By Bose ADEBAYO
Lottery in many countries is a lucrative revenue earner and even the mainstay of the economy. For instance, it is said that the famous Great Wall of China and many notable projects in the United States of America were successfully executed courtesy of proceeds from lottery. This is so because lottery is not perceived as gambling as is the case here. While gambling is a risk taken in the hope of gaining advantage, lottery seeks to create job opportunities and bring development to the countries that accept it as a legitimate business.
But in Nigeria there has been a proliferation of lottery operators who see it more as an avenue to make quick money. And for years it has been an all comers affair in spite of efforts by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission to bring sanity to bear in their operations.
But last year, a new Director General was appointed to man the affairs of the Commission in the person of the former Executive Director of Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Mr. Peter Igho. Since then operators have discovered that it is no longer business as usual as he continues to make good his promise to rid the business of illegal operators. His efforts in this respect are said to have started yielding dividends as about 50 per cent of lottery revenue now gets back to the people and 20 per cent used for development purposes.
Recently, he led his board members of Tunde Oshinrinde (Chairman), Moses Afolayan, Kawa Gurjiya and Bayo Ogbemo, among others, on a sensitisation tour of the North during which the team met the Sultan of Sokoto and the Shehu of Borno, including some top Islamic scholars. The meeting with these respected traditional rulers afforded them the opportunity of soliciting for needed support for the Commission, while making a case that lottery be seen as a means of creating employment.
The team also visited some operators in Lagos where Igho affirmed that some of them have acquired modern facilities which will allow transparency in the business while others are still lagging behind. Some of the places visited include the National Sports Lottery Premier Lotto Limited popularly called Baba Ijebu which is the highest distributor in the business as well as Richwell Plaza in Ojuelegba.
Spokes person for National Sports Lottery Premier Lotto Limited lamented that many bad eggs have invaded the business and urged the Director General to use his good offices to address the issue. ‘’A lot of them are running the business anyhow. In Nigeria, people tend to say they could predict or forecast and they end up playing the same numbers. Also, many of our people are not licensed, this is not good enough,’‘ he said.
Addressing some of the issues raised, Igho said: ‘’ A licencee must have certain requirements in the business and it is our responsibility to protect your interest until those problems are solved because lottery is based on integrity. We are addressing problems and there must be proper promotion of the business; that is why we must work hard to give it a good name’‘.
The Commission boss said the tour was aimed at addressing issues in the lottery business among operators as well as exchanging ideas on how to move the industry forward. He explained that his commission has been in operation for just one year. ‘’ In that one year, we have started addressing some of these issues,’‘ he said.
Igho said the visit was necessary for the growth of the industry ‘’ to enable the major players identify the burning issues in the industry and how to address them. We want to let them know that we are bringing them emancipation and development, it will not happen overnight, but you’re sure to generate enough money to make you perform better in the business’‘.
According to him, the Commission is dedicated to addressing all the issues raised by the operators which include a wrong perception of the industry, government support and taxation among state governors. ‘’We are already addressing them vigorously, everywhere we have gone. I have always said it will be addressed; all illegal operators will no longer have a hiding place,” he declared. Igho informed that apart from the Great Wall of China and other world renowned monuments and establishments which were all built with revenue from lottery, about 80 per cent of the forthcoming 2012 Olympics in Britain is being funded by lottery.
‘’The regulatory law of lottery says that 50 per cent of the amount realised must go back to the people as prizes, while another 20per cent must go to a trust fund to be used for a good cause like building hospitals, schools and other infrastructures,’‘ he added
The National Lottery Regulatory Commission, he explained, was set up to bring sanity into the industry, to ensure that there is honesty, transparency and integrity and ascertain that whoever comes into the lottery business must fulfill all promises made.