By Ebun Sessou
The newly introduced Land Use Charge has generated controversy in recent times. To this end, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Abiodun Tobun representing Epe Constituency I, speaks on the grey areas of the LUC. The lawmaker who is also the adhoc committee chairman on Works and Infrastructure says the bill is not as difficult as people are portraying it, rather, the rich in Lagos are making efforts to frustrate the government of Govenor Akinwunmi Ambode. Excerpts
The newly introduced Land Use Charge has become a problem and the people are speaking against it. How would you react to this?
You would see that the government wants to develop all the parts of the state. If you are thinking of generating money from the rural area to develop the place, you will not get anything. Go to Ikorodu, how many commercial houses do you have there that can generate revenue to develop the place? Tell me how many commercial houses in Badagry or Epe that can generate money to develop the areas. There is none.
Lagos State is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria because more than 50 per cent of the headquarters of businesses are in Lagos. But, they don’t reside in Badagry, Ikorodu or Epe and most of the new expenditures of the government are concentrated in central Lagos. So, where do they want us to generate money to develop other parts of Lagos?
Are they going to generate money through multiple taxes?
Which multiple taxes? The Land Use Charge is a tax that includes development levy, tenement rate, and land use charge. So, nobody would collect tenement rate or development levy from you any more. Commercial and residential property enjoy 40 per cent of the value of their property. The same material used for a house in Victoria Island, Epe or Badagry would be different in value.
So, on Land Use Charge, the whole thing varies as prescribed by the valuers to give the value of the property. If the house is valued, if you are the only one there, you would pay 10 per cent, if you are living with a tenant, you will pay half of commercial because you are using part of it. If it is purely commercial, you would pay 100 per cent. People are saying 400 per cent.
That means if you are paying N5,000, you will now pay N200,000. But a landlord living in the house would pay only 10 per cent. We don’t know where journalists got their own figures, may be you should go and ask them.
When a law is passed, it would be assented to by the Governor and it would be gazetted and it becomes a law.
Why has the government not made the people know the truth?
That is why the Governor has been having stakeholders’ meetings across the state. When the issue was raised, the Governor reacted that Alpha Beta would be removed as consultant. A draft of the bill came to the House and 90 per cent of the bills brought to Lagos State House of Assembly go through surgical operations.
When a bill comes, it goes through first reading and second reading before third reading after which it becomes a law. It is at that second reading that we are expected to say the pros and cons of the bill. The bill was later committed to the House Committee on Finance; lawyers were there, estate valuers were there, landlords, tenants and agents were there.
How do you get the audience for the public hearings?
We get them through advertisements in some newspapers, radio jingles. We also wrote letters to the stakeholders for the public hearing. But our people don’t come because some of them are lazy. I remember, when the stakeholders’ meeting was held, we had the Association of Christian Lawyers apart from others. They came with suggestions and all these were included and they were all informed.
Are you saying they were informed about the 400 per cent increase?
They were informed about the content of the bill.
There is hunger in the land and people are suffering. Is this what we need now?
It is exactly what we need. That is what would put food on the table of the people and give them houses. The government plans to build 20,000 houses in the next three years for the masses. This government was able to recruit and employ so many young graduates. They have employed about 20,000 youths, who would marry and take care of their children.
The rich people are the major problem and not the poor because if you are not so rich, you would not build a commercial house, you would build the one you could live in with your family. If you are rich, you would build the one you are going to live in and the one you would rent out to the poor. We are now saying that you should pay part of that money to the government, which they would use to develop those areas and which the government would use to build houses for the people.