Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with 190 million people. Now it could also be the country with the most betting youth.
In the entire population, about a third or more than 60 million people aged between 18 and 40 gamble, according to a recent report by Nigerian pollster Noi Polls.
They spend about $2 billion annually on bets or 300 Naira ($0.78) every day on bets.
Some hit the jackpot, most end up in tears. And stories are many. One young man named Uchenna Akachukwu reportedly committed suicide after losing a $60 sports bet in Uyo in Nigeria’s oil rich Akwa Ibom state, police reports earlier this year show.
In 2018, police in Ilorin, Kwara state, confirmed that a 25-year-old man killed himself because he lost a bet.
Another man named Noble Adelakun, a 30-year-old agro-business man, is said to have sold his business and used the proceeds along with his savings to bet. He lost more than $50,000 within a month.
Adelakun, however, told local media, that losing his bet has helped him to realise how addicted he had been on betting and how much he had given to the greed and dissatisfaction that came with regular betting.
Among those who had painful lessons include 28-year-old fashion designer, Segun Mukoro. He bets at least once weekly and argued it could be one of the fastest ways to double income. Yet he learnt it can never be the first channel of income, not to take the place of a profession.
In Nigeria though, sports betting is a financial commitment or a complementary lifestyle among fans of foreign football clubs. It depends on who you ask.
50 betting sites
Ever since the emergence of more than 50 betting sites in Nigeria, youths have found it easier to login and place their bets.
Physical betting outlets also litter the streets of Nigeria’s major cities to encourage youths to stake money on football matches to generate quick and easy income and turning their passion for football into cash.
The introduction of football betting has exposed the business aspect of the game, Mr Andrew Alimi, a businessman explained, saying it is now customary for some fans to tip their teams to lose a match against probable superior opponents to increase their chances during staking.
As staking becomes more popular among the youths, so the hazards soar. Mr Kareem Ahmed, an economist, said many youths are into sports betting and internet fraud for quick money instead of acquiring relevant skills.
But there is unemployment and some of the youth are finding betting an alternative to endless job searching.
Mr Joseph Ari, Director-General, Nigeria’s Industrial Training Fund (ITF), reported that that many Nigerian youths have been unable to get jobs for lack of relevant skills.
“The unfortunate truth is that the vacancies are always filled by non-Nigerians, because the unemployed Nigerians lack the requisite skills. From our survey, 925 trades have been difficult to fill in the country’s labour market. “
“Our survey showed that 19.5 per cent vacancies are yet to be filled in the housing sector while the petrochemical sector has more than 13.9 per cent vacancies waiting for skilled workers. The auto sector has 11.4 per cent vacancies, while 10.3 per cent vacancies are still available in the textiles sector,” Ari explained.
He said that 15.7 per cent of all the hard-to-fill vacancies were due to lack of technical skills, while 11.8 per cent were due to lack of basic Industrial Training skills.
According to him, 9.2 per cent of the vacancies are due to lack of advanced IT skills, while 9.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent of the vacancies are yet unfilled because of the lack of requisite soft skills.
A psychologist, Dr Aimua Cole, said that betting and gambling could lead to laziness, loss of professional interest, depression, addiction, loss of jobs, failed relationships and severe debt.
Mr Olusegun Temilola of the Sociology department in the Faculty of Social Studies, University of Lagos, said that those who indulge in betting are simply toying with their future in the name of pursuing overnight wealth.
The government is concerned over drift to sports betting instead of concentrating on skill acquisition, the Chairman of National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Mr Richard Egbule, says.
The government, he said, has resolved to introduce special allowance, ` Scarce Skills Allowances’ to attract youths and divert their attention from betting and other untoward activities.
The Chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Mr Richard Egbule, said in Abuja that the allowance would attract more skilled persons.
With time, the policy would yield dividends and salvage the youth from doldrums, he said.