Stakeholders in the telecommunications ecosystem have urged the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to establish Interconnect Settlement Scheme to address indebtedness in the industry.
This is against the backdrop of notices by the Commission to have some networks disconnected for inability to settle interconnect and infrastructure debts.
They cited example of Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) established by the Central Bank of Nigeria to reconcile inter- bank transactions.
“The establishment of this scheme has become expedient in view of high indebtedness between operators; most of the debts are on account of dispute. But with this scheme there won’t be dispute of debt as we witness today.”
Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said that the situation in the industry is so bad that the indebtedness between parties is better not discuss.
“In essence, people are owing. That said; it is just goes to speak why sometimes there would be cold war. Because, when those meeting are held it is better we are not aware. The situation of indebtedness between parties is very worrisome. It speaks volumes about the state of the health of the entire industry.
“Some people challenge me: if you say you are not making money why do you spend so much on billboards. Now, you have seen that those billboards are actually bank money. The situation is so bad that we are not proud to talk about the debt.
Olusola Teniola the President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), called for the full implementation of an automated settlement scheme for the telecom industry in Nigeria as the way out of this situation.
Under an automated settlement scheme which ATCON had endorsed when it was called upon by the NCC to proffer a solution to the rising debt profile in the telecom space some months ago, all operators will be made to set aside a percentage of the their daily recharge card sales into a settlement account to be used every month to handle their interconnect and facility obligations.
That will ensure that every month there is an automated payment of all interconnects and facility charges that are due.
For operators with legacy debts, they will be made to put aside a higher percentage to deal with the legacy debts until paid off.
This way within a period of no more than 12 months all legacy debts are cleared with no new debts being added.
This represents the sure way to get the industry out of this predicament. This is possible because 98% of the services taken by subscribers are prepaid.
The originating network should have the money before the service is used. They have the means to pay using the current and future earnings on the network.