•As Sector generates only N7 billion in 13 years
By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday vowed to withdraw license from Lottery Operators over what it described as non- remittance.
This was even as the Acting Executive Secretary of the National Lottery Trust Fund, Bello Maigari told members of the House of Representatives that out of the estimated revenue target of N1.5trillion, the sector was able to generate just N7billion in 13 years.
Speaking before the House Committee on Inter-Governmental Affairs yesterday, Maigari cited lack of effective regulation in the industry as a major factor hindering improved revenue drive.
The lawmakers wondered why the agency, National Lottery Regulatory Commission, charged with the responsibility of setting standards for operators had consistently been found wanting with regards to ensuring compliance by operators in the area of remittances to government.
Just like Maigari of the NLTF, they also blamed weak regulatory oversight for the shortfall, whilst wondering why out of the expected revenue benchmark of N1.5trillion, only N7billion has been realized in 13years, leaving the balance of 1.493trn in the hands of operators.
Maigari had in his presentation told the panel that “The Nigerian lottery market, according to industry experts, is the most attractive market in the whole of Africa”.
He said, “The industry is worth over N1.5trillion as we speak, adding that “lottery and gaming businesses have continued to florish without proper regulation”.
While noting that lottery has significantly contributed to the gross domestic product of many countries across the continent, Maigari added that about 7.5million and 22million Nigerians engage in lottery and sport betting daily.
“Records at our disposal indicates that cumulative returns of about 5 years stood at about 7.2billion and this is unacceptable in a nation with so much potential like Nigeria,” he said.
He cited conflict of interest, sharp practices, sabotage among others as factors militating against the revenue growth from the industry in Nigeria, thus giving dubious businessmen and agents the latitude to undermine government interest.
Speaking to the issues raised earlier, the Director General of NLRC, Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila noted that his commission has a lot of work to do in bringing the sector to an acceptable pedestal, comparable to international standard. He however lamented the outdated status of lottery laws in Nigeria.
“A lot has been said from the speeches of the chairman and Mr. Speaker which I concur with, and we still have lots of work to do, as our laws are outdated and need to be re-jigged.
“We need this House, especially the committee, to help us in updating the lottery and gaming laws; they are outdated and a lot of things are going on out there that need to be tapped into using enabling legislations.
“However, as regulators, we are putting some checks and balances in place as the way the industry was run before wasn’t proper,” he disclosed.
Not satisfied with his explanations, members of the committee led by Hon. Hussaini Sulaiman Kangiwa (APC, Kebbi) demanded explanations as to the derth of regulation leading to the shoddy state of affairs in the sector.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, had in his keynote address rated the lottery sector high after oil and gas, Customs and Excise, as well as the Federal Inland Revenue Service in terms of income generation.
“I want to place on record that after oil and gas, Customs and Excise and the FIRS, lottery and gaming falls within the class of high income generating activities for the economy,” Dogara said.
Asked how many licensed operators are currently running the sector, Gbajabiamila who took office as DG 9 months ago said the commission recommended 21 operators to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval, which he granted, thus bringing the number of current operators to 21.
But members insisted that the responsibility of making the sector work lies with effective regulatory framework which sets adequate standard for operators to abide by.