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Another push for economic growth through lottery

By Anthony Otaru
14 May 2015   |   3:09 am
ROLLING out the drums can be a spectacle, especially when you are celebrating a decade of tough times in the midst of skepticism and cultural hostility to your venture.

Lotto-Kiosk-CopyROLLING out the drums can be a spectacle, especially when you are celebrating a decade of tough times in the midst of skepticism and cultural hostility to your venture.

For the National Lottery Regulatory Commission [NLRC], survival was a great challenge at the inception, but through abiding faith, doggedness and tenacity of purpose the agency has successfully turned around its difficulties to successes.

At inception, the commission was faced with acute shortage of office accommodation, qualified staff, apart y and skepticism people have for lottery as well as poor funding, among others.

Today, all of that is history. The commission has not only proven to the world that lottery gains are not only numerous but useful and could uplift the living standard of the people—create

Experts have argued that the development of a nation is not only tied to available human capital but equally on its social and economic resources. According to the experts, several developed countries consolidated on these natural endowments to re-write their history on sound economic footing worthy of emulation by the global community.

Lottery therefore, they say, is a social resource that has positively changed the economic fortunes of several nations. Findings by The Guardian revealed that in South Africa, for instance, 82 percent of the population play lottery, at least, once in a week.

In 2012 alone, lottery share of funds to the country’s finances was put at about N141.3 billion.

Morocco is another country reaping large from lottery promotions. With a population of 35 million, the country got a posted revenue contributions to the Central government to the tune of $15million in 2012, an equivalent of N2.6 billion.

In Niger Republic, more than 45 percent of the population play lottery because the citizens are aware that over the years, lottery proceeds are being used by the government to fight desertification and for the provision of bore holes for rural communities even as several lottery winners continue to enjoy sponsorship to Mecca to perform Holy pilgrimage year-in-year-out.

Driven by the spirit of tapping into this viable social economic potential, the Nigerian government via the National Lottery Act of 2005, established the National Lottery Regulatory Commission [NLRC] .

According to section 57 of the Act, ‘’Lottery’’ or Lotteries’’ includes any game, scheme, agreement, system, plan, promotional competition or device for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance , or as a result of the exercise of skill and chance or based on the outcome or sporting events, or any other game, scheme, agreement, system, plan, competition or device, which the

President may by notice in the Gazette, declare to be lottery and which shall be operated according to a Licence.

The commission was primarily established out of the need to regulate the operations of lottery business, promote transparency and accountability in lottery, and protect the interests of players, stakeholders and the general public.

The contributions of lottery to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP], could be enormous given the large market of over 160 million population.

Since its establishment, the commission has issued licences and permits to lottery operators and promoters to grow the market and bring lottery closer to the people. It has 14 States’ offices across the country and has raised over N200 billion to the coffers of the National Lottery Trust Fund for national development.

Lottery business has also gained acceptance as a special intervention fund available to government as an alternative to raising taxes when there are perceived infrastructural deficits.

Available funds realized from lottery are then expended in providing infrastructure in critical areas of health, education, transportation and the power sector. It is gratifying to note that President Goodluck Jonathan, not too long ago, approved a certain percentage of the lottery trust funds for the development of grass-root sports in the country.

Today, the Nigerian Pilgrims Commission has developed a scheme to enable people play lottery even as winners get paid tickets for holy pilgrimage to Mecca or Jerusalem.

Inaugurating a 10- man planning and implementation committee for the 10th anniversary celebration of lottery regulation in Nigeria recently in Abuja, the Director-General of NLRC, Mr. Adolphus Ekpe said that ten years is no doubt a milestone worth marking. The committee which he said was given a zero funding, is expected to plan the successful celebration of the anniversary by meeting with its partners to raise sufficient funds for the purpose.

Ekpe said, ‘’Since its establishment, NLRC has issued licenses and permits to lottery operators and promoters to grow the market, to bring lottery closer to the people, it has presence in 14 States of the Federation and has raised significant revenues to the coffers of the National lottery trust Funds for national development’’.

The DG explained that the commission is poised to sanitize the industry and rid it of illegal operators as well as make the legal operators play by the rules.

‘’In furtherance of this, the commission has signed and plan to sign Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] with many government agencies to strengthen business development, regulation, monitoring and enforcement, Lottery is being repositioned to grow the industry and contribute significantly to the GDP in years to come’’,

He gave the assurance that year 2015 has been dubbed ‘’Our year of hard work and abundance’’, as the commission is committed to a strategic plan to raise a self- reliant and sustaining regulatory commission focused on generating revenue enough to meet all its internal needs and also contribute to the national treasury while also earning the trust and respect of stakeholders.

‘’ These shall be achieved through a systematic execution of a 5 point agenda of aggressive revenue drive, cost/waste reduction, effective and efficient regulation, staff development and training as well as synergy for development, we therefore, expect our licensees and other stakeholders to join forces with us to raise the required revenue to successfully celebrate the 10th year anniversary’’.

Nevertheless, ten years down the line has not been without its ups and downs. Reacting to some of such teething problems facing the commission, Joe Ekpe told journalist during one of his interactions that funding is one of the major problems facing the establishment. ‘’like any other organization, we are short of funds to carry out some of our programmes especially to create the needed awareness of what lottery is to those who have apart y to play, the act that established the commission does not give us the rights to spend from what we generate, but thank God our Board has taking this very seriously and they are working on it’’

‘’We are also facing the problems of quackery among operators, many of them never received our licences but they are operating illegally, thank god this is being taking care off as the commission is collaborating with several security agencies to bring culprits to book, of course we are having the problem of lack of adequate awareness, many people till now do not believe in lottery in Nigeria, some of them equates lottery to coupon and are quick to say it’s an avenue to dupe innocent people’’.

Speaking on the plans for a successful outing, a Deputy-Director in charge of Administration in the Commission and Chairman of the anniversary Committee, Henry Uwadiae told The Guardian that the 10 man committee is driven with passion and zeal to deliver but without a kobo to go out there and source the funds for the ceremony.

He said, ‘we are to go out to source for money from our stakeholders’ companies, industries and our licensees. We hope to partner with them, and remember, we have just come out of the 2015 general elections, thank God it was successful’’.

On the programmes lined up for the anniversary, Uwadiae stated, ‘’ we are going to start with awareness road work where we know that lottery ideas in Nigeria are still very negative in the eyes of the people. We will draw people’s awareness to what lottery can do and what lottery has done in other lands or other countries’’.

He pointed out that the committee intends to organize a Beauty-Pageant to be won for the first time in Nigeria and will be closely followed by an Exhibition where it intends to bring together ‘’our Licencees’’ and showcase what they have and mix with ICT providers, so the exhibition will help to bring together people who have the solution and people who are looking for the solutions. ‘’The ceremony would be rounded off with an Award Knight, where we will say, thank you for the job well-done, thank you for your support and thank you for your contributions, we want to let them know that yes, some people, somewhere are looking at what they doing’’.