Members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA; National Conscience Party, NCP; Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, and Joint Action Committee, JAC, in apparent disapproval of the 2018 Land Use Charge Law in Lagos state, stormed the Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja, on Tuesday to protest against the hike in levies charged by the state government on property in the state.
The protesters, who defied the scorching sun, started the march, which terminated at the Ikeja High Court, demanding an immediate reversal of the new Land Use Charge, LUC law enforcement and subject it to fresh review.
They, however, demanded that other taxes and levies introduced by the Ambode-administration should be shelved and subjected to review to prevent hardship in Lagos.
The protesters, who were dressed in red T-shirts with the inscription, ‘NBA Rejects Oppressive Taxes in Lagos State’, argued that the government never embarked on wider consultation before the law was passed, saying, the hike in charges would further affect cost of goods and services.
To further express their dissatisfaction against the hike in the Land Use Charge, the protesters were armed with placards which read: ‘Lagos Is Not Only For The Rich’, ‘We Are Not Selling Houses, Why Commercial Valuation’, ‘Land Use Charge Increment Is Wicked, Satanic and Oppressive’, ‘Assembly Members Must Wake Up and Scrap Anti-people Laws’, Ambode Taxes Will Kill The Masses’, among others.
While reading the letter sent to Ambode on their stand on the new law, NBA chairman, Ikeja Branch, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, lamented that the taxes introduced by the present administration would further lead to job losses and cripple the state economy.
He said: “We urge that you suspend the application of Land Use Charge for immediate review now, after excessive consultation with stakeholders.
“We respectively convey our branches’ deep opposition to the direction of your revenue generation drive in Lagos state by way of legislation of taxes and levies, especially the Land Use Charge as captured in the Land Use Charge Law 2018.
“Our disagreement with the law is on three fundamental bases. And the first is that the important legislation was passed without adequate and proper consultations. Little wonder the reason for the wide furore and brouhaha over it.
“The second is that the legislation lacks legality to the extent of its apparent usurpation of the power of Local Government vis-à-vis the 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.
“However, despite the propaganda mathematics of your government, the truth is that the populace lacks the capacity to bear the tax burden now imposed. Lagos, ordinarily, is an expensive place to live. And only the elite rich considered it a comfortable zone of existence.
“Accommodation, likewise it is hard to find and expensive for most masses who remain tenants. Therefore, stiff tax on property, will only worsen the already bad situation for tenant, either residential or commercial, in the state.
“The bandwagon effect of Land Use Charge will create hiper-inflation in food, transportation and accommodation and lead to incapacitation of entrepreneurship, leading to crime increase, job losses and social insecurity.”
He stated that the protesters understood vision and commitment to achieve a better Lagos. However, he said this must be done without jettisoning the convenience of the residents in the state.
“The transformation agenda of your government to make Lagos a Megacity should not be at the cost of the destruction of the very people you care to serve.
“We also state our vehement opposition to various sundry levies of strange dimension and extraction. For instance, the state government introduction of borehole levy of N65, 000 permit is strange that your government could impose tax on a core area of living which primarily is the duty of government to provide.
“Clearly the focus of these policies imposed on the judiciary is not the diligent prosecution and conviction of offenders but the commercial exploitation of their predicament by the state.
“In view of all these, we urge the governor to listen to wise counsel over these excessive taxes this administration has imposed on residents, and review same downward considerably.”
Responding, the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode and Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudasiru Obasa, assured the protesters they would respond positively to their demands soon.
Ambode, who was represented by Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said: “We have received your letter and I can assure you that we will address your demands. And just yesterday, I said that I am open to dialogue. I will not renege on these promises. I want to urge you to remain patient; you will receive positive response soon.”
Obasa, who was also represented by Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Senai Agunbiade, argued that if the lawyers had attended the public hearing on the bill, their input would have been included before the passage.
“This is why we have clamoured for proper relationship between the lawyers and the lawmakers in Lagos. This is what we try to ensure whenever bills are about to be passed into law. The reason for this is to ensure that everyone has their input. That is why we often invite everyone to come and add their input into the bill before it becomes law in the state.
“If everyone takes interest in the bill presented at the House, we will have more people at the public hearing and their input would be included in the bill before it is passed.
“The governor is a listening person. All you have read out cannot be addressed here but the lawmakers will look into it and respond. I am happy the way you have comported yourselves. When people become conscious of the activities in their state, it helps democracy to function effectively,” he added.