A stakeholders’ dialogue forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss the recent amendments to the Land Use Charge Law by the Lagos State Government on Friday generated a heated debate between representatives of the state government, property owners, estate developers and members of the Organised Private Sector.
The Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade, in his presentation explained that the law was not a new one and was not meant to punish taxpayers.
According to him, the LUC harmonises the tenement rate, ground rent and neighbourhood improvement levy, which he noted were creations of the 20th Century.
He said that the new law by implication would have about 75 per cent of property owners in Lagos paying about N5,000 annually as LUC.
Ashade explained that the government urgently needed taxes to develop infrastructure to cater for the high influx of people into Lagos at the rate of 85 people per hour in recent times.
He told the stakeholders that they were empowered by the law to calculate their charges and reconcile them with the government.
The commissioner urged people who had issues with the charges they paid on their property to approach the government’s help desk and have the issues resolved.
Responding, the President, LCCI, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, said that the economic situation in the country did not put enough resources in the hands of taxpayers to accommodate additional taxes.
He suggested that the government should get more property owners into its tax net as it had been established that about 700,000 properties existed in the state on which the LUC ought to be charged, but that only about 300,000 property owners were currently on the database of the state government.
“We request that the implementation of the new LUC law be put on hold because of the stakeholders’ complaints, while the grey areas are sorted out. Also, some key provisions in the law need to be normalised in the interest of fairness, equity and natural justice,” Ruwase added.
A representative of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr. Timothy Olawale, accused the government of trying to cripple the survival of businesses that were already struggling.
He said since the new law started circulating, some people had suddenly become hypertensive.
Olawale added that the law was passed without due consultation with stakeholders and even though there was a public hearing, stakeholders’ position was not taken into consideration.
He opposed the law on the basis that people’s base wage and income, which determine the rate of calculating taxes, had been affected by inflation and the application of the LUC on empty land that had not yielded income to the owner was not a good idea.
The Vice Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos State Branch, Dotun Bamigbola, suggested that the LUC 2018 should be anchored on the basic principles of taxation, adding that this would ensure fairness, particularly from the taxpayers’ point of view.
A stakeholder, Iredia Gbadebo asked the government why it did not collect taxes from those who were not paying and who were responsible for the deficit tax position of the state before increasing the rates for those who were complying with the law.