Licensed Lottery Operators Forum are presently at loggerheads with the House Of Representatives over some supposed indictment on their activities by the lawmakers.
In a press release issued by their lawyers, the Festus Keyamo Chambers, the lottery operators condemned the lawmakers over the notion that all licenses issued from 2008 till date were not validly issued.
They also berated the House for proclamations that they “fraudulently diverted Government funds and are therefore indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N1.3 trillion”.
They further frowned at the threat that that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] will be mobilized to recover the said N1.3trillion Naira from the operators”.
Speaking through their lawyer, they reminded the Lower chamber of the House of Assembly that they “are not a Department or Agency of Government charged with the responsibility of disbursing or administering moneys appropriated by the National Assembly”.
They, therefore, stated categorically that they “cannot by any stretch of interpretation be the subject of investigation by the National Assembly”.
See the full statement signed by Assistant Head of Chambers, John Ainetor, ESQ., below:
We are solicitors to The Licensed Lottery Operators Forum which comprises most of the registered lottery operators in Nigeria.
Our clients have briefed us that at the proceedings of the House of Representatives on the 21st of May, 2018 certain comments were made by members of the House of Representatives Committee on Governmental Affairs with reference to lottery operations in Nigeria.
The relevant conclusions to be deduced from the totality of the comments are as follows:
- All licenses issued from 2008 till date were not validly issued and all lottery operators including our clients are operating illegally as only one lottery company is legally authorized to practice in Nigeria.
- That Lottery Operators including our clients fraudulently diverted Government funds and are therefore indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N1.3trillion naira only.
- That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will be mobilized to recover the said N1.3trillion Naira from the Lottery Operators.
It has become necessary to issue this Press Release to create the correct impression as most members of the public will give serious attention to the above comments coming from an institution as respectable as the House of Representatives.
As a preliminary point, our clients are not a Department or Agency of Government charged with the responsibility of disbursing or administering moneys appropriated by the National Assembly and cannot by any stretch of interpretation be the subject of investigation by the National Assembly. Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides as follows:
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed an investigation into –
(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws; and
(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, Ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for –
(i) executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly, and
(ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.
(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to –
(a) make laws with respect to any mater within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and
(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.”
A cursory reading of the above constitutional provision clearly shows that in seeking to investigate our clients, the House of Representatives have obviously stepped outside their constitutional roles.
With respect to the first issue raised by the House of Representatives, the procedure for the issuance of licenses to Lottery Operators is clearly set out in the National Lottery Act.
The provisions of the Act were duly complied with in the issuance of lottery licenses to our clients by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission.
In any event, it is not the duty of the House of Representatives to determine the validity of the licenses and it is ultra vires the House of Representatives to revoke the licenses of Lottery Operators by proclamative fiat.
We do not want to assume, despite its probability, that these proclamations made by the House of Representatives are targeted at eliminating perceived competitors in the lottery industry and entrenching a monopoly as such a move will be resisted being contrary to the Federal Government’s policy on liberalization of businesses.
On the issue of the indebtedness of our clients to the Federal Government to the tune of N1.3trillion naira, it is important to point out that the House of Representatives is not in the proper position to assess the workings of the lottery industry.
The fact remains that the lottery industry is bedeviled with many challenges and the revenue projected by the House of Representatives is unrealistic and far from the present state of affairs.
As law abiding citizens, the Lottery Operators are willing to submit their books to scrutiny to the relevant agencies as evidence of the transparency of the Nigerian Lottery Scheme.
We would have thought that the House of Representatives would have devoted this time and effort into looking for ways to solve the problems bedeviling the lottery industry like multiple taxation, excessive regulation, high import duties and irregular cost template than dissipating energy on the present course.
While we recognize the oversight and investigative powers of the legislature under sections 88 & 89 of the 1999 Constitution, the said powers like we pointed out above are not at large and have been circumscribed by judicial decisions, the most recent of which is FESTUS KEYAMO V. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (SUIT NO. FHC/ABJ/CS/163/2009).
By necessary application, the position of the court is to the effect that the House of Representatives of any of its Committees does not have the powers to accuse private citizens of companies of unwholesome or fraudulent conduct neither are they empowered to make recommendations or pass any resolution concerning the conduct of any private persons or company who is not charged or intended to be charged with the duty of administering laws enacted by the National Assembly or disbursing funds appropriated by the National Assembly.
The general public and investors are therefore alerted not to be misled by the so-called Resolution of the House of Representatives as it relates to the operations of our clients as the so-called Resolutions do not reflect the true position of facts and the law.