By Funmilayo Adeyemi
The National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) was established by the National Lottery Act of 2005 to regulate the operation and business of lottery in the country.
The Act mandates the commission to promote transparency, propriety and integrity in the lottery operations, while protecting the interests of players, stakeholders and the general public in the lottery business.
The law also empowers the commission to set standards, guidelines and rules for the operation of national lottery in the country.
In a nutshell, the lottery business involves raising money by selling numbered tickets and giving out prizes to the holders of particular numbers that were randomly selected. By implication, the outcomes of the game of lottery are governed by chance and sheer happenstance.
Section 57 of the Lottery Act 2005 defines lottery as any game, scheme, arrangement, system, plan, promotional competition or device for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance or as a result of the exercise of skills and chance or based on the outcome of sporting events.
Analysts, however, describe lottery as a tool of employment generation, an instrument of raising funds for government’s special projects and a way of achieving wealth distribution and redistribution.
The Director-General of NLRC, Mr Adolphus Ekpe, shared similar viewpoints at the 2015 Lottery Achievers Award, which recently organised to mark the 10th anniversary of lottery regulation in Nigeria.
Ekpe said that the commission had so far remitted more than N5 billion into the National Lottery Trust Fund (NLTF).
He, however, bemoaned the fact many Nigerians had only a smattering of lottery and therefore, the public perception of lottery was still negative, as lottery was largely seen as a form of gambling that was not meant for decent members of the society.
“In 2005, the general public was hardly aware of the existence of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission or its sister agency, the National Lottery Trust Fund. Even after five years, the public perception of lottery was still negative,’’ he said.
In view of this scenario, Ekpe said that the commission had to embark on aggressive public enlightenment and sensitisation as well as product rebranding campaigns, so as to change the negative mind-set of the citizens towards lottery.
“We are happy to note that all the enlightenment efforts have helped in changing the perception of the general public towards lottery business, as it now viewed as a tool for national development,’’ he said.
As part of efforts to regulate lottery operations in the country, Ekpe said that the commission signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Nigeria Police, the EFCC and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to combat illegal lottery operators.
He said that this action had enabled the commission to stay afloat and weather the storm, particularly with regard to some negative media campaign that it had overstepped its mandate, adding, however, such observations could be attributed to sheer ignorance.
The director-general explained that any game which had the three elements of stake, chance and price could be classified as lottery, adding that lottery was also used to promote good causes.
“A consumer sales promotion is not lottery if it does not involve the chance to win prizes.
“Nevertheless, if a promo requires an individual to buy a thing and stand the chance of winning a prize, such a promo has veered into the territory of the commission.
“Basically, there are categories of lottery and these are all regulated by the NLRC. They include promotional competitions, online lottery, sports lottery, SMS lottery, lottery concierge services, charitable lottery and traditional lottery,’’ he said.
Ekpe said that Section 35 of the National Lottery Act established the National Lottery Trust Fund to oversee the administration of funds received from licensees for projects that would foster the growth of the nation.
“Section 24 (3) of the Act mandates licensees to pay 20 per cent of the proceeds of the lottery to the Fund for the first five years of operations, 25 per cent in the subsequent five years and 27.5 per cent thereafter.
“Section 40 specifies that the proceeds should be applied to the promotion of sports development, education, social services, public welfare and relief as well as management of natural disasters,’’ he said
Ekpe said that the commission, 10 years down the line, had been able to record some modest achievements.
“It is worthy to note that several Nigerians have benefited from the national lottery since its inception.
“Some youths have won trips to watch matches outside the country, a final-year student in 2012 won an aircraft but received N64 million, its monetary equivalent, instead.
“Several Nigerians have also won houses across the country and many others have benefited in one way or the other from the lottery,’’ he added.
Ekpe emphasised that the national lottery had, over the years, helped in distributing and re-distributing wealth, creating employment and funding certain government projects.
Besides, the director-general said that the commission’s workforce has grown exponentially from 11 employees in 2005 to 1,500 employees in 2015, in line with the Federal Government’s employment agenda.
Ekpe said that the commission has also expanded the national lottery business into 14 states across the country, while granting additional 20 licences to different indigenous firms to run the business.
He said that the NLRC had also concluded plans to automate the monitoring and regulation of the lottery business in Nigeria so as to facilitate efforts to turn lottery into a viable source of revenue generation which could contribute more meaningfully to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
To this end, the commission has developed guidelines for licensing and regulating lottery operators as well as rules, regulations and guidelines for the operation of promotional lottery schemes, he added.
Ekpe, therefore, advised Nigerians, particularly the youth, to exploit the potential of the lottery industry, saying that it was lucrative and capable of opening other life-changing means for them.
He, nonetheless, solicited the support of all Nigerians for the commission’s efforts to attract new investments into the industry.
Commenting on the lottery business, Mr Imoni Idoko, a consultant with MTN, said that many Nigerians had over the years benefited from the gains of lottery through its numerous promotions.
“Telecommunications companies, such as MTN, have always delivered all their promises.
“ For instance, in MTN’s Cash Quest promo, a lot of people are winning money. In the Best 11 promo, people have also won houses; it is genuine because you see them on television,’’ he said.
Idoko said that through its programmes, MTN had been able to empower its customers financially.
He, however, called on the NLRC to create the more awareness about the lottery business so as to enable more citizens to know what lottery was all about and participate in it.
Similarly, Mr Gregory Olatunji, the General Secretary, National Union of Lottery Agents and Employees, urged the commission to initiate pragmatic plans to make the lottery industry more beneficial to the national economy.
He noted that the lottery industry, being a private sector-driven venture, should provide favourable investment climate and incentives so as to attract the participation of local and international investors.
Olatunji, however, urged the private sector to contribute more to efforts to reduce unemployment in the country.
“For many people, lottery may be another form of entertainment and to others, it is a very destructive habit but the government, through the NLRC, should strive to erase this negative notion.
Mr Danladi Kifasi, the immediate-past Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HOS), enjoined the commission to redouble its efforts to join the league of renowned revenue generating entities in its second decade of existence.
He also charged the commission’s workforce to develop more creative, innovative and attractive models that would make the lottery business more acceptable in Nigeria.
Besides, Kifasi called for competent and committed lottery operators who were willing to generate more revenue for the country.
All in all, industry watchers believe that the lottery business in Nigeria should be strengthened to enable it to contribute more meaningfully to the country’s socio-economic growth. (NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)