As hardship soars, betting shops rise.

Youths take to sports betting as unemployment grows.

Jekwu stood at the counter of a small betting shop with all seriousness. His hand pointed at the screen of a desktop computer as one of the three bet girls selected games of the day for him.

His left hand was buried inside the pocket of his short but will occasionally take a short excursion to his head, on his afro and scratch the bushy hair a bit.

He had accumulated over 20 football matches that if he gets lucky and wins, it will earn him 800 000 Naira. Something he says has become near to impossible as the betting companies make winning very hard.

Inside the shop, there are two other computers with two extra bet girls manning them. There is a short queue at each of the computers, with punters patiently waiting for their turn – teens of about 13 years of age among.

There seems to be no age limit to the betting religion that has taken over the minds of many in Nigeria. Bet shops litter every street corners in Portharcourt with some streets having as many as 5 these shops.

What was frowned at before among the teens and the youths has become the new normal. In fact, betting has become the new religion.

Bearing the brunts of increasing unemployment in the country and the pressure of everyday hardship, Nigerian youths have taken to sports betting as a means of survival.

And as Jekwu says: “Having a bet ticket gives you hope with something positive to think about.

” Even if you don’t end up winning, you must have learnt something and ready yourself for another game”

Asked if he has ever won a bet, he shook his head in the negative but says that he hopes to win it big one day.

“The problem with some of us is that we want to use 100 Naira to win 5 million and it is almost near to impossible but you have to continue playing and one day, you will be that lucky”

“There are no jobs and this is the only job that we have. You can see the number of people that have trooped in here this morning; they are playing with faith”

“There is no special skill required. Just your ability to check clubs statistics and using your gift of imagination”

Betting business in Nigeria is said to rake in over 1.5 billion Naira in profit daily with Bet9ja controlling about 40 percent of the market.

Bet companies have seen a rise in profit since 2015, the highest in years as more out-of-job youths rely on betting for survival.

This is also another indictment on the APC led federal government, under whose watch, millions of jobs have been lost and thousands of businesses shut according to data released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.

As Jekwu said, most do not win but rely on the hope of a potential win and become addicted to the the trade.