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Sports Enthusiasm Or Poverty: What Really Turns Nigerians To Gamblers?


“Baba Ijebu ti je gbese”(Baba Ijebu is in huge debt). Saying like this among others are regular utterances at the lips of ardent players of Lotto, a game with a local parlance as Baba Ijebu, who are with palpable anticipation looking forward to winning huge sum of money that will break the shackles of poverty, but, more often than not, they are left worse off. FISAYO AJIBOLA and BABAJIDE OKEOWO take you on a journey into the world of gamblers who have now majorly shifted interest from Baba Ijebu lotto to sport betting of all kinds with the ambition to become rich overnight. Are Nigerian sports enthusiastic or is it the level of poverty that turns most to gamblers?

When Baba Ijebu was at its peak, once it is 6:30 PM all roads lead to 498 Ikorodu Road, Ketu. The frenzy is maddening, young and old, male and female, storm the building in their dozens, and a first time visitor to the area will be forgiven if he or she thinks a religious activity is going on in the place. The only thing that will probably give them away that it is not a religious activity is their mode of dressing and the fact that they are not clutching a Bible or a Quran, rather, what you will see them holding is a small piece of paper which they guard jealously with their lives. The place is a melting pot for people of various demographical settings; traders, artisans, commercial bus drivers, students you will find them there. Their mission you may be dying to know, wait for it, they are there to check the results of the day’s lotto!

A  sport betting shop

Premier lotto, Golden Chance, Metro Lotto, National, Monday night special, Midweek they come under different names and slogans, everyday of the week you find people gathering around the various kiosks of these lotto agent to ‘Pam, play two direct or three direct’ as the case may be, they are lost in their world as they forecast and permutate’ on how to win huge sum of money from lotto and send BABA IJEBU back to his village.


With introduction of sport betting, some younger generation shifted to these not only because of sport interest but also with the aim to improve their financial status.

This new baby, sports betting comes with names like Bet9ja, Surebet247. com,,, Nairabet, Naijabet,,,, the list is endless. More and more people are deviating from BABA IJEBU and embracing sports betting as it appears trendier and the odds of winning are more favorable. Though, not entirely new to the western world as betting sites, Bwin, Ladbrokes, Paddypower are household names in the western world it is recently grabbing a strong hold in the Nigerian sports betting fraternity. The history of sports betting in Nigeria will not be complete without a pride of place given to Rapido(now defunct) for blazing the trail. They are the first indigenous sports betting firm in Nigeria. With the craze for European football reaching a maddening frenzy come the advents of sports betting. Every weekend, thousands takes to the online portals of these betting firms to stake their bet.

A typical Baba Ijebu shopA baba ijebu shop

How it Works

According to Mr. John Ogar of De-everleader Network Ltd, a sports betting and viewing center located on 25 Ondum Street, Ketu-Ikosi who took time to explain to WWW.PERFECTBRANDNG.COM on the nitty-gritty of sports betting. According to him the knowledge of football is the first key, “When you come to a betting firm, you must first of all know one team or the other, whether it is local or international league. For example, if Nigeria is playing, you should be able to know who the country is playing with and what game Nigeria is playing. You now decide on which country you are betting; it is either for or against.

“For instance, you can bet on Nigeria winning or losing. You can even bet for a draw. This is where you start from and then you decide the amount you want to play considering the strength of the teams you are vouching for.

“If you know that Nigeria is much stronger that the opposing team, you can say okay, Nigeria will be given 2.50 as the odds and then the opposing team, 1.75. That means if you put your N5,000.00, N1,000, N2,0000, or any amount you are capable of as your betting stake, it would be multiplied by the odds, which may be 2.50 or 1.75,” Ogah explained further, the word “odd” is the percentage given to every game as its league bet pertains to its strength.


Are these betting firms registered with Lagos State Lottery Board?

Another sport betting shop

Industry watchers are however of the opinions that like most of the lotto operators some of these sport betting firms are operating without a license, a claim which is quick to refute. A statement on the betting company website reads in part: “The Company is a limited liability company registered in Nigeria. We provide an online platform for football betting to all duly registered customers. We may offer other sports betting products from time to time in which case otherwise stated, these terms and conditions will apply.

“The company is managed by professional financial managers who will give all players the safety and comfort of playing in your privacy or through accredited agents.

“You will also be assured of the best prices the market can offer as at the time of your bet in the case of fixed odd bets. Our web site is linked to international sports betting exchange which gives us the opportunity to offer the best prices in the market. Your bets also traded on these exchanges which reduces our chances of default to the barest minimum. This is made possible with the power of the internet and the professionalism of the company management.” It is however worthy of note that there is no where it was mentioned that the company is registered with LSLB a body that is saddled with the responsibility of regulating sports betting in the state where they operate from.

An official of LSLB who spoke to however confirmed to us that most of the betting firms are not registered with them but said arrangements are in top gear to ensure compliance by the betting companies and that any erring company will be heavily sanctioned.


Are Activities of betting companies regulated?

Industry watchers are also quick to accuse the betting companies of flouting the rules and regulations guiding their practices. It is a known law that an individual must be 18 and above before he or she is allowed to stake bets. A trip by to some of the betting centres showed that this law is flouted with impunity as most of those spoke to were not up to 18.

Victor is 16 years and an ardent fan of Chelsea football club, he has been betting on Chelsea since December last year. Kunle is 15 and is a guru at sports betting he even volunteered to help this reporter pick the best bets for this week. According to him, the odds are always favouring him as he has been winning consistently because he knew the strength of the teams he is staking his bet on. When asked on how he gets the money with which he stakes the bets with he grew evasive.

An agent of Bet9ja, Mr. Sesan Dotun who spoke to was quick to lay the blame on the doorsteps of the agents who represents the betting companies. According to him they try as much as possible to regulate the activities of their agents but since ‘we can’t be with them 24 hours of the day we really don’t know how they run their businesses’’.

He also has the following to say “Sport betting is gambling, not investing and so is buying First Bank of Nigeria shares or buying a Tantaliser’s franchise. Almost everything in life is a gamble, more so with money matters. With gambling comes risks and nothing is ever 100 per cent guaranteed to work. However, you can dramatically reduce your risks by taking calculated risks only. He advised those willing to stake money on bets to do so wisely as they should ensure that they stake bets with only what they can part with.




Baba ijebu is the local parlance for lotto or lottery in Nigeria; it is introduced by an Ijebu man called Chief Kessington Adebutu and it is a seeming avenue where quick fortune can be made. Those who patronise operators of BABA IJEBU do so in the hope that a fortune could be made by playing the game. The sad thing however is that, more often than not, they end up getting their fingers burnt.


44-year old Mrs. Adenike Owolope is presently living in regret as she has been arrested and charged before the Ejigbo Magistrate’s Court, Lagos State, southwest Nigeria, for allegedly squandering her employer’s money on BABA IJEBU. She was charged on a one count charge of stealing before the presiding magistrate, Mrs M. B. Folami.
The woman who worked in the sales and finance department of a cosmetics company, Remdocs Nigeria Limited, at 35 Saidat Kellam Street, Abaranje, Ikotun, Lagos where she had access to the company’s money allegedly stole the sum of One Million Nine Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira N1.9M to play Baba ijebu. The woman allegedly started playing the game with the hope that she would win a lot of money and then return her employer’s money before the theft is discovered.
Things however went awry for her when she did not win any money as expected; her crime was discovered by her employers who did not waste any time in hauling her to court, she is currently cooling her heels in jail.
This is the lot of so many people who are involve in this habit of playing lotto, they are lured into the arms of Baba Ijebu playing by unfounded tales of somebody who knows somebody who has won a huge sum of money playing Baba Ijebu. Investigations by to ascertain the veracity of the claims that people actually win these huge sums of money did not yield any fruit as operators of these lotto kiosks could not produce anyone who has won more than N50, 000 in a one off situation.


Some of the people spoke to actually confessed to the fact that they are yet to win anything tangible but are still hopeful of winning someday. When asked Mr. Rafiu Jimoh a commercial bus driver and an ardent Baba Ijebu player who plies the Ojuelegba – Ketu axis what his experience was, his response was shocking, according to him he has been playing the game for close to 3 years now but is yet to win more than N20, 000 at a go. When asked him on how much he spends on playing he said he spends up to N1, 000 everyday on the game. When put it to him that he could have saved a fortune if he had put that money to good use he got violent and this reporter had to quickly leave the scene before he was lynched.

A trip by this reporter to the Ojuelegba Headquarters of Baba Ijebu, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday in few days to come did not yield the desired result as the Lady in charge of the administration of this huge empire that rakes in millions of naira for the owner at the expense of the gullible Nigerians refused to answer all the questions put to her by this reporter. All effort to get her to speak was met with a terse ‘I am not in the right position to answer your question’ A staff who however spoke to under the condition of anonymity made this reporter to understand that the operators of the Lotto are smiling to the banks at the expense of the gullible players who squanders their hard earned money on the game. When questioned on the cause of this trend, he said poverty and the get –rich-quick syndrome is to be blamed for this ugly trend. He went further by saying players do so with the aim that if they win a huge sum of money by playing the game as they are led to believe they will invest the money in a profitable venture but after playing like 10 to 15 times without winning they become stuck and addicted. They carry on playing with the hope of recouping their lost money and end up incurring more losses.


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