By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang, Abuja
The Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, has inaugurated a 12-man task force committee to recover unpaid revenues from lottery business operators and permit holders.
Akume who inaugurated the taskforce in Abuja said the country has a strong revenue generation base in the lottery industry that could boost its coffers, but yet there is no strong mechanism to harness it.
The task force has the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Williams Alo- as head; Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, Director-General; Bello Maigari, Executive Secretary; Okechukwu Oduma, Director of Enforcement; Stella Maduka, Director Parastatal; Okunde Sarah, Director, Legal; Mr. Simon Tyunku, Deputy Director, Office of the Hon Minister; Representative of Central Bank of Nigeria; Representative of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Representative of Nigeria Police Force; and Mr. Jude Ughwujabo, Tech Assistant to the Minister on Lottery Matters.
The Minister said their searchlight should be beamed on the sector fro 2015 to date, which they are to recover all unremitted revenues from the lottery operators within two months to the federal government’s coffers. Akume said that the team was carefully selected for their integrity and professionalism and it is expected that they complete their work within the next 2 months.
He said: “We have absolute confidence in your integrity and professionalism and that is why you have been carefully chosen to make up this team. I expect you to begin your work immediately as all eyes are on you.
“This is a huge country with a lot of potential in the lottery industry with a population of over two hundred million; Nigeria should be able to establish the presence of lottery in the economic government as a major source of revenue.
“Today I am inaugurating a special Ministerial Committee to be Chaired by the Permanent Secretary on the Recovery of Unpaid revenue from lottery operators and permit holders in Nigeria from 2015. “The terms of reference is expressly stated in the appointment letters forwarded to the designated task force members and it is expected that the task force shall complete its work within the next 2 months.
“Since my assumption at the Ministry, I have had ample opportunity to consult with industry stakeholders. I have been less than satisfied with my findings. “It is clear that historic revenues collections from lottery and gaming transactions have underperformed resulting in significant losses to the government.”
The Minister disclosed that operators were called to do the needful but never heeded as returns remain poor or non-existent. However, he warned that punitive measures will be taken if the operators fail to remit what they owe the government.
“Despite my earlier appeal for the increased effort by operators to pay what they owe, statutory returns continue to be poor or nonexistent. Given our current economic climate, definitive measures must be taken”, he stated.
The Permanent Secretary, William Alo, who is also head of the task force said in his remarks that the lottery in Nigeria has the potential to increase the revenue base of this country but Nigerians’ income from the lottery is too poor.
“This country cannot continue to depend on oil as reasonable effort is being made to diversify the economy and that is why the honorable minister having looked at some gaps of generating enough funds from the lottery to meet up not just the good courses in this country, but to also assist the government in pursuing its developmental projects has decided to constitute this task force to go on out in the entire country and get back the lottery fund being held by some people from 2015 till date.
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“Efforts must be made to recover all the money that is in the hands of some lottery promoters, lottery players, and other businessmen in the country that have anything to do with lottery”, Alo added.
The Director-General, National Lottery Regulatory Commission, NLRC, Lanre Gbajabiamila, disclosed that lottery operators are to remit 20 percent of their proceeds from lottery but to determine this there is a need for a central monitory system.
“We are in process of implementing the system based central monitory platform whereby all the operatives in the federation of Nigeria will be connected to that platform.
“The central monitory system captures any leakage, all the operators in Nigeria would be connected to the platform, so it will capture real-time online transactions so there is no way any operator can hide the revenue that is due to government”, Gbajabiamila said.
According to him, Nigeria can generate about N8 billion from the lottery if the central monitory system were to kick off in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“Projection for me, considering what we are doing now, say for instance we start this implementation by the fourth quarter of next year on the central monitory platform I can say that before the year is over and I am being conservative before next year is over we will make about eight billion and the following years we will be making a minimum of twenty billion for the next two/three years”, he stated.