GAMBLING RELATED HARMS: Who is Speaking up for Safer Play in Nigeria?

The war on drugs in Nigeria, is currently taking a new dimension on all sides; targeting the traffickers, the local peddlers, even the consumers. From the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to prominent people in the society, down to other law enforcement agencies, corporations and NGOs, are now speaking up against the menace and collaborating to create effective policies, and make stricter laws, to combat the problem.

This begs the question; who is speaking up for safer gambling in the country?

Problem gambling has been treated with so much levity, that its adverse effect on people, has often been over looked. The fact that it has been legalized in most of its form in the country, tend to draw focus away from its tendency to cause harm, like other risky and addictive human behaviors.

Gambling disorder has been included as a mental disorder, recognizing it as an addiction similar to drug and alcohol. However, of all known addictions, gambling is reported to have the highest rate of suicide associated with it, and yet the harm prevalent with this activity, is often relegated to the back burner, while its entertainment and money spinning value, is celebrated.

In a country where it has been established that those disadvantaged economically, gamble more, which means that majority of players in the country, play not just for fun but for survival, one will expect regulators to clamor, for better and stricter laws and policies that will incorporate global operating standard, with regards to the promotion of responsible gambling in the country, including restrictions on gambling advertising.

As stated in another article, it is not and should never be, all about economic maximization for any government, especially when the revenue generating tool, can bring about harm to the people, if not properly regulated.

It takes genuine leadership, to take decisions that will benefit the people, even when they don’t know that it’s for their own good. Think what you may about the former president of Nigeria; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but he is a leader that takes tough decisions for the betterment of the people (my opinion).

When as President, (back when the provisions of the lottery Act, is followed to the letter, and presidents personally approve the issuance of any lottery license) he was presented with the economic value of gambling, by the then Minister of Finance, and how its expansion, would generate more money to the government coffers. He was asked to give approval for more licenses to be issued to organizations, as opposed to having just one national licensee. He vehemently refused, stating that “aside from the National Sports Lottery already licensed, it’s a capital NO to any other one, I do not want a country of gamblers”.

When structures are not yet in place that can checkmate an activity, which has the tendency of becoming a pandemic if unchecked, it takes a great leader, to put the welfare and wellbeing of the people, before projected economic value, while a balance is sought.

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