDCCH channels.

“In order to accelerate the adoption of financial services on USSD, the banks partnered with our members to zero-rate the USSD access to end-users, while the banks bore the cost for the provision of service. 

“Based on this arrangement, the banks took on the responsibility of billing customers and paid our members for use of the USSD infrastructure from the service fees deducted from the customer’s bank account. These service fees charged by the banks were however far in excess of the costs remitted to our members by the Banks for providing the USSD platform and have since remained so.

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“The banks, however, provided no assurances to our members that such service fees charged to customers’ bank accounts for access to bank services through the USSD channel will be discontinued post-implementation of end-user billing by our members.

“The removal of these service fees by the banks would have meant that if bank customers were charged only the USSD costs communicated by our members per USSD session, bank customers will be paying far less than what they are currently being charged by the banks which in some instances are as high as N50,” Adebayo said.

[READ ALSO: Bank CEOs applaud NCC’s decision to suspend USSD charges by telecommunication companies for accessing bank services]

Prior to this call, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had suspended the end-user billing for financial transactions by telcos through USSD channel.

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Chidinma holds a degree in Mass communication from Caleb University Lagos and a Masters in view in Public Relations. She strongly believes in self development which has made her volunteer with an NGO on girl child development. She loves writing, reading and travelling. You may contact her via - [email protected]

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Hospitality & Travel

US imposes $15,000 visa bond on 15 African countries, others

The US has issued a visa rule requiring tourist and business travelers in some countries to pay a bond of up to $15,000 in addition to the visa fees.

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US imposes $15,000 visa bond on 15 African countries, others, Berger Paints' improved margins ride on the back of cost efficiency

The outgoing administration of US President, Donald Trump, on Monday, November 23, 2020, issued a new temporary visa rule that requires tourist and business travelers from 15 African countries and others to pay a bond of up to $15,000 in addition to the visa fees, which ranges from $16 to $300, in order to visit the United States.

According to TheCable, the US State Department said the visa bond pilot programme, expected to take effect from December 24 and end on June 24, 2021, is targeted at countries whose citizens have higher rates of overstaying B-2 visas for tourists and B-1 visas for business travelers.

READ: Update: No one will take our democracy away, not now, not ever- Biden

The Trump administration said the six-month pilot program aims to test the feasibility of collecting such bonds and will serve as a diplomatic deterrence to overstaying the visas. Hence, overstay places significant pressure on Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

The visa bond rule will permit U.S. consular officers to request tourist and business travelers from countries whose nationals had an overstay rate of 10% and above in 2019 to pay a refundable bond of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000.

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READ: COVID-19: IMF Chief predicts $345 billion financing gap in African countries 

The countries whose tourist and business travelers fall into this category and subjected to the bond requirements are 24 countries, including 15 African countries. While these nations had higher rates of overstays, they sent relatively fewer travelers to the United States.

The countries include Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Djibouti, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Laos, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen

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READ: Falling Oil prices: Nigeria’s Halloween reality

Nigerian travelers escaped paying the temporary visa rule, as their overall score was below the threshold of 10% and above overstaying rate.

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Economy & Politics

Senate approves issuance of N148bn promissory notes to Bayelsa, 4 others

Promissory notes worth N148,141,969,161.24 has been approved by the Senate as refund to Bayelsa, Cross River, Ondo, Osun and Rivers States

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Senate approves issuance of promissory notes worth N148 billion as a refund to five states

Promissory notes worth N148.141billion have been approved by the Senate as a refund to Bayelsa, Cross River, Ondo, Osun, and Rivers States for projects executed on behalf of the Federal Government.

The approval which was given by the Senate at the plenary on Tuesday, 24th November 2020, came after the presentation of a report by the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, led by Senator Ordia Clifford (PDP-Edo).

READ: Banks to lose interest on petrol subsidy-induced loans

According to a news report by NAN, this is a go-ahead to the Federal Government, who had sought the approval of the Senate for issuance of promissory notes for a refund on federal projects executed by State governments.

The request was contained in a letter addressed to President of Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan by President Muhammadu Buhari, and read at plenary. The Senate referred the matter to the Committee on Local and Foreign Debts for further legislative input.

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(READ MORE: FG inaugurates steering committee on Covid-19 economic recovery)

Senator Ordia Clifford, while presenting the report of the committee, said the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance; Federal Commissioners of Finance and Works in the five states, had briefed the committee on details of the projects.

He said the Committee was presented with documents relating to the approvals of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing for the execution of the projects and certificates of completion, amongst other documents.

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READ: Boosting IGR; A necessity for states to avoid total dependence on FAAC allocations

At the plenary today, Senator Ordia moved the motion that the Senate approves the Committee’s recommendations by approving the issuance of the promissory notes to the State governments.

According to him, the amount due to the five states is N148.14billion.

  • Bayelsa was allotted N38.40billion
  • Cross River was allotted N18.39billion
  • Ondo was allotted N7.82billion
  • Osun was allotted N4.57billion
  • Rivers was allotted N78.95billion

What they are saying

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, disclosed that records showed PDP states had the highest refund, he said: “If you look at the list of states, only two are APC states and they have the least in terms of refund, this is fantastic and a mark of leadership by the Federal Government. This shows tolerance and leadership by this administration.”

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Business News

Interswitch Group becomes Finastra’s lead technology partner in Nigeria

nterswitch Group has unveiled a consolidated partnership with Finastra, one of the world’s most influential Fintechs.

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Interswitch Group becomes Finastra’s Lead technology partner in Nigeria

In a bid to further develop its market and expand, Interswitch Group has unveiled a consolidated partnership with Finastra, one of the world’s most influential Fintechs.

This is according to a verified post by Interswitch Group on Linkedin, as seen by Nairametrics.

What this means

The strategic partnership enables Interswitch to become Finastra’s lead technology partner and will avail the latter the opportunity to bring the broadest set of financial software solutions to financial institutions in Nigeria and across Africa, in conjunction with Interswitch’s strong understanding of the local banking and payments landscape, as well as the ability to deploy solutions across these markets.

Some of Finastra’s financial software solutions that will be incorporated into Interswitch’s digital solution include: Fusion Kondor and Fusion Trade Innovation, which will consolidate Interswitch’s position as a hub for financial solutions, including treasury and trade solutions.

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(READ MORE: 5 Nigerian startups selected to join 7 others at the Africa Tech Summit Connects (ATS))

What they are saying

Commenting on the partnership, the Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe, was quoted by Tech economy saying:Our partnership with Finastra is consistent with our strategic growth plan and we both share the vision of deepening access to financial services by providing world-class technology and innovative solutions.

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“The partnership enables Finastra to seamlessly deploy its technology in this market. For Interswitch, we will be leveraging our proven success and expertise in delivering transaction banking solutions to support Finastra in localizing and implementing their technology in this region.’’

On the other hand, the Head of Partner Ecosystem MEA & CIS at Finastra, Hamid Nirouzad, said: “Interswitch has a proven track record of delivering solutions to commercial banks, as well as, a strong understanding of the local banking landscape across Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Finastra is committed to providing its solutions to financial institutions across the world, and partnerships such as this will result in successful projects, with rapid delivery at a reasonable cost.”

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