Lottery Regulation Feud: Supreme Court to hear suit 15 years after
The Supreme Court on Monday fixed March 13, 2024, to hear a suit filed in 2008 by the Attorney General of Lagos State against the federal government regarding who controls and regulates the gaming and lottery sector.
A seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, fixed the date at a resumed sitting on Monday.
The Attorney General of the Federation is the first defendant, while the National Assembly is the second defendant; the Attorneys General of 34 other states were joined as defendants by the Supreme Court on November 15, 2022.
Meanwhile, the apex court panel unanimously deemed all the processes filed out of time by the defendants as duly and properly filed, having been regularised.
Ekiti state was joined as co-plaintiff in the suit following an order of the court made on October 6, 2020.
The application by the Attorney General of Oyo state to join as co-plaintiff, having been withdrawn, was struck out by the panel.
Bode Olanipekun, SAN, announced an appearance for the Lagos State government, while Adetunji Osho appeared for Ekiti State.
Innocent Daa’gba represented the federal government, while Ifeanyi Mrialike represented the National Assembly.
The attorneys general of the 33 states were duly represented and announced appearances. However, there was no legal representation for Kwara state despite being served with a hearing notice.
The Supreme Court ordered the Jigawa and Kaduna governments to put their houses in order by resolving the issue of legal representation before the next hearing date.
Mr Kekere-Ekun advised that all the state governments on one side, in accordance with their respective interests, present a common argument to save the court’s time on the hearing date.
Speaking to judiciary correspondents at the Supreme Court, Mr Daagba said he had filed processes and submissions of the federal government since 2020, adding that the processes have been regularised by the court, which clears the coast for hearing of the matter.
On August 15, 2022, the federal government (the Nigerian Lottery Regulation Commission and the Nigerian Lottery Trust fund) won the case against Lagos and other states on the issue of multiple regulations in the gaming sector.
The Bookmakers Association of Nigeria had initiated the lawsuit to determine the legitimate regulators of gaming businesses because they complained about paying multiple taxes and licensing fees to states and the federal government.
In suit number FHC/L/CS/15992020, filed before Justice I.N Oweibo of the Lagos High Court, the judge declared that the federal government should be the sole regulator of the gaming business, as the constitution is clear on the position of lottery in the exclusive list and the National Assembly can legislate on lottery matters.
Despite the judgement, there is no end to the bickering between the bookmakers and state governments on multiple taxation and regulation.
On July 19, 2023, Justice Iniekenimi Oweibo of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court ruled that the federal government, through the National Assembly, had the exclusive right to legislate and control lottery activities in the country.
A few months after the judgement, a Lagos State High Court delivered another judgement holding that matters about lottery and one-chance betting were subjects under the residual list in the constitution. By this, the judge held that Lagos State had the right to regulate the sector.
However, by a further amended originating summons marked SC/1/2008, the plaintiffs want the apex court to declare “that lottery is not one of the 68 items in respect of which the National Assembly has the Exclusive vires to make laws under Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”
They are seeking a declaration that having regard to the clear provisions of sections 4(2) and (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the National Assembly lacks the vires to legally and constitutionally make any Law to regulate and control the operation of lottery in Nigeria.
“A declaration that having regard to the clear provisions of section 4(7)(a) and (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Lagos State government, vide the Lagos State House of Assembly has the power to the exclusion of the National Assembly, to make Laws to regulate and control the operation of lottery within Lagos State.”
More so, the plaintiffs are praying for “A declaration that having regard to the clear provisions of Sections 4(4)(b), (7)(a) and 299(a) of the Constitution as amended, the power of the National Assembly to make Laws to regulate and control the operation of lottery is limited by the 1999 Constitution to only the Federal Capital Territory.
“A declaration that sections 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, made by the National Assembly are inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.”
In addition, the plaintiffs want “An order nullifying sections 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, as well as an order nullifying the entirety of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, “ among others.
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