By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
Fifteen years later, the Supreme Court, Monday, fixed March 13, 2024, to hear a suit filed in 2008, by the Attorney General of Lagos State against the Federal Government, in respect of who controls and regulates the gaming and lottery sector.
Ekiti state was joined as co-Plaintiff in the suit following an order of the court made on October 6, 2020.
The Attorney General of the Federation is the 1st Defendant while the National Assembly is 2nd Defendant.
The Attorneys General of 34 other States, were joined as defendants by the Supreme Court on November 15, 2022.
A 7-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, fixed the date at a resumed sitting on Monday.
Bode Olanipekun SAN, announced appearance for Lagos State Government while Adetunji Osho appeared for Ekiti state.
The Federal Government (1st Defendant) was represented by Innocent Daa’gba, 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 hearing notice.
The Supreme Court ordered Jigawa and Kaduna State Governments to put their houses in order by resolving the issue of legal representation before the next hearing date.
Meanwhile, the apex court panel unanimously deemed all the processes filed out of time by the defendants as duly and properly filed, having been regularized.
The application by the Attorney General of Oyo state to join as co- Plaintiff having been withdrawn, was struck out by panel.
Justice Kekere-Ekun advised that all the State Governments that are on one side in accordance with their respective interests should present a common argument in order to save the time of the court on the hearing date.
Speaking to judiciary correspondents at the Supreme Court, Innocent Daagba, said he had filed processes and submissions of the Federal Government since 2020, adding that the processes have been regularized by the court, which clears the coast for hearing of the matter.
Recall that on 15 August 2022, the Federal Government (the Nigerian Lottery Regulation commission and the Nigerian Lottery Trust fund) won against Lagos and other States, on the issue of multiple regulation 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 the Suit NO: FHC/L/CS/15992020, filed before Hon. Justice I.N Oweibo of the Lagos High Court, the Judge declared that the Federal Government should be the sole regulator of gaming business in the country 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 still not an end to the back and forth bickering between the bookmakers and State Governments on multiple taxation and regulation.
On July 19, 2023, Justice Iniekenimi Oweibo of the Federal High Court (FHC) in Lagos State ruled that the Federal Government, through the National Assembly, had the exclusive right to legislate and control lottery activities in the country.
Few months after the FHC judgement, a Lagos State High Court delivered another judgement holding that matters pertaining to 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 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.
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.
Further more, they want “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 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.
Also, they are praying for “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 Nigema, 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.
“An order for the 1st Defendant to give account of all revenues earned by the Federation of Nigeria, with respect to implementation of the National Lottery Act CAP N145, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, within Lagos State and pay same over to the Plaintiff.