The federal government has directed all mobile telecommunications service providers to suspend henceforth all forms of short message service (SMS) promotional lotteries in order to allow the government to carry out its Centenary Games Lottery on the telecommunications operators' platform, a decision which has not gone down with the service providers.
The ban, according to players in the telecommunication industry, will see the GSM operators losing billions of naira monthly and hundreds of billions over the period the ban will last. The high premium telecom operators place on such promos can be seen in the value of prizes given to winners. For example, there have been promos in the past where the operators gave out aircraft, luxury cars and overseas trips. Besides, there are claims that the operators make over three times the value of such prizes from telephone subscribers.
Through the National Lottery Regulation Commission (NLRC), the federal government directed MTN, Airtel, Globacom, Etisalat and Visafone to suspend all SMS-based promotional lotteries with effect from January 1, 2014, so that the government can grow its centenary lottery scheme.
The ban is, however, on SMS-based promos which require subscribers to pay money to participate in.
The federal government had appointed Secure Electronic Technology Plc. (SET) as its centenary lottery operator to carry out the lottery on all the five telecommunication firms' network platforms. The Centenary Games Lottery is part of federal government's plan to mark Nigeria's 100 years as a country.
The decision to prevent the mobile telecom operators from conducting their own promotional lotteries to grow their subscriber base has irked the service providers as the Centenary Games Lottery scheme has no date of termination. The operators said they are afraid that the government's lottery may last the whole year and thus deny them one of their means of revenue.
The chairman, Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators (ALTON), Engineer Gbenga Adebayo, told LEADERSHIP last night that the suspension all kinds of SMS promos by NLRC was commercial decision
"But if the federal government says that no operator should conduct SMS promos simply because they want to make money for the centenary celebrations, it is an avenue to deny subscribers of the various networks opportunities to communicate.
"In today's advanced telecommunications world, mobile subscribers have freedom of association and freedom of choice. They have the freedom to communicate from the promotional lotteries offered them by mobile operators. What government is simply doing is to deny them those rights to choice and associate. The federal government's decision goes beyond commercial decision. It is denying the operators one of their means of livelihood," he said.
The secretary to the government of the federation (SFG), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, in February 2013, while presenting the 'Concept Document for the Nigeria Centenary' which is available on the website of the federal ministry of information, stated that the government was going to generate additional revenue for the centenary celebrations through promotional lottery from Nigeria's telecom operators' networks.
Anyim had said that the NLRC had designed a strategy to enhance popular participation and support of the centenary celebrations through a lottery scheme, noting that it would raise considerable interest in the centenary and help provide supplementary funding for the programmes of the celebration.