The National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) at the weekend responded to critics of its recent action to temporarily close the offices of Nigerian Breweries Plc (“NB”), instead blaming the brewing company for the events that led to the closure.
The commission said that Nigerian Breweries owes it N326 million in taxes and continued to rebuff all attempts by the agency to enforce the National Lottery Act, 2005.
Giving its version of events that led to the temporary closure of Nigerian Breweries offices, NLRC said that NB had conducted promotional lotteries valued at about N1.3bn and failed to regularize such promo lotteries as required by the National Lottery Act, 2005.
In a statement, the Director-General of the NLRC, Mr Lanre Gbajabiamila, said that the commission was disturbed by flagrant violation of the National Lottery Act, 2005 by leading multinationals.
He added that the commission had statutory responsibilities “to enforce provisions of the National Lottery Act, 2005 and ensure the federal government is not short-changed in the transactions. The commission acted within its mandate.”
Gbajabiamila said that the commission would continue to clamp down on all illegal lottery operators anywhere they be found within the shores of Nigeria within the ambit of the National Lottery Act, 2005 and the National Lottery Regulation, 2007.
He described as unwarranted attack the statement of the Director General of Nigeria Employees Consultative Association (NECA), Mr Olusegun Oshinowo in respect of the recent enforcement exercise against Nigerian Breweries.
The DG of NLRC said the commission “will not be distracted in its bid to rid the country of all illegal lottery and promotional activities whether in the manufacturing, financial, telecommunication or any other sector.
“The action of the commission in closing down illegal lottery operations should not be misconstrued, because lottery activities are governed by law. Anybody or organisation that violates that law will be made to face the consequences of such violations.”
Gbajabiamila said that the commission “will not join issues with Oshinowo who prefers to hide under the guise of NECA to unleash economic sabotage on the federal government, instead of encouraging its members to comply with the law.
“The interest of the lottery commission is to ensure that organisations who wish to carry out lottery operations comply with the provisions of the National Lottery Act and not carry out such lotteries without due regards to the law.”
Responding to claims by the DG of NECA that there is a pending law suit at the Federal High Court related to the dispute with Nigerian Breweries, Gbajabiamila said there “is no pending action against the commission. In 2012, the case with Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/306/2012 was dismissed by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.”
He, therefore, noted that the claim that the commission showed disregard to the rule of law in the discharge of its lawful duty was not only mischievous, but an attempt to deliberately distort the facts in order to deceive the general public.
After the recent enforcement, he disclosed that Nigerian Breweries “is in dialogue with the Commission to rectify the breaches that led to its closure. It made a written undertaking on its willingness to cooperate with the commission.”
Gbajabiamila said the offices of Nigerian Breweries had been temporarily reopened for operation pending the outcome of discussions with the management.
He reiterated that the interest of the commission “is not in disrupting business, but to ensure organisations do not unduly take advantage of the general public by offering consumer sales promotions without proper supervision and compliance with extant law.”
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