Horse racing, dog racing, virtual sports, bike racing: these are only a few of the activities which have captured the attention of Nigerian youths, despite the laws forbidding it.
According to the Nigerian National Lottery Act, enacted in 2005, any form of betting among children under the age of 18 is prohibited.
“Any person who knowingly sells to any person under the age of eighteen years any ticket in a lottery operated by a license … commits an offence and shall be liable to conviction to a fine of not less than N20,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or both such fine and imprisonment,” the law states.
However, unenforced laws allow thousands of teenagers to arrive at the arena, coins in hand for an afternoon at the races.
“I first thought it was like MMM but I have realized that it (Sports betting) is very lucrative,” said 16-year-old Abiodun Kalejaiye to an undercover investigator from Premium Times.
“If you play with as little as N150, you can win as much as N5, 000 to N8, 000 or more depending on how the games ‘come’ out,” Kalejaiye said, who was first persuaded to join by his friends at the neighborhood sports center in Agege Lagos.
Among the winnings, participants stand to win anything from shoes, watches, radios and phones.
“I don’t know if I can ever quit,” a 17-year-old electrical engineering apprentice said. “This game provides me with almost everything I want and I don’t lack anything.”
According to the young high-rollers, despite the advertisements warning persecution of underage betters, many overlook their young clientele because “they need the money … they need salary.”
“Some of us are regular customers so they can’t chase us away,” a 15-year-old underage player, Salau Kazeem.
“If it is in the open, they always try to stop us especially during the day but if the shop is in one corner, we have free access,” another underage participant, John Kingsely said. “Some of them even monitor security people for us,” John explained.
According to Tunji Timothy, a parent who also works as a Guidance and Counselling expert, the struggle with underage violence can be attributed to a fall in government vigilance and poor parenting.
“The society is losing its morals and anything goes now. Government, too isn’t helping matters as most of the officials employed to uphold the laws look the other way after they get bribed. Similarly, parents too should monitor their kids closely; many parents have failed in their roles as parents,” Timothy said.