A big business war broke out in Nigeria a few days ago: the nation’s largest telecom operator, and legions of its banks, were fighting for percentages. You could be mistaken to think that there was one big infrastructure project going on. But hello, the percentages are on commissions for selling airtime and data plans to enable people make calls, do Facebook, do emails, and the usual online things. Sure, nothing bad about that – it is free enterprise.
But look deeper, was it really an important fight for the Nigerian government to mediate? It seems it was, since the central bank governor and the minister of digital economy intervened to help manage the fee paralysis! What a nation!
After 48 hours of disconnecting MTN customers from banking channels including the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and banking apps, commercial banks on Sunday have reconnected MTN customers to banking channels, The PUNCH can confirm.
Our correspondent gathered that the development followed the intervention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
But we are back to the status quo – and over time, that would be the normal state. MTN had delivered a great Easter gift to amalgam of fintech startups when it brought Carbon, Flutterwave, OPay, etc into the fold. But that has been largely frozen as we are back to the beginning: banks have restored MTN’s channels for purchase of airtime and data plans.
Service resumed Sunday afternoon after MTN agreed to revert to “status quo” at the request of the Minister of Communications, the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria while a permanent solution is being worked out, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
“The CBN Governor’s intervention is in line with our core values. We acceded to his request and that of our Minister. We will continue to live our values that ‘everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life’,” Carl Toriola, MTN Nigeria chief executive, said Sunday.
It is a slam dunk because any day MTN channels remain disconnected, the digits will look bad in their bank accounts! Pure and simple, you will call it an own-goal. MTN failed to understand that Nigeria is now entwined in our banking system, as many keep money in digits, nothing like cash anymore!
In 2010, MTN had a big chance to cause this change. But today, Nigerians keep their money in the banks. So, if the banks have the money, you need to find ways to work with them if you want people to pay you.
As we digitize our payment system with money moving digital, the godzillas of the future would be payment systems and banks, because if you do not play along, even your customers will not notice you! MTN’s challenge is not the percentage of the commission but the fact that banks are selling airtime, and data plans which typically should be left for other minor sectors of the economy! I mean what do you expect those small SMEs to do if banks sell software, school portals, airtime, training bundles, etc?
They should support those elements but they are not expected to be compensated. What MTN is paying them should be paid to smaller companies in the economy. I do not expect my bank (Bank of America) to get commissions anytime I pay AT&T for my data. AT&T works with integrators and small vendors, expanding opportunities in the economy.
I tell you one thing: a community where one man extracts all the values will struggle one day because a tree does not make a forest. Banks should focus on banking and leave these other works for other players in Nigeria’s economy! That is what I expect the minister and the apex bank governor to intervene on, and not help banks and MTN to fix commissions on airtime and data payments.
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