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Between banks and MTN: Nigerians deserve apology

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MTN signage

Sir: It should not be unexpected that such public outrage between Nigerian banks and Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) would be flaming up at this time. Seeing these banks disconnect MTN subscribers on Friday, April 2, 2021, is equivocally unsurprising – because, for long, the two have since been stepping on each other’s toes in terms of what commission is appropriate for allocation for the one or the other.

Reducing the commission from 3.5% to 2.5%, banks argue, is a reasonable cause for deregulating their banking channels – including the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and mobile banking apps – particularly for MTN subscribers. Using other networks, such as Glo, 9Mobile, and Airtel is arguably user-friendly such that MTN, with about 77 million subscribers, has largely been forgotten to be one of their lines, especially because of the first-hand affordable data prices each of those lines charges the “new users.” So, tentatively, the way to recover is to discover that making the line “free of charge” could be a way to gain grounds again. These competitors, as creatively and as cleverly as possible, make the new subscribers feel very comfortable and convenient that everything – from airtime to data – is hardly farer from “buying.”

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Although MTN does have its ugly side (as do other mobile network operators, to be sure), it has its good side, as well, especially during the nationwide lockdown spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that one could send 300 SMS’s to any mobile network subscribers, during the lockdown, is a thing to prove how concerned MTN was in maintaining communication and connection with friends, families, and loved ones. At least, that happened for two or so months. It’s cost-effective, actually, on the part of MTN, because many subscribers would have subsided from recharging their lines, let alone buying data to browse WhatsApp or Instagram. A lot of Nigerians were not really concerned about buying recharge cards at the time; most of them were concerned about what to eat – the privatisation of COVID-19 palliatives by government officials is nothing to even talk about here – making low-income, must-be-at-work, daily earners, with five to seven children suddenly to turn beggars. And sustenance and growth of customers is a crucial factor in the telecommunications firmament – in network marketing, to be precise.

Definitely, banks have denied Nigerians the joie de vivre of the Easter celebration. From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Nigerians shouldn’t have been denied access to USSD (which perhaps is the fastest and quickest) and mobile banking apps. It’s clearly a gross infringement on their personal hard-earned money needed to celebrate one of the solemn and momentous moments of Christianity. I think these banks should find a means of apologising to those who have repeatedly been psycho-emotionally traumatised by the consequences of the counter-arguments.

Segun Ige is a freelance journalist in Lagos.

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