Court restrains EFCC, others from arresting lottery operators

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Court restrains EFCC, others from arresting lottery operators

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday restrained the Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) from arresting lottery operators or disrupting their businesses for allegedly operating without their state licences.

Justice Mohammed Idris held that it would be illegal to shut down lottery business on the basis that they have not obtained additional licenses to operate after being licensed by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).

The plaintiffs, Western Lotto Nigeria Ltd and Wesco Pools & Lottery Ltd, had prayed the court to determine whether in view of subsisting and binding judgments of the court, the defendants can close down their businesses for not obtaining licenses from the states despite having been granted nationwide permits/licences by NLRC.

They sued the attorneys-general of Lagos and Ogun states; the Lagos State Lottery Board, the Ogun State Internal Revenue Service, Inspector General of Police, commissioners of Police in Lagos and Ogun, the EFCC and the DSS.

In his judgment, Justice Idris dismissed the defendants’ objections and granted the two prayers in the plaintiffs’ originating summons.

He made “a declaration that the defendants or any combination of them may not take any steps whatsoever whether by closure, arrests, detentions, sealing off, or howsoever designed, to disrupt, close down or otherwise impede the lottery business of the plaintiffs.”

The judge held that having been granted national permits, the defendants cannot close down such businesses “for reason that the plaintiffs have not obtained additional license to operate their lottery business..”

Justice Idris granted an order restraining the defendants or their agents from disrupting the plaintiffs’ business in any manner having been given national licenses pursuant to the National Lottery Act of 2005.

The plaintiffs, in a supporting affidavit, said a tussle over supremacy between the states and the NLRC was resolved by two earlier judgments of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

“Both decisions were arrived at on the basis that the National Lottery Act had covered the field and the states’ legislation on the same subject must give way,” the plaintiffs said.

According to them, despite the judgments, the defendants had been “threatening” to use the Police, DSS and EFCC “to carry out raids on the business premises of the plaintiffs in Lagos and Ogun states and take other action designed to disrupt their lottery business”.

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