Why CBN denied Nigeria telcos mobile money licenses


Image: L-R: Tunde Kuponiyi, Globacom, Lolo Emorpkae, NCC and George Samsa, CBN at the Telecoms Consumer Parliament. By Lukas Ajanaku
L-R: Tunde Kuponiyi, Globacom, Lolo Emorpkae, NCC and George Samsa, CBN at the Telecoms Consumer Parliament

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

Despite knowing their about 100 million subscribers, Nigeria's financial sector regulator, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said it refused to license mobile phone operators to operate mobile money services in the country.

The CBN which spoke to Biztechafrica on the sidelines of the 66th edition of Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) convened on Friday at the Excellence Hotel, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos, explained that granting telecommunication service providers license to offer the service might compromise service quality in the country.

MTN, Etisalat, Airtel and Globacom are the gladiators in the global system for mobile (GSM) communication in the country, Visafone, Starcomms, ZomMobile and a few others operate in the sick code division multiple access (CDMA) section of the telecoms industry in the country.

George Sansa, a representative of the apex bank at the event, said when the issue of granting licenses for mobile money came up, it was debated thoroughly and it was agreed that mobile operators should not be burdened unnecessarily with offering mobile money services.

The issue of depreciating telecoms services has remained a daunting challenge to operators and regulators in the country with subscribers usually left to lick their wounds.

Sansa explained that in view of the challenges facing the operators, the CBN restricted their role in the scheme to providing only the traffic for the exercise.

“The CBN went through a rigorous process in rolling out the guidelines which are of international standard for the scheme.”

“The operators are supposed to be carriers. In order to avoid a clash, telecoms operators were exempted from the grant of operational licenses. We want to avoid a clash on interest,” Sansa said.

On security of the payment system in view of the massive fraud that greeted the introduction of automated teller machines (ATMs) in the country a couple of years ago, the CBN official said the apex bank has constituted an e-fraud forum which will not only collate electronic fraud cases in the country but investigate the modus operandi of such crime and suggest ways of nipping it in the bud.

On power failure factor which may likely scuttle the success of the scheme, he said there were dedicated lines for e-payment connectivity in the country, arguing that with the relentless investment of the federal government in the power sector, there appears a light at the end of the tunnel soon.

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