Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Justice Valentine Ashi of Apo High Court in Abuja, has declared as illegal, the demand for Tenement Rates by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Councils, because, according to him, there is no Act of the National Assembly to back the practice up.
To this end, property owners and occupiers in the nationâ€™s capital and its environs will heave a sigh of relief as the Court prohibited the six Area Councils from collecting tenement rate from house owners in the FCT.
The court also nullified and set aside, the various bylaws enacted by the area councils to give legal teeth to the tenement rate collection as part of their internal revenue generating drive.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted by Planned Shelter Ltd on behalf of property owners in the FCT, Justice Ashi held that the six area councils led by Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) have no power and capacity to assess, determine, demand and legislate on tenement rate without strict compliance with the provision of section 1 of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution
The judge in a ruling obtained by THISDAY yesterday, said the by-laws enacted by the area councils for the purpose tenement tax were usurpation of functions donated to the national assembly by the constitution.
Specifically, he declared that the various by-laws by the six area councils are un-constitutional, null and void because they constituted a breach of section 1 of the 4th schedule to the 1999 constitution.
He ruled that all actions taken or set to be taken by the area councils connected with the collection of tenement rates from any person or entity within the FCT were nullified, set aside and rendered in effectual by the court.
The court prohibited all the area councils in the FCT from taking further steps whatsoever aimed at giving effect to the purported by-laws for the collection of tenement rates from any person or entity pending when the national assembly shall give effect to the provision of section 1 of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution.
Part of the ruling read: â€œAn Area Council in the FCT is equivalent to a local government Area in a state in the light of section 318  of the constitution. By virtue of section 299 [a], the national assembly is conferred with exclusive legislative competence over and in respect of the FCT.
â€œHowever, until the National Assembly amends or enact another law to replace the Local Government Act, it remains the law in force the governs the Area Councils, as an existing law, within orbit of the provisions of section 315 of the constitution and in reading and applying its provision, even by the court, it must be read with such modifications as may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the constitution.â€