• Govt pledges to address public grievances
•Denies increasing levies for vehicle licenses
A sizable number of legal practitioners from the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Tuesday protested the decision of the Lagos State Government to increase land use charge between 200 and 400 per cent.
The protest, which started at the Ikeja High Court and terminated Lagos House, was supported by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR),National Conscience Party (NCP) and Joint Action Committee (JAC), among others.
The legal practitioners who flooded the streets singing songs of protests and displaying placards with inscriptions: ‘Stop killing justice in Lagos. We say no to hike in Land Use Charge. Nigeria is hard enough. Do not add to it. We say no to taxes without consultation. Lagosians commit suicide daily. Stop this hardship.”
In a letter of protest addressed to the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the legal practitioners demanded a review of the state Land Use Charge Law, 2018, noting that the law “was passed without adequate and proper consultations. Little wonder the reason for the wide furore over it.”
The letter, which was signed by Chairman of Ikeja Branch of the NBA, Adeshina Ogunlana, and its Secretary, Muna Esegine, read in part: “We are calling for a review of the Land Use Charge Law and other excessive taxes levied on residents of Lagos State.
“Our disagreement with the law is on three fundamental bases. The legislation lacks legality to the extent of its apparent usurpation of the power of local government vis-à-vis the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The law provides for the delegation of powers and duties of the local government to the state, a situation in dissonance with the ground norm of the land, that extent of inconsistency void. The third reason for our action is on economy.
“The whole purpose of the law is to achieve a phenomenal increment in property use tax in Lagos State to fund development projects and programmes in Lagos. Despite the mathematics of your government, the truth is that the populace lacks the capacity to bear the tax burden now imposed.
“Lagos State is an expensive place to live. Only the elite rich considered it a comfortable zone of existence. Likewise, it is hard to find and expensive for most masses who remain tenant. Therefore, stiff tax on property, will only worsen the already bad situation for tenant, either residential or commercial, in the state.”
The letter said the bandwagon effect of land use charge “will create hyper-inflation in food, transportation and accommodation. It will equally lead to incapacitation of entrepreneurship, leading to crime increase, job loss and social insecurity.”
The association also expressed opposition to various levies of strange dimension and extraction, which it alleged the state government had introduced in the recent times, specifically citing a borehole levy of N65,000 permits.
In a swift response, the state government denied speculation that it had also increased the cost of processing motor vehicle particulars and application for number plates by 1,600 per cent, noting that the rates remained the same across the state.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, debunked this in a statement yesterday, noting that it became necessary in response to enquiries by members of the public who are genuinely concerned about the speculation.
Bamigbetan said anyone with evidence of any increase in motor registration rates from any of the official centres managed by the Lagos State Motor Vehicle Administration Authority (MVAA) should report to the agency or the Ministry of Transportation.
After receiving the letter of protest on behalf of the governor yesterday,Bamigbetan specifically assured the protesters that the state government would address the demand of the NBA and public concern about the land use charge.
Just on Monday, Bamigbetan explained that the state government “is open to dialogue. Ambode is someone that does not renege on his promises. I want you to remain patient. You will receive positive response from the governor soon.”
Also at the protest, the Majority Leader of Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, urged the legal practitioners to be patient with the state government, noting that all their concerns and grievances would be positively addressed.
He said: “Ambode is a listening person. All that you have read out cannot be addressed here. But the lawmakers will look into it and respond. When people become conscious of the activities in their state, it helps democracy to function effectively.”
Globally, the lawmaker explained that peaceful protest “is legitimate. It is our duty to receive you whenever you come to the House. This is why we have clamoured for proper relationship between the lawyers and the lawmakers in Lagos.
“This is to ensure that whenever bills are about to be passed into law, everyone has input. That is why we often invite everyone to come and make input into the bill before it becomes law in the state.”