By Dipo Olowookere
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, has disclosed that he was ready to engage stakeholders in the state on the controversial land use charge.
The state government recently signed the land use act into law, which brought about upward review of the fees paid by property owners.
But since the bill was assented to by the Governor, many have accused government of being sensitive to sufferings in the land.
Speaking on Tuesday during a forum in Lagos, Mr Ambode said his administration was not oblivious of the hue and cry generated by the revised Land Use Charge Law, saying that the government was ready to dialogue to resolve the issues going forward.
Governor Ambode explained that the review of the law was not a deliberate attempt by the government to overburden property owners but a decision taken in the overriding interest of the future of Lagos.
The forum had in attendance major players in the business circle including former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke; founder, First City Monument Bank Group, Otunba Subomi Balogun; Chairman, Premier Lotto Limited, Chief Kessington Adebutu; Chairman, Eleganza Group of Companies, Alhaji Rasak Okoya; Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia; founder United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr Tony Elumelu; Chairman Honeywell Group, Dr Oba Otudeko; former Minister of Industry, Mrs Nike Akande, Chairman, Channels Television, Mr John Momoh, members of the diplomatic corps, top business owners, among others.
He said the Law, enacted in 2001 provides for an upward review every five years, but that the State Government had not carried out any review of the Law up until 2017, adding that the recent review was in line with the present economic realities.
He said, “The law was made in 2001. It provides that every five years, we should review it and also find a way to increase. 15 years after in 2017, the law has never been reviewed. Now, the question is this; those who are having commercial properties, the rental income they were getting in 2002 as against the rental income they are getting in 2017, is it the same? The level of infrastructure that existed in 2002 as against what has happened in the last 15 years, are they the same? Did it not come at a cost? So, why is the market value of the property that you built with one million naira, 15 years after, you are selling at N20million. Why do you think somebody who is a buyer will pay N20million for it? Is it not because of the facilities around the property? So, we have to sacrifice; that is how it works everywhere.
“So, somebody comes and say we have increased by 400 per cent. The question is the 400 percent of what? You were paying N10,000 before, now we say you should pay N50,000 and you are calculating and turning statistics upside down by saying it is 400 percent.
Explaining further, the Governor said that while the revised Land Use Charge law requires owner-occupiers to pay just 0.076 per cent, pensioners, churches, mosques, non-governmental organisations and government institutions are exempted from payment.
“So, who is the one that will take care of the ones that are free? If you are owner-occupier you don’t need to pay. So, it’s the commercial part that people are complaining about.
“Why have we increased the rate? We should have been doing this every five years but I am looking at it if I must sustain the level of my vision, I have to give something back to people. I don’t have to come and meet you if I continue to borrow money, but we are borrowing to punish you ultimately which is not what we want because it is even the taxes you pay that would pay the interest and the principal. Somebody needs to tell us the bitter truth for us to sacrifice together and that is what we have done,” Governor Ambode said.
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