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Land Use Charge: Lagos Assembly Holds Public Hearing

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Land Use Charge: Lagos Assembly Holds Public Hearing

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.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Sea Piracy in Nigeria Drops 80%—NIMASA

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Sea Piracy

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has disclosed that sea piracy has declined drastically by 80 per cent on Nigeria’s territorial waters.

This was made known by the Director-General, Mr Bashir Jamoh, during a courtesy call by Executive Members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, led by the Chairman, Mr Adeleye Ajayi to the NIMASA headquarters in Lagos.

According to Mr Jamoh, $783 million had been lost to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

He said: “We have recorded a drastic reduction in piracy and this is enough for us to beat our chest and say that we are ready to return to the category ‘C’ of membership of International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

“However, the year 2021 has witnessed a significant turnaround under my leadership as insecurity on Nigerian waters had reduced by 80 per cent.”

Mr Jamoh said that the last time the country had a drop in piracy attack in the nation’s waterways was in 1994, saying that Nigerian waterways were one of the top 10 safest glasses of water in the world.

He noted that this achievement was enough reason to sensitise and inform the international community that the Nigerian waterways were now safe than ever before, as Nigeria must take its rightful position among the comity of nations globally.

“We want the cost of the insurance premium paid by Nigerians as a result of insecurity to be reconsidered as insecurity in the country’s waterways had drastically reduced,” Mr Jamoh said.

The NUJ chairman, in his remarks, assured NIMASA of regular publicity as well as a robust relationship between the Lagos Council of NUJ and NIMASA.

He lauded NIMASA for the giant strides it had achieved in the maritime sector, which included safeguarding of Nigeria’s waterways, collaboration with sister agencies of government as well as donations worth millions of naira to the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps and victims of the disaster in the country.

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LAWMA, Alliance Evacuate 75,000 Plastic Bottles from Ilashe Beach

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Plastic Bottles from Ilashe Beach

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) commemorated the 2021 World Clean-up Day by evacuating 75,000 plastic bottles from Ilashe Beach, Lagos.

The exercise was undertaken by Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FIBRA), an umbrella body for about 20 food and beverage manufacturing companies along the five kilometres Ilashe/Ibeshe beach area on the outskirts of Lagos.

Others were Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos Ferry Service, among others.

The World Clean-Up Day, celebrated every September 18, is an annual global social action programme aimed at combating the global solid waste problem, including the problem of marine debris.

Speaking at the event, the Managing Director of LAWMA, Mr Ibrahim Odumboni, said at the event that his agency was using the opportunity of the World Clean-up Day to open up the entire Ilashe Island shoreline to proper cleanup.

Mr Odumboni urged residents and beach users to come together and make a difference by leaving an enduring legacy of a people-friendly environment for improved living and economic prosperity.

“The idea of the World Clean-up Day came up in 2018 when nearly two million volunteers, across individuals, corporate bodies, NGOs and government organizations, came together for massive clean-up activities in major cities across the world.

“We are setting the pace here in Ilashe Island of Lagos for our country. So, I enjoin all residents to sustain this effort.

“LAWMA is not leaving any stone unturned in our determined effort to rid Lagos State of all forms of solid waste.

“Our Marine Unit is effectively evacuating marine debris around the Lagos waterways and we will continue to increase the scope of our activities,” Mr Odumboni said.

Also speaking, the President of the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria (AWAN), Mr David Oriyomi, noted that it was important to educate residents of the aquatic environment on the effects of dumping rubbish into the water.

Mr Oriyomi said that the fishes feed on that rubbish while human beings fed on the fishes which was very dangerous to human health.

In his remark, the Chairman of Lagos Recyclers Association, Mr Femi Idowu, noted that what people see as trash, was actually money, suggesting that people should see the economic value in waste materials.

The programme was attended by Special Adviser to the Governor on Tourism, Mr Solomon Bonu, General Manager of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, Executive Secretary of FIBRA, Ms Arase Aghareva, among others.

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SERAP Urges NASS to Reject Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request

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Fresh Loan Request

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the National Assembly to reject the fresh loan request of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Last week, at the resumption of plenary on the Senate after a break, Mr Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President, read a letter from Mr Buhari requesting to borrow $4 billion and €710 million.

But in a letter, SERAP said both chambers, the Senate and House of Representatives, should not grant this request until the publication of details of spending of all loans obtained since the Buhari-led administration took office on May 29, 2015.

In the open letter signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the group expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”

SERAP said: “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.”

According to SERAP, “Accumulation of excessive debts and unsustainable debt-servicing are inconsistent with the government’s international obligations to use the country’s maximum available resources to progressively achieve the realisation of economic and social rights, and access of Nigerians to basic public services.”

The letter read in part: “The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.

“SERAP urges you to urgently propose a resolution and push for a constitutional amendment on debt limit, with the intent of reducing national debt and deficits. This recommendation is entirely consistent with the constitutional oversight functions and spending powers of the National Assembly, and the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations.

“Indiscriminate borrowing has an effect on the full enjoyment of Nigerians’ economic and social rights. Spending a large portion of the country’s yearly budget to service debts has limited the ability of the government to ensure access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to minimal health care, education, clean water, and other human needs.

“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.

“The National Assembly under your leadership has a constitutional responsibility to urgently address the country’s debt crisis, which is exacerbated by overspending on lavish allowances for high-ranking public officials, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as the absence of political will to recover trillions of naira reported to be missing or mismanaged by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

“The National Assembly should stop the government from borrowing behind the people’s backs. Lack of information about details of specific projects on which loans are spent, and on loan conditions creates incentives for corruption, and limits citizens’ ability to scrutinise the legality and consistency of loans with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), as well as to hold authorities to account.

“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35 trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679 trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31 trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.

“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education.”

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