By Nse Anthony-Uko
(Sundiata Post) – Nigeria’s largest alliance of businesses and employers under the aegis of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has implored the Lagos State government to discontinue implementation of the 2018 Land Use Charge (LUC) describing it as a punitive measure with potential in incapacitate businesses and further impoverish residents.
In a presentation of what it called ‘Mathematical Facts and Truths’ of the LUC, NECA’s President Larry Ettah and Director General Olusegun Oshinowo, presented figures showing that land use charges have gone up by no less than 500 per cent in some cases
To buttress its point, NECA also published copies of the land use invoice for 2017 and 2018 sent to one of its member companies by the state government showing and increase of 1,279 per cent
“A company paid N420,626.52 in 2017 and in 2018, the Lagos State Government has asked the same company to pay N5,804,623.30. This amounts to 1,279 per cent increase over the 2017 rate.”
“The Lagos State Government increased the assesses market value of the company from N106,758.00 in 2017 to N762,762.00 in 2018 an increase of 600 per cent.”
“The facts presented above are not unique to this organization but representative of the various demand notices that the Lagos State Government has sent out to residents of Lagos. As Business Membership Organization we have in our record demand noticed that have been received by not less than 100 companies in Lagos State indicating an increase of not less than 500 per cent of the rate paid in 2017,” NECA said in its presentations.
The Lagos state government is said to have increased the assessed market value of the property by 614 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent relief was applicable across board to all categories of property owners and there are additional reliefs of 100 per cent to pensioners and retirees who own properties, 10 per cent for properties owned by septuagenarians, and 10 per cent 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 per cent increase in land use charges this year will see revenues rise proportionately to about N66 billion.