Gboyega Akinsanmi and Akinwale Akintunde
The Lagos State House Assembly wednesday admitted that it inserted Alpha Beta in the Land Use Charge (LUC) Law, 2018 in error, noting that the process of the new legislation â€œis not complete until the state government properly gazettes it.â€
Specifically, the state government debunked the figures circulating in the media on the rate for the new law, noting that many of the numbers were based on several years of arrears on unpaid levies by affected property owners
The Chairman of Assembly Committee on Information, Hon. Tunde Braimoh, and State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, made this clarification at separate sessions with journalists wednesday.
Under the Rules Governing the Distribution of the Lagos State Land Use Charge, the law states: â€œAlpha Beta or any other designated person(s) or corporate body, which has the responsibility of monitoring the revenues of the state through the collecting banks shall provide a report to the Accountant-General of the state.â€
But in reaction wednesday, Braimoh agreed that Alpha Beta was mentioned in error, noting that the process of promulgating the new law â€œis not complete until gazetting when the official copy will be available and the law properly cited.â€
Braimoh, therefore, assured the state that the correct position â€œwill be reflected before the law is gazetted. The process of gazetting itself is being expedited in view of these issues.â€
At a news conference he addressed at the Bagauda Kaltho Centre, Alausa, he said there was so many misconception and misinformation about the new law.
He explained that the law â€œis a progressive enactment duly made by the House of Assembly and handed over to the executive for implementation in the overall interest of the people.â€
Braimoh, specifically dismissed the humongous figures being bandied about on the social media, saying many of the calculations were based on arrears of many years of non-payment.
Bamigbetan explained that the law took a long process to be made, noting that it â€œwas initiated as a bill. The bill passed went through the first reading, second reading, public hearing to which all stakeholders were brought together to debate it.
â€œSome concessions we have seen were part of the debate expressed by the stakeholders about the need to protect the vulnerable segment of the society. Having made the law, the House of Assembly has handed it over to the executive to implement.
â€œThe second important part is that a lot of relieves have been built into the law but many people are confusing arrears with the actual figure. If you see those figures, ask whether it is for one year or arrears of several years of non-payment.
â€œThe humongous figures that are being bandied around particularly in the social media relate to the arrears of many years of non-payment which are computed together.â€
Ashade said the state government has extended the period for tax payers to enjoy the 15 per cent discount in the reviewed Land Use Charge Law to April 14 in order to enable the implementation and enforcement of the new law, as well as allow many property owners to benefit from the discount.
Under the old law, Ashade said the Land Use Charge rate was totally inaccurate and retrogressive and was depriving the state of keeping track of all economic activities that relate to land in Lagos State.
He said the law, which was reviewed by the state House of Assembly and signed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on February 8 is a merger of all property and land based rates and charges in the state.
Ashade? said: â€œThere was an urgent need for the repeal, as the old law had not been reviewed for over 15 years, since 2001. Under the old law, the LUC rate was totally inaccurate and retrogressive which deprived the State of keeping track of all economic activities that relate to land in Lagos State.
â€œThe new law is a consolidation of ground rent, tenement rate, and neighbourhood improvement levy. This charge is payable annually in respect of all real estate properties in the State, which means owners and occupiers holding a lease to a property for ten years or more are now liable to pay the annual LUC invoice charged.â€
Meanwhile, the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday gave Ambode, a seven-day ultimatum to immediately reverse the new land use charge recently announced by his government or face a mass street protest next week Monday.
The NBA Chairman, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, made this known yesterday at a press conference held at the secretariat of the association in Ikeja.
In his speech titled: â€˜Hell Tax Must Goâ€™, Ogunlana said it was clear that if these regimes of tax are allowed, the state would be turned into a â€œtoxic environment and a living hell for Lagosians.â€
The NBA chairman said the state government cannot hide under â€œdeveloping Lagos into a Mega Smart Cityâ€ to kill Lagosians with Pharaoic taxes.â€
He said the increase the Land Use Charge would have an adverse effect on all other services and functions in the state as owners of properties and services would automatically transfer other financial burdens to their customers who would have to bear the burden or crumble.
Ogunlana explained that it was absurd that the governor is seeking dialogue after its government had deliberately and selfishly created the situation in the first instance.
According to him, â€œWe think it is highly absurd for the governor to be seeking dialogue over the issue of the hellish tax regimes after his government deliberately and selfishly created the situation in the first instance.â€
He added: â€œConsultation ought to come before legislation and not the other way round. Our respectful and sober view is that the government of the state has lost sync with the difficult and harsh realities of life of the people of the state and has taken their support and goodwill for his government for granted.
â€œAmbode should not let the people regret voting for him the first time and go on to reject him for a second term.
â€œFew weeks ago, Lagosian woke up to learn about the hyper-inflated rate of the so called â€˜Land Use Chargeâ€™ which the governor of Lagos State has escalated upwards to 400 per cent.
â€œRecently, one of our colleagues who regularly pay the sum of N140,000 as LUC for office building received a notice of the LUC demand, he is now to pay N2million.
â€œIf these tax rates are allowed, Lagos State would be turned into a â€˜toxic environment and a living hellâ€™ for Lagosians.â€
Ogunlana therefore demanded a scrapping of the move by the state government of its new tax regime to turn the state into a hell.
â€œLife will become not only too expensive but volatile and dangerous.
â€œThe state government cannot hide under â€œdeveloping Lagos into a Mega Smart City to kill Lagosians with Pharaoic taxes.
â€œIf by March 12, 2018, the state government refuses to suspend or jettison the new land use charge rates, car registration fees, litigation fees, NBA Ikeja branch shall conduct a â€˜Walk the Talk Protestâ€™ in Lagos as phase two of the struggle against the â€˜economic genocide the Lagos State Government is waging against Lagosians,â€ Ogunlana added.