By Anthony Okafor
Lottery and sports-betting companies operating in the country have defaulted in tax payment and other remittances to the federal government to the tune of N591 billion in the last 14 years.
Senator Burunji Kashamu, who represented Ogun East Senatorial District in the eighth senate, revealed this during an interview with journalists in Lagos at the weekend, saying that tax revenue from lotto industry can take Nigeria out of its economic woes if properly harnessed.
According to him, the failure of lotto industry operators to be faithful in the payment of taxes and levies to the government was partly responsible for the inability of government to be up to date in infrastructure development.
“I have it on good authority that all the promoters ought to have paid N600 billion to the Federal Government and its agencies but they have only paid N9 billion in the last 14 years. It is common knowledge that leading lottery and sports-betting companies are generating more than N1.5billion daily and N45billion monthly but do not pay the appropriate taxes. Some of them have over 400 active accounts in various banks in Nigeria that they use to perpetrate their fraud and illegality of short-changing the government,”he said.
He added: “All the lottery and sports-betting companies have over 60,000 outlets/agents spread all over the country. Instead of them to allow the industry to flourish like it is in Ghana, South Africa, United States and the United Kingdom, where the funds are used to support the government and promote good causes, they short-change the Federal Government while feathering their own nest. Can you imagine one lottery operator saying he wanted to fix the National Stadium in Lagos when he has government’s money in his hands? What kind of corporate social responsibility or philanthropy is that?”
Speaking on the rationale behind the franchise of Ghana Games obtained by Western Lotto, he said, “The Ghana Games is responsible for about 70 percent of the revenue from the lottery business. But it is being done in an illegal way. This aids the manipulation of the system and under-declaration of what they ought to be paying the government. They divert the funds into property acquisition and other businesses.
“In a bid to correct the ugly trend and sanitise the system, Western Lotto obtained the franchise of the Ghana Games in Nigeria. And if due process is followed by the lottery operators in Nigeria with respect to this matter, the government will have so much to cater to the needs of the people and fix infrastructure, including the National Stadium. It should be noted that it is not only in the area of statutory remittances that they (lotto operators) have been short-changing the government. How can a father and three of his biological children be members of a 14-man board of the National Lottery Trust Fund if it is not to circumvent the system? I urge the government to rise up and correct these anomalies.”