James Emejo in Abuja
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Inter-Governmental Affairs, Hon. Hussaini Sulaiman Kangiwa (APC, Kebbi) yesterday threatened to revoke the operating licences of defaulting lottery operators over their failure to remit revenues to the Federation Account.
The acting Executive Secretary, National Lottery Trust Fund (NLF), Mr. Bello Maigari, had told members of the committee that out of the estimated revenue target of N1.5 trillion, the lottery segment had only been able to generate N7 billion in 13 years.
Speaking when he appeared before the lawmakers, Maigari cited lack of effective regulation as a major factor hampering improved revenue drive.
The committee had wondered why the regulatory agency, National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), which is charged with the responsibility of setting standards for operators had consistently failed in its duty to ensure compliance by operators particularly in the aspect of remittances.
The lawmakers further blamed weak regulatory oversight for the shortcomings.
However, Maigari had in his presentation demonstrated that â€œthe Nigerian lottery market according to industry experts is the most attractive market in the whole of Africaâ€.
He said: â€œThe industry is worth over N1.5trillion as we speak adding that â€œlottery and gaming businesses have continued to flourish without proper regulationâ€.
Noting that lottery had significantly contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many countries across the continent, he said, about 7.5 million and 22 million Nigerians engage in lottery and sport betting respectively on daily basis.
But, he said: â€œRecords at our disposal indicates that cumulative returns of about 5 years stood at about 7.2billion and this is unacceptable in a country with so much potential like Nigeria.â€
He cited conflict of interest, sharp practices, sabotage among others as factors militating against the revenue growth in the industry, thus giving dubious businessmen and agents the latitude to undermine government interest.
However, Director General of NLRC, Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, admitted that his commission has a lot of work to do in bringing the sector to an acceptable pedestal comparable to international best practice.
He said current lottery laws in the country needed to be fine-tuned to reflect modern reality.
He said: â€œWe need this House, especially the committee to help us in updating the lottery and gaming laws, they are outdated and a lot of things are going on out there that need to be tapped into using enabling legislation.
â€œHowever, as regulators, we are putting some checks and balances in place as the way the industry was run before wasnâ€™t proper.â€
Earlier, House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, described the lottery sector as significant after oil and gas, Customs and Excise, as well as the Federal Inland Revenue Service in terms of income generation.
He said: â€œI 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.â€