After 15yrs, S’Court Okays States’ Suit Against FG’s Power To Regulate Lottery, Betting Activities
Finally, after 15 years, the Supreme Court has fixed March 13, 2024, to hear Lagos and Ekiti States’ suits challenging the statutory powers of the Federal Government to regulate all lottery and betting activities in the country.
The apex court’s seven-man panel led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, will hear the suit that has been pending in its docket for over 15 years.
Though the suit, marked: SC/1/2008, was initially brought before the court by Lagos State through its Attorney-General, Ekiti State subsequently applied and was joined as a co-Plaintiff in the matter on October 6, 2020.
Likewise, whereas the Attorney General of the Federation and the National Assembly were originally cited as the 1st and 2nd Defendants, respectively, the apex court, on November 15, 2022, joined all the Attorneys-General of the remaining 34 States of the Federation, as Defendants in the matter.
When the matter was called up on Monday, Bode Olanipekun, SAN, announced his appearance for the Lagos State Government, while Adetunji Osho appeared for Ekiti State.
FG was also represented by a team of lawyers led by Innocent Daa’gba, while Ifeanyi Mrialike announced his appearance for the National Assembly.
Attorneys-General of 33 states were also represented in the matter, except Kwara state which had no legal representation even though it was served with hearing notice.
Before the matter was adjourned for hearing, the apex court ordered the Jigawa and Kaduna State Governments to put their houses in order by resolving the issue of legal representation, before the next date.
It further deemed all the processes filed out of time by the Defendants as duly and properly filed, having been regularized.
Justice Kekere-Ekun implored the states to agree and take their positions on the matter, to help the court to expedite the hearing process.
Specifically, the Plaintiffs are praying the Supreme Court to among other things, 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 equally seeking a declaration that having regard to the clear provisions of Section 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 provision of Section 4(4)(a), (b) and Part ll of the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), matters relating to lottery do not fall within items which the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly are concurrently empowered to make Laws with regard thereto.
“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.
“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.”
As well as, “A declaration that the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria is inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.”
In addition, the Plaintiffs want, “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant either by himself, agents privies, agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria or Federation of Nigeria through anybody acting on their behalf from implementing the provisions of Sections 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, within the territory, of Lagos State.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant either by himself, agents, privies, agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria or Federation of Nigeria, or through anybody acting on their behalf from taking any step or action aimed at enforcing or continuing to enforce any/or all of the provisions of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, within the territory of Lagos State.
Likewise, “An order for the 1st Defendant to give an account of all revenues earned by the Federation of Nigeria, with respect to the implementation of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, within Lagos State and pay the same over to the Plaintiff.”
Speaking with newsmen at the end of the proceeding, FG’s lawyer, Mr. Daagba, said he had since 2020, filed processes to challenge the competence of the suit.
It is recalled that the Nigerian Lottery Regulation Commission and the Nigerian Lottery Trust fund had on August 15, 2022, won a legal battle 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 as they complained about paying multiple taxes and licensing fees to both states and the FG.
In the suit marked: FHC/L/CS/1599/2020, Justice I.N Oweibo of the Federal High Court in Lagos, declared that FG should be the sole regulator of the gaming business in the country, stressing that the constitution was clear on the position of lottery in the exclusive list which the National Assembly could legislate on.
However, in another judgement, a Lagos State High Court held that matters pertaining to lottery and one-chance betting were subject to the residual list in the Constitution.
The court held that Lagos State had the right to regulate lottery and gaming companies within its territory.