Collaboration is key for Unified Payments as it begins recording POS transactions

Collaboration is key for Unified Payments as it begins recording POS transactions

Collaborate. That’s a word Agada Apochi, the CEO of Unified Payments (formerly ValuCard), used six times in ten minutes as he talked about his company’s new license. It’s easy to understand why; Unified Payments is a product of collaboration, founded twenty-six years ago by 14 Nigerian banks. 

In April 2024, Unified Payments was granted a Payment Terminal Service Aggregator licence (PTSA), only the second to be issued by Nigeria’s Central Bank. PTSA holders must have a processing and switching licence, an average uptime of 99% in 2023, and ₦1 billion capital requirement. 

The licence allows Unified Payments to maintain a database of payment terminals and record point-of-sale (POS) transactions, which is crucial to transparency as agency banking has found itself at the focus of fraud claims. 

The ubiquity and convenience of POS devices (they outnumber ATMs by over a million) have made them the desired channel for cash withdrawals. Yet with massive popularity comes the attention of bad actors. 

In 2023, POS transactions contributed 14% of the total amount lost to fraud, according to the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), a financial research and advocacy organisation operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria. 

The central bank’s solution has been more transparency, requiring banking agents to register with Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission in May and now improving visibility into POS transactions. 

Unified Payment’s history of battling fraud 

Unified Payment premiered cards with EMV chips—a global standard to improve card security—in Nigeria. “We enabled [Nigeria] to be compliant with [the] EMV standard, which led to a reduction of fraud at ATMs by over 99%. ATM fraud was eradicated,” Apochi said in his Victoria Island office. 

That history of tackling fraud at ATMs and providing payment processing services might have played a part in Unified Payments’ license as the central bank looks to provide Nigeria’s financial services industry with an alternative to NIBSS. 

“Upon getting our license, we had a meeting at the highest level between our company and NIBSS to understand [each other] and share points and ideas of how we can work together to ensure that there is service availability because what is most important to every operator and the Central Bank of Nigeria is service availability,” Apochi said. 

“As a processor switch, you are competing with others but as a payment terminal service aggregator, from our point of view, we are collaborating without any form of discrimination in the industry for the regulators to have oversight over what is going on,” Apochi added. 

Working with Fintechs

The PTSA license will require Unified Payments to work with the leading companies in the agency banking sector, such as Moniepoint, Opay, and Palmpay. These companies have been in regulatory waters in recent months and in April, the central bank directed five Nigerian fintechs to pause onboarding new customers. 

That ban lasted six weeks and was lifted after fintechs committed to a list of conditions set by the central bank. For Agodi, Unified Payments will help fintechs “achieve their business goals without running afoul of” regulatory requirements. 

“The primary focus for us as a service aggregator is not about [the] enforcement of rules and regulations. It’s about enabling service providers, industry operators, to provide their services and solutions in compliance with rules and regulations defined by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” he said. 

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