By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday held a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the land use charge recently signed into law by the state governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.
Shortly after the bill was signed into law in February 2018, it generated controversies with some people asking for its immediate repeal because of the astronomical hike in the land use charge rate.
This month, the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) staged a protest, calling on government to revoke the law.
However, some hours after the demonstration by the lawyers, the state government announced a 50 percent reduction in the rate, promising to engage stakeholders more on the controversial land use charge.
Yesterday, the Lagos assembly held a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the new law, which took place at the Lateef Jakande Auditorium.
The venue was filled to capacity with key stakeholders involved in the matter, including the Ikeja branch of the NBA, which requested for a postponement of the hearing because copies of the law and the proposed amendments had not been made widely available to the public prior to the hearing.
Chairman of the branch, Mr Ogunlana Adesina, argued that it was necessary for the public to have the documents so as to form major crux of discussions.
In over-ruling this request, however, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, reminded the House that the issues being discussed are not particularly new, having been in the public domain for several weeks.
Besides, he added that of the 37 sections of the Land Use Charge Law, only 8 were actually billed for amendment. The issues, therefore, were not particularly new as to warrant further delays or postponement, he said.
Upon this pronouncement by the Speaker, which the House took well, as there were no subsequent protests or murmurs from the floor, members of the Ikeja branch of the NBA staged a quiet walk-out. About 15 or so members all dressed in red or white T-shirts, quietly walked out of the hall.
However, the walk-out did nothing to disrupt the proceedings as the public hearing continued seamlessly.
Public representation was heavy with organized groups such as the Organized Private Sector, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, different resident associations including Magodo, the Lekki Corridor, Apapa, Festac, Ikorodu etc, Estate Agents’ Association, Private medical practitioners association, hoteliers, and many others were at the public hearing and contributed significantly to its proceedings.
Some of the key issues discussed revolved around the Assembly’s intention to replace the phrase ‘market value’ of property, with just ‘value.’
Several commentators were worried that this may leave the term vague and made different suggestions as to how to get around this issue. Estate surveyors suggested that discounted market value may be the way to go.
Many respondents also hailed the impact of the Lagos State government so far especially regarding its efforts on infrastructure. They conceded that while it has done so well and they appreciate that indeed taxes make development possible, they called for moderation in the tax regime in order to enable Lagosians pay conveniently.
Commissioner of Finance, Mr Akinyemi Ashade, announced that the Executive had proposed a general relief rate of 50 percent, up from the 40 percent of old. He added that other reliefs included the charge rate for commercial properties which had been reduced to 0.45 percent (from 0.76 percent) while industrial charge rate had also been reduced to 0.230 percent.
Speakers at the event also raised the issue of “pensioner,” adding that any pensioner regardless of whether he worked at a pensionable office before retirement ought to benefit from the reliefs in the land use charge law.
The Speaker sought additional memoranda from members of the public, adding that members of the public were encouraged to submit memoranda to the committee for consideration over the next two weeks members.
Mr Obasa hailed the session as the best attended public hearing in the history of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
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