…Lekki residents to take case to tribunal
Sesan Olufowobi, Oladimeji Ramon and Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi
The Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, has given the Lagos State Government a seven-day ultimatum to reverse the recent hike in Land Use Charge.
The Chairman, NBA Ikeja Branch, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, said in a statement on Wednesday that the association was set to embark on a mass protest tagged: ‘Hell Tax Must Go’ against the new tax regime.
Ogunlana stated that the NBA was strongly opposed to the LUC, which he described as an “excessive and arbitrary tax regime” calculated at turning Lagos State into a “toxic environment and a living hell” for the residents.
He said the association would give Governor Akinwunmi Ambode till next Monday to retrace his steps on the LUC, failing which its members would hit the streets on Tuesday.
According to him, the protest will be the association’s “first phase of critical and constructive response to the decidedly insensitive, provocative, arbitrary and parochial tax agenda programme against the Ambode administration.”
The NBA chairman said, “Few weeks ago, Lagosians woke up to learn about the hyper-inflated rate of the so-called Land Use Charge, which the governor of Lagos State has escalated upwards by 400 per cent.
“Recently, one of our colleagues, who regularly paid the sum of under N140,000 as LUC for an office building, received a demand notice for the LUC; he is now to pay the amount of N2m.
“If these tax rates are allowed, Lagos State will be turned into a toxic environment and a living hell for Lagosians.”
According to Ogunlana, the new LUC will have an adverse effect on all other services and functions in Lagos State as owners of properties and services will automatically transfer other financial burdens to their customers, who will have to bear the burden.
He added, “My view is that the government of Lagos State has lost sync with the difficult and harsh realities of life of the people of Lagos and has taken their support and goodwill for granted. Life will become not only too expensive, but volatile and dangerous.
“The government cannot hide under developing Lagos into a mega smart city to kill Lagosians with exorbitant taxes.”
Meanwhile, residents of the Lekki peninsula have revealed plans to go to the Lagos State Land Use Appeal Tribunal over the new bills being served on them under the re-enacted LUC Law.
The Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association, a coalition of all residents associations along the Lekki-Epe Axis of the state from the 1004 Estate to Epe, met on Sunday and unanimously resolved that the members would not pay the new charges, which they said were four times higher than what they paid in 2017.
The Chairman, VGC Property Owners and Residents Association, Mr. Olusegun Ladega, said residents found the new charges exorbitant and out of tune with their economic realities.
Ladega, who is also the Vice Chairman, LERSA, told our correspondent that the charges were based on unrealistic and arbitrary valuation of residents’ properties.
He stated that the residents had commenced the process of documentation and had set up a committee to take their case to the Lagos State Land Use Appeal Tribunal.
Ladega explained, “We were served bills on the Land Use Charge that were about four times higher compared with what we paid in 2017 due to the valuation of our properties through a process we know nothing of and consider as unrealistic and arbitrary.
“The figures with which they valued our properties are out of tune with market realities and we do not even know when these properties were valued. How do you value a property without the owner knowing? We have resolved to take our case to the tribunal shortly.”
Ladega noted that residents of the peninsula were being squeezed economically as they also had to pay tolls to get to their houses despite the fact that there was only one way leading into the area.
He called on the Lagos State House of Assembly to make laws that were fair, just and in tune with economic realities.
“They should look at the recently passed law and see if they have acted in the best interest of the citizens,” he advised.
Charges low, won’t cause hardship – LASG
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government on Wednesday said the Land Use Charge Law of 2018 would not cause hardship, adding that the rates were not high.
Speaking during a press briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the figures being bandied around were not true, adding that people with high amounts in the demand notices were those who had not paid land charges for several years.
“There have been so many misconceptions and misinformation about the new law. The law is a progressive enactment duly made by the House of Assembly and handed over to the executive for implementation in the overall interest of the people,” he stated.
Shedding more light on the law, the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, said it was a merger of all property and land-based rates and charges in the state.
“It is a consolidation of the ground rent, tenement rate and neighbourhood improvement levy. The owners and occupiers holding a lease to a property for 10 years or more are now liable to pay the annual charge,” Ashade stated.
The commissioner said property owners could determine the amount to be paid by multiplying the market value of their properties with the applicable relief rate of 40 per cent and the annual charge rate.
He noted that the minimum rate was only increased from N1,200 it was in 2001 to N5,000.
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