By TAYO OGUNBIYI
Contrary to claims and counter-claims from different quarters and ‘authorities’, it needs to be stressed that the Lagos State Government has the power by law, through the Lagos State Park Authority, LASPA, to collect parking levies.
Recall that a post that lately circulated on social media in which LASPA issued a letter signed by its General Manager, levying a Lekki-based company N290, 000 for the parking lot outside its premises generated lots of controversies.
Expectedly, political jobbers and people with limited knowledge of the constitutional mandates of LASPA tried fruitlessly to exaggerate the issue by playing to the gallery.
The truth that the public did not imbibe concerning the incident is that LASPA or any of its staffers or agents will not charge on cars parked in any compound.
However, if anyone parks on the setback, such person, organisation or group of persons will be charged accordingly.
That is the law.
A setback (for obvious reasons) is the space between your perimeter fencing and the walkway or the road, as the case may be.
Whoever claims he/she owns a setback around his/her property will have to provide official documentation from the Authorised MDA in Lagos State showing the legal ownership of the said setback and the Traffic Impact Assessment, TIA, certificate of the property to LASPA.
Setbacks are building restrictions imposed on property owners, private or commercial. The Federal, state and local governments create setbacks through Acts, Laws, Bye-laws, ordinances and Building Codes, usually for reasons of public policy such as safety, privacy and environmental protection.
Setbacks prevent land or business premises owners from crowding the property of others, allow for the safe placement of pipelines and help to preserve wetlands.
Setbacks from boundaries by establishing an exact distance from a fixed point such as a property line or an adjacent structure, within which building is prohibited.
Setbacks can significantly affect a property owner’s right to develop land or to modify existing structures on the land and violating setback provisions can lead to legal action against a property owner, and penalties can include fines as well as an order to remove noncompliant structures.
Property owners whose desire to build is stymied by setbacks have few remedies: they can petition their state or local government by applying for a variance-a special permission to depart from the requirements of state or zoning laws and ordinances but variances are generally granted only in cases of extreme hardship.
The Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Regulations, 2019, enacted under the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning And Development Law, Cap U2, Laws of Lagos State 2015, provides for parking requirements and setback parking.
Part 14 of the regulations provides for parking requirements for residential, commercial, industrial and other buildings in Lagos State. Part 14(1)(a) provides that: “Parking provisions shall be calculated at two (2) car parking spaces per dwelling unit in all residential areas including houses, flats and duplex buildings, or two (2) car parking spaces per 100m2 of the plot area.”
It has, thus, become necessary for the public to be equipped with this important information going forward. LASPA does not levy on parking of vehicles inside peoples’ compounds.
For the enlightenment and education of the public, the Lagos State Parking Authority Law, 2018 empowers the Local Governments (LGs) and Local Council Development Authorities, LCDAs, in Lagos State to assign their powers in respect of collection of fees relating to parking to the state government.
Consequently, by a mutual agreement, the LGs and LCDAs in Lagos State have assigned their powers to the state government to collect fees on parking in the state. Therefore, contrary to what is being insinuated in some quarters, the issue of double taxation does not exist in this case.
From the legal point of view, the Court of Appeal was called upon to interpret Section 7 and Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) with regards to the Land Use Charge Law of Lagos State, the Court of Appeal in Ola Animashaun Harimot Oluwabukola v. Attorney General of Lagos State and 5 Or in Appeal No CA/L/1046 delivered on November 19, 2018 held as follows:
“The intendment of Section 1(3) of the Land Use Charge Law of Lagos State is clearly not to take away the function constitutionally donated to the Local Government but to give powers to the Local Government to permit a contractual relationship between it and the state on the issue of collection of taxes, which is clearly within the responsibility of the Local Government without breaching any law or constitutional provision”.
The constitution recognises that any person that has power can exercise such power through other persons or institutions. For example, the Attorney-General can exercise its powers through other persons.
From the foregoing legal perspective, it is therefore constitutional for the state government and by extension LASPA, to demand and collect fees in respect of parking in Lagos State.
For the education of the uninformed, LASPA was created to find lasting solutions to the issues of indiscriminate and illegal parking across the state. The ultimate goal is to aid in the prompt reduction of traffic gridlock experienced across the metropolis.
It was established, among others, to promote parking policies tailored to suit the peculiarities of the state, in line with modern international law.
LASPA is also empowered to remove all impediments arising from indiscriminate parking on carriageways, thereby increasing the carriageway capacity on the roads, improving the flow of traffic and reducing travel time.
The first mandate of the authority is to improve the parking culture. The Agency has the mandate to charge fees on private commercial parks, non-commercial parks and other parking lots on any facility provided by the authority.
According to the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Fredrick Oladehinde, most private commercial parks charge Lagosians between N500 to N1, 000 in parking dues per hour, and each person parking at these respective parks can have four stopovers, which sums up to N2, 000 or N4, 000 daily.
At the end of the year, the Commissioner said, the commercial park owner will realize over N182, 500 or N365, 000 if charges are per hour or gain a total N730, 000 or N1, 460,000 for four stopovers. Most Lagosians pay this price to commercial park owners.
On the contrary, LASPA levy of N80, 000 divided by the number of days in a year results in N219 only, against the above charges of commercial park owners. The difference is quite evident, as the government is quite considerate and responsive in making the environment conducive for all.
It must be stressed that the claims that the government would levy people for parking in their private residences were false.
It is not true. It is an attempt to malign the government by mischievous people.
It is important to restate that, being a government that respects the constitution as the sole source of its engagement with the public, the state government will never resort to any unconstitutional means in its dealings with the people.
Residents are, thus, enjoined to cooperate with the LASPA and other similar stakeholders in carrying out its laudable mandate.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.