The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, has rejected the upward review of the land use charge by the administration of Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos.
The law wants a property solely occupied by the owner for a residential purpose to be charged at a rate of 0.076 percent per annum.
Also, a property occupied by the owner and tenant(s) or third parties will be charged 0.256 percent per annum, while an investment property fully occupied by tenants or third party(ies) for revenue generation will be charged at 0.76 percent per annum.
The lawyers had earlier given Ambode an ultimatum of five days to reverse the law.
Following the refusal of the governor to accede to their request, the lawyers, who were joined by other civil society groups, assembled at the Bar Centre inside the Lagos high court, Ikeja, on Tuesday morning, from where they marched through Ikeja to the state house of assembly and governor’s office.
“The purpose of this march is to make the government have a rethink on this land use charge and all other obnoxious and excessive taxes on Lagos residents,” Adesina Ogunlana, chairman of the association said while addressing his co-protesters.
He added that they have prepared two letters for the governor and the speaker of the house of assembly. “If they receive us, fine, if they don’t, we will drop the letters on their doorsteps.”
Speaking with TheCable, Inibehe Effiong, human rights lawyer and a member of the association, described the land use charge as abominable and “totally unacceptable”.
“The point of contention is not whether the Lagos government has the statutory power to impose land use charge, what we are questioning is the percentage of increment which is totally abominable,” he said.
“What the new charge says is totally unacceptable to the people of Lagos,” Effiong said.
“This is a state that is notorious for over taxation. This is a government that taxes us even for having our private boreholes. You tax us for everything, and you are coming again to increase land use charge without commensurate increment in the standard of living of the people of Lagos state.”
Under rules governing the distribution of the Lagos land use charge, Alpha Beta, a private firm, was listed as a corporate body responsible for monitoring the incoming revenue through the collecting banks.
Reacting, Effiong said it is very shameful on the part the governor.
Weighing in on the matter, Malachi Ugwumadu, a lawyer and president, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, told TheCable that there are so many aspects of the law that are murderous.
“One is the height of insensitivity,” he explained. “A government that resolves that the only way to mobilse funds to deal with its exigencies is to further impoverish and dehumanise the people already overtaxed, lacks human face in its policies. The aspect of it that also speaks to the percentage of increase is unfortunate.
“We as lawyers have resolved to move our motions on the streets now, and thereafter there will be a great swell of legal litigation to put this within the context of the law, and challenge the propriety of such exorbitant charges.”
Ugwumadu challenged the government on the need to look inward and find a solution to the issue.
“We will abide by the laws, but we don’t want to be over squeezed with these taxations,” he said.
The protesting lawyers said government keeps increasing taxation, and when they say the money generated would be used for development, they are not been truthful.
“Look at the poor state of everything in the state. If you say you want to use the money for local government development, then show us evidence that the existing tax policy is working, that the existing taxation has been utilized for the benefit of every average person in Lagos,” one of the lawyers told TheCable while they marched on.
Although Ambode had called for dialogue on the matter, the lawyers accused him of refusing to listen to their demand.
“As a commencement of negotiation, let the house of assembly, without delay repeal the law. When the law is repealed, you can now call us to a stakeholders’ dialogue,” another lawyer said.
“But you have enacted the law and you are in the process of enforcement, and now calling for dialogue? You are insulting the intelligence e of the people of Lagos. You cannot negotiate an existing law. Let them suspend the implementation of the law, until that is done, there will be no evidence of good faith on the part of the government that they are willing to dialogue or listen to us.”