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USSD War: MTN snubs Banks, Finds Alternatives

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MTN customers in Nigeria now have alternative electronic payment platforms to recharge their phones as the mobile network operator on Saturday announced that customers can recharge airtime through payment solutions platforms such as Flutterwave, Jumia Pay, OPay, Kuda, Carbon and BillsnPay.

MTN in a statement on Saturday by its Senior Manager, External Relations, Funso Aina, also said customers could recharge airtime by dialing *904# and *606#.

This is coming barely 24 hours after commercial banks on Friday disconnected MTN customers from banking channels including the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and banking apps, leaving millions of MTN subscribers frustrated as they were unable to recharge airtime via USSD amid the Easter celebrations.

MTN, with about 77 million subscribers, making up about 45 per cent of the total telecommunication market share in Nigeria, is arguably the largest telecommunication operator in the country.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that the telco reduced the banks’ commission from an average of 3.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent which predicated the actions of the banks.

The banks had written MTN to revert to the old commission, otherwise, they would block MTN airtime in all their channels.

The banks, except Zenith Bank which was connected directly to MTN, subsequently blocked MTN from their banking channels, leaving customers stranded as they were unable to recharge virtually.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, had said the matter would be resolved. “We have reached an advance stage of resolving the issues, for the services to be restored to our citizens,” he had said.

But in the statement on Saturday, MTN said, “It will interest you to note that for the benefit of our customers who have been greatly inconvenienced by the service suspension, we now have alternative channels of accessing MTN services electronically.”

A source in the industry said the most important factor is that MTN was able to quickly come up with alternatives through fintech companies.

“There are so many possibilities through fintech. It is about being responsive and flexible to alternatives for customers to enjoy MTN services as they have been enjoying before the disconnection by the banks. It is about being solution-focused,” the source said.

Asked whether MTN might have used the fintech platforms as alternatives before the disconnection, the source, who craved anonymity, said the development was totally new and spontaneous.

The source could not, however, give an update on the discussion the minister started with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission to broker peace between the banks and MTN.

But the source stressed that even after the issue becomes resolved, it would be wise for MTN not to put its eggs in a basket. The source said it would be wise for MTN not to abandon the fintech companies because “if it happens today, who says it will not happen tomorrow?

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JUST IN: Old naira: IMF asks FG, CBN to extend February 10 deadline

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called for the extension of the February 10 deadline to phase out the old naira notes.

The International monetary body made the call just after the Supreme Court had restrained the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) from enforcing the deadline.

The IMF, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday by Laraba Bonet, said the plea was on the hardship Nigerians were exposed to over the issue.

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It said: “in light of hardships caused by disruptions to trade and payments due to the shortage of new bank notes available to the public, in spite of measures introduced by the CBN to mitigate the challenges in the banknote swap process, the IMF encourages the CBN to consider extending the deadline should problems persist  in the next few days leading up to the February 10, 2023 deadline”.

The IMF is the first international financial organisation to openly call for extension of the deadline for the deposit of old Naira notes.

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Cash crunch: Protesters defy police in Abeokuta, make bonfires on major roads

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Residents of Abeokuta, Ogun State, took to the streets on Tuesday protesting the scarcity of cash and the attendant pains.

Major streets affected by the protests are Aladesanmi, Fajol and Somorin in Obantoko area of Abeokuta as the protesters made bonfires and chanted anti-CBN songs
The Sapon branch of First Bank was also vandalised and the protesters tried to set it ablaze.
Ogun Police spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the protest, saying police officers were on the ground to monitor the situation and prevent the destruction of property and loss of lives.
He said some group of boys were involved in the crisis.
The police later came to disperse the protesters but they regrouped as soon as the operatives withdrew from the scene.
The situation affected vehicular movement as motorists and pedestrians ran in different directions to avert being caught up in the chaotic situation.

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Court frees Diezani associate Omokore of $1.6bn fraud

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An Abuja federal high court on Tuesday discharged and acquitted Jide Omokore, chairman of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited, of $1.6bn fraud allegations.

Omokore, an associate of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with Victor Briggs, Abiye Membere, and David Mbanefo on a 15-count charge on July 4, 2016.

They were accused of fraudulently diverting the $1.6bn said to be part of proceeds of sales of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.

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