The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, and the Director General of the NLRC, Peter Igho

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

The regulator of Nigeria's telecoms sector, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has cleared the air on the confusion over the issue of lotteries by telecom service providers, insisting that the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) has the powers to regulate lotteries run by the service providers as well as sanction any operator who defaults on any issues related to lotteries in the country.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, said at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and NLRC that the Commission is only responsible for regulating the services and infrastructure provisioning of the operator. However, it does not regulate lotteries. He said NCC was concerned about instances where such lotteries degrade the quality of service.

“It is the lottery Commission that would say whether an activity is a lottery, who has to pay what, how much to pay to a winner. And the operators need to know that the lottery Commission does not need our approval to enforce their laws against any operator who defaults in the practice of lottery,” he said.

The Director General of the NLRC, Peter Igho, commended the Commission for the ‘revolution’ it had brought in the industry. He said the MoU with the Commission was part of the efforts to partner with respective stakeholders to ensure that the industry is built on a bedrock of good practices.

He said that lottery players had invested big sums of money and materials to grow their business and that the mobile lottery or SMS lottery was a welcome development that could support the mainstream lottery.

“But unfortunately, some who have used this mechanism have done so with a lack of integrity and transparency that has given lottery a bad name,” he said, arguing that lottery has been used over the ages worldwide not only to empower people but also to raise money to support government in providing infrastructure and other good causes.

He advised phone users to differentiate between promos, which are mere incentives given to subscribers, and lottery, which is game of chance where people are advised to enter based on some form of payments or deductions, after which a draw takes place where a winner is selected by chance.

He also explained that when the rules are followed, the NLRC ensures that the winners get the exact thing promised by the lottery operator and that the operators also pay appropriate fees and deductions to the government in such a way that the funds realised will be used for social and infrastructure development and not for profiteering by the operating company.

The preface to the MoU states that one of the essence of the agreement is to avoid regulatory overlaps and create regulatory certainty for the benefit of all stakeholders in the telecommunications and lottery sector, as the parties recognize a need for cooperation in the discharge of their functions as it relates to the issue of lottery and consumer protection in the telecommunications sector.

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