A lotto turf war between Chief Kessington Adebutu, popularly known as Baba Ijebu and Senator Buruji Kashamu has snowballed into a probe of Adebutu’s Premier Lotto company by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to a report by Premium Times, EFCC detectives have been poring through the books of the gambling mogul’s company to ascertain whether there has been a tax fraud and what it is owing the Nigerian government treasury.
The newspaper also reported that one of Adebutu’s sons, Segun has been questioned by EFCC officials in Lagos.
There has been no official confirmation of the probe by the EFCC so far.
Chief Adebutu and Kashamu are no strangers to each other. They clashed on the political turf in Ogun State in the run-up to the 2019 governorship election.
Kashamu insisted he was the PDP candidate and got all the court orders to shut out Adebutu’s son, Ladi from the race, despite the older Adebutu’s efforts to get his son on the ballot.
Their skirmish has now shifted to the business arena.
Buruji’s company, Western Lotto claimed to have exclusive rights over Ghana games, which Premier Lotto and 22 other gaming companies have been illegally selling to bettors in Nigeria.
The issue was decided by a Federal High Court in Lagos on 16 December last year, with
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos granting Western Lotto Ltd an Anton Piller order authorising it to search 23 firms for evidence of violation of its Ghana Games patents infringement.
The Ghana Games are said to be responsible for about 60/70 percent of the revenue generated from lottery games in Nigeria.
Reports said the Ghana National Lottery Authority (NLA) granted Western Lotto Nigeria Limited the “exclusive rights” in an agreement recently executed by both parties.
The Ghana products include Monday Special Lotto, Lucky Tuesday Lotto, Midweek Lotto, Fortune Lotto, Friday Bonanza Lotto, Saturday National Lotto, VAG Lotto and super six Lotto) both in store and in all promotional activity.
Western Lotto’s right also include “the exclusive right to use the draw numbers of the Ghana National Lottery Authority (NLA) to sell and distribute lotto products and games to customers located in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The first and second defendants in the suit, marked FHC/L/CS/2321/19, are the National Lottery Regulatory Commission and Registrar of Trademarks.
The 23 others are: Premier Lotto Ltd, Secure Electronic Technology Ltd, Richwell Plaza Ltd, Peoles, Empowerment Lottery Ltd, Gab Lotto Ltd, Payday Lotteries Ltd, R & S Lotto Ltd,
Capstar Entertainment International Ltd, Winners Golden Chance Lotto, EG&H Integrated Concepts Ltd, Global Lottery Ltd, Fortune Games Ltd EMI Systems Ltd, Mobile Lottery Nigeria Ltd and Wesco Pools and Lotteries Ltd.
The rest are: Give and Take Lottery Ltd, Brentwood Multiservices Global Ltd, International Lottery and Gaming Ltd, Winlot Global Resources Ltd, Lottomania Nigeria Ltd, Derby Lotto Ltd, K.C Lottery Company Ltd and K.C Gaming Networks Ltd.
The order also affects “each and every Point of Sale Station and agency operated by them offering lottery products.”
Justice Aneke also appointed the third to 25th defendants to represent “the class of persons passing off their lotto products by using trade names and trade marks that are associated with the ‘Ghana Games’…and or who illegally sell ‘Ghana Games’ lotto products in Nigeria by using the draw of the numbers of the Ghana NLA to sell and distribute lotto games to customers in Nigeria.”
According to the report by PREMIUM TIMES, an official of EFCC allegedly claimed that they have identified at least N5 billion in revenue losses against the government since the investigation began — directly blaming the management of Premier Lotto for allegedly shortchanging Nigerians.
Senator Kashamu also told PREMIUM TIMES that he petitioned the EFCC about corruption in the betting industry, but deemphasised allegations of being a disgruntled player in the business, saying he had taken the matter to court and was now only concerned about the interest of Nigerians.
“All the taxpayers’ billions they diverted should have been paid into the lottery commission trust fund to build infrastructure and alleviate poverty amongst the Nigerian masses,” the politician said. “I urge Nigerians to continue to pressure the EFCC to investigate and charge all those responsible for sabotaging the country’s economy without any pity for the masses.”