UPDATED: Lagos lying over new land use charge, say employers
by LOLADE AKINMURELE & JOSHUA BASSEY
March 13, 2018 | 2:19 am| | | Start Conversation
The people who feel where the shoe pinches have had their say on the new Lagos Land Use Charge (LUC) and it flatly contradicts claims made by the State government.
Nigeria’s largest alliance of businesses and employers under the aegis of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) on Monday presented figures showing that land use charges in the country’s commercial capital have gone up by no less than 500 percent in some cases.
In a statement likely to add more flame to the raging anger in Lagos, Larry Ettah and Olusegun Oshinowo, President and Director General respectively of NECA who dubbed the new land use charge punitive and with potential to further incapacitate and impoverish residents, supported their position by providing a copy of the land use invoice for 2017 and 2018 sent to one of NECA’s member companies by the state government.
The company, which NECA cited in a newspaper advert on March 12, saw a 1,279 percent increase in its land use charge to N5.8 million this year from N420.6 thousand in 2017.
The Lagos state government is said to have increased the assessed market value of the property by 614 percent to N762.76 million in 2018 from N106.7 million the previous year.
NECA also said it has the demand notices that have been received by not less than one hundred companies in Lagos, indicating a 500 percent increase over the rate paid in 2017.
This contradicts the assertion of Kehinde Bamigbetan, a media adviser to the governor, who claimed that “the law empowers every property owner with the formula for calculating the charge and vests property owners with the right to self-assessment,” in a rejoinder published in BusinessDay on March 12.
“The alleged 40 percent discount of market value by the government is not true as per the land use charge demand notice,” NECA said, adding that the discount was not “automatic but subject to the discretion of Government.”
Bamigbetan had said a 40 percent relief was applicable across board to all categories of property owners and there are additional reliefs of 100 percent to pensioners and retirees who own properties, 10 percent for properties owned by septuagenarians, and 10 percent for properties owned by the disabled.”
The business alliance said the position of the state government that it raised the charge sharply because there had been no review in rates since 2002 was both inciting and disingenuous.
According to NECA, “it is government’s negligence not to have reviewed the land use charge every five years as stipulated in the act. It, therefore, runs against rationality for government to suddenly wake up and decide to punish residents for its negligence of time past.”
The body has asked the government “to retrace its steps in the implementation of this obnoxious law.”
Already, organised labour has served notice to begin mobilisation for a show down with the state if the land use charge was not reversed, saying that the poor masses would be at the receiving end of an increase in tenement rents.
“We demand an immediate withdrawal of that law in its entirety. If the state government insists on going ahead with that law, we shall begin the immediate mobilisation of the angst of the citizenry of Lagos against this government.
“Among others, we shall demand the resignation of the state governor and the speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly through which the law was passed. This is one act that would not be allowed to remain as it has the tendency of spreading to other states of the country,” United Labour Congress (ULC) said in a statement signed by Joe Ajaero, its president, on Monday.
Indications, however, emerged on Monday that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is giving in to pressure to rethink the law.
Ambode who fielded questions from journalists in Ikeja, said his government would come out with a “positive position to ameliorate” the issues raised by stakeholders on the new law within the next one week.
“As you would have observed, we held a session with the business community last week on Lagos Means Business and one of the topical issues that were raised was about the Land Use Charge and during that session, I did say that the state government was open to dialogue. Ever since that Tuesday, we have been consulting with people and we have also been trying to explain the basis of this Land Use Charge Law.”
“I want Lagosians to understand one particular issue. We have over 300 tax items for which nothing has been touched apart from this Land Use Charge and maybe one other. But again, we are a very responsive government; we are very sensitive because at the end of the day, governance is about the people; it is about what they want.
“Yes, people might like that infrastructural development is on the progressive chart in Lagos but also it comes with a price. But notwithstanding in the middle of all that, a responsive government will listen to the yearnings of her people.
“So, obviously when I say I want dialogue, I really mean it and I am ready to respond to that. We should be able to come out with something positive that actually ameliorate the issues being raised by concerned stakeholders,” the governor said.
He explained that the ultimate goal of his administration was to create a framework to put the Lagos on a sound pedestal for economic growth and prosperity, and as well secure the future of the state, but that something positive would be done to respond to the issues raised by the people.
“At the end of the day, it’s all for the development of Lagos. What this government is interested in is to create a trajectory and framework of permanent prosperity for Lagos. It is not about today, it is about the future and if there is going to be permanent prosperity in Lagos, some things have to be done but I can tell you based on the dialogue and the things we have been receiving, obviously we would respond positively to those yearnings,” Ambode said.
Lagos generated N13.3 billion from land use charges in 2017. This implies that the 500 percent increase in land use charges this year will see revenues rise proportionately to about N66 billion.
LOLADE AKINMURELE & JOSHUA BASSEY
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