Senator Buruji Kashamu’s frivolous petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will put jobs and investments in Nigeria’s sports betting industry at risk unless regulators and the government step in immediately. As businesses globally continue to feel the pinch of COVID-19, business operations of sports betting companies have been impeded due to an ongoing EFCC investigation. The investigation, which is no more than a shakedown and an attempt to force a monopoly, was launched on the back of a petition to the anti-graft agency by former Senator Buruji Kashamu who has been linked to drug-trafficking and money laundering in the United States.
The 2019 petition, which alleged tax evasion and economic sabotage, has led to an incessant disruption of the businesses of sports betting operators and demands for payoffs by agents carrying out the investigation. Stakeholders have been put on edge and say they might have to pull out their funds from the industry which would lead to massive job losses. Nigeria’s unemployment figures continue to rise and sports betting companies have, over the years, created hundreds of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly.
Mr Kashamu had petitioned the EFCC because he is trying to gain a monopoly of the popular “Ghana Games” which is reportedly responsible for between 60% to 70% of the revenue that comes into the industry. For years, 23 other companies have been enjoying the license to the popular “Ghana games” with the market leader being Premier Lotto (Baba Ijebu), owned by Sir Kensington Adebutu but Buruji Kashamu seeing the revenues raised, set up his own company (Western Lotto) and launched a marketing campaign to position himself as the main licensee.
He, however, failed to wrestle the games from Baba Ijebu and others, so he went to Ghana to get the license to be the sole operator of Ghana Lotto in Nigeria. Having done this, he wrote to the regulators to ban others from Ghana Lotto, but his request was declined by the regulator citing the risk of creating a monopoly. Not satisfied, Kashamu approached the courts to exercise his claim and Premier Lotto and others were banned from operating Ghana Games in Nigeria.
To resolve the impasse, Sir Adebutu reached out to the regulators in Ghana and clarified that there is no sole owner of “Ghana Games” in Ghana but the Government and that Mr Kashamu’s claim that he is the sole licensee of Ghana Games in Nigeria is faulty as he only got a license from one of the operators. The move led Mr Kashamu to deploy the EFCC to go after competitors in the industry to force a monopoly on the games after his efforts were repelled by other players in the industry.
being deployed by Senator Buruji Kashamu using the EFCC could lead to chaos in the industry. “If we are going to spend all our revenue “settling” EFCC agents then there really is no incentive for us to continue running our businesses. It is getting closer to the time we will make the decision to close shop and let our workforce go in order for us to protect our investments.” He added.