LAGOS—All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos governorship candidate, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, his People’s Democratic Party, PDP, counterpart, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, National Conscience Party, NCP, governorship candidate, Mr. Ayodele Akele and six other candidates vying for the state governorship seat, yesterday, disagreed over the tax regime, the challenges confronting education and other issues bordering on the development of the state.
The candidates spoke at the third edition of the gubernatorial debate organised by the Diocese of Lagos West, Anglican Communion (Church of Nigeria), Ikeja which also had in attendance Senator, Musiliu Obanikoro, Lagos chairman of APC, Chief Henry Ajomale and others.
Other candidates at the debates were; Action Alliance, Mr. Ishola Aregbesola, Kowa Party, Mr. Victor Adeniji, Mega Progressives Peoples Party, MPPP, Mr. Kayode Jacobs, Alliance for Democracy, AD, Mr. Bolaji Ogunseye, Labour Party, Pastor Biodun Popoola, Independent Democrats, Mr. Akinola Obadia.
The debate was moderated by Professor Bayo Asaju while President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Femi Adesina, Dr. Oladimeji Alo, Mr. Ray Echebiri and Rev. Olusola Odedeji and Reverend Adeyemi, Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos West and Badagry respectively.
Speaking on the effect of the price of crude oil on the state’s economy, Ambode said: “Two-third of the Lagos revenue is generated from tax. And we knew that a day like this will come and that was why we strengthened our tax system.
“There are eight million residents of Lagos who should be in the tax net but we have only four million captured at present. The next strategy is to ensure that we become more efficient in generating more revenue internally. We will be more creative with it by pleading with those that are yet to embrace the payment of tax in the state. The tax we get was what we have used to develop the state”
But Agbaje was quick to fault the claim by Ambode, saying “the state government is putting the burden of the eight million persons who should have paid tax on the four million tax payers. And it is heavy and they are grumbling. You have to expand the tax net rather than over burden the few that are complying. Also, there is need to expand the economy to create more jobs and others.”
He noted that the revenue generated within the state was enough to cater for the state needs. “But there is a lot of wastage by the government. At the moment, the state does not encourage businesses.”
Ogunseye avowed that “the drop in oil price globally does not translate to over taxing the residents. Rather than increase the tax levies, I will increase the number of production and the number of people engaged in it. Our problem is that few people are doing the job.
Jacob said the tax regime in the state has forced “a lot of SMEs to relocate to Ogijo and Mowe in Ogun State. But for us, we will give tax holidays to these smaller companies in order to thrive.”
According to Akele; “The bulk of the revenue generated by the state government is been mismanaged by some individuals. But when I am elected, I will use 15 per cent of the revenue generated in the state to run the State service and we will terminate the contract of those private individuals who manage the tax administration in the state. And we will have enough funds to provide infrastructure.
On the challenges affecting education, Agbaje lamented; “82 per cent of the state budget in this sector is spent on recurrent expenditure. All the funds allocated to education was always spent on salaries. And with that, our education will not improve. The education of today is not for the factory but about creativity.”
The PDP candidate added; ”The state government spends three per cent on primary education and that is the key because if the foundation is not effective, there can never be solid structure.”
Akele noted that public school classrooms were overcrowded, saying; “The student ratio in our time was 20 students to a teacher. But in Lagos, our classroom is like a venue for Town Hall meeting. We will reduce the population in the classrooms.
“For instance, the infrastructure in Lagos State University, LASU, is in shambles. It is disservice to the founders of the institution. The current government has inflicted injury on the residents of the state.”
Jacob affirmed that everything was wrong with education because the students who graduated from the College of Educations in the state do not go into teaching, adding “the government is not making teaching attractive.”
Ambode in a swift reaction said: “Agbaje said that 85 per cent of the state budget is spent on salary. That is not true. He didn’t understand that there are several schools in the state and the population of the pupils is increasing daily.
“And the number of teachers must also increase. Obviously, the numbers reflect the number of teachers and others that were gainfully employed by the government. Also there would be need to review the curriculum to ensure that our youths meet international standards.”
You have no governance experience before 1999, Agbaje tells Tinubu
Agbaje in reaction to the claim by Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu against him, said that Tinubu had no governance experience before assuming the post of governor in the state.
“Even the national leader of the ruling party in Lagos did not have government experience before he was elected as governor of this state in 1999. All he had was three months as Senator before he was elected.”
Ambode reacting, said: “But the result of what that leader (Tinubu) did can speak for itself.”