Residents have taken to the street in protest, demanding the reversal of the increase in Land Use Charge, LUC, slammed on land/building owners in Lagos by administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
At the vanguard of opposition to the new rate are opposition political parties, residents of highbrow estates in Lagos, business and professional associations.
The Organised Private Sector, OPS has already indicated that it will resist the review which it said has led to 200 percent increase in Land Use Charge.
A political party, Action Democratic Party (ADP) for instance, described the increase in the land use charges by Ambode as obnoxious while claiming that the new levy would geometrically increase the level of hardship residents of the state face.
ADP also argued that the increase would lead to an upsurge in rents paid by Lagosians and subsequently render many homeless.
The party added that government exists for the people and people are not supposed to suffer in the hands of those who are serving them as a result of callous policies as being done by the government of Lagos state.
“If the state government is out on an aggressive revenue drive, it should not be done in a manner that will further wreck the already poor and struggling majority in the state”, ADP added.
On its part, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, expressed displeasure at the new charges which it argued will lead to further impoverishment of over 17,000,000 Lagosians.
NBA maintained that the poor economy of the country is already negatively affecting the people while urging the governor to be sensitive in implementing policies that would gravely affect the residents of the state.
Adesina Ogunlana, Chairman of Ikeja branch of NBA accused the governor of turning the state into a ‘toxic environment and living hell for its residents’ because of uncontrolled imposition of taxes.
“It is clear that if these regimes of tax are allowed to stay, Lagos state would have been turned into a toxic environment and a living hell. Even ordinarily in Lagos state, accommodation is only cheap and easily affordable i.e. for those who have the parks and under the bridge to sleep and dwell.”
Adesina further asserted that the governor should not hide under the umbrella of working to develop Lagos into a mega-smart city to kill Lagosians with ‘pharaonic taxes.’
The NBA chairman, therefore urged Ambode to rethink his decision and immediately scrap the increment of the land use charge or risk being voted out of office as he is seeking a second tenure of his time in office.
Similarly, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said stakeholders were not consulted and carried along before the decision to increase the charges was made adding that the increase would contribute to the folding up of many companies in Lagos.
MAN, through its President, Frank Jacobs noted that the state would be setting a bad precedent for other states if the law stands.
Jacob also noted that members of MAN would be affected by the law because it will lead to increase in the price of locally made goods and finished commodities in the state thus killing local companies in the country.
But while reacting to the complaints on Tuesday, Governor Ambode said he is ready to dialogue with the OPS on the Land Use Charge controversy.
The governor spoke at a parley with the OPS, tagged: “Lagos Means Business” held at the Eko Hotels and Towers, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Ambode told the audience made up of business moguls and captains of industries that the LUC was supposed to be reviewed every five years, but lamented that the law had not been reviewed since 2002 when the law was set up, which spanned about 15 years.
“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 issue is this, 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, 15 years after, you are selling at N20 million?
“Why do you think somebody who is a buyer will pay N20 million 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 percent. 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. Is it not still small?” Ambode asked while justifying the increase in LUC.
The governor clarified that pensioners, churches, mosques, NGOs and government institutions did not need to pay the LUC.
“But do you know the truth? Pensioners don’t need to pay. Owner-occupiers is just 0.67 percent. For churches, mosques, NGOs, government institutions is free. So, who is the one that will take care of those 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? 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 we are borrowing money. But we are ready for dialogue, that is the sacrifice,” he said.
Ambode disclosed that N13.2 billion was generated as LUC in 2017, adding that N284 billion was raked in as taxes also in 2017.
But as more individuals and organizations continue to reject the upward review of taxes and rates like the land use charge, car registration fees and litigation fees in Lagos state, the Ikeja branch of NBA disclosed it would be embarking on a peaceful protest on Monday, March 12, 2018, to show its dissatisfaction.