The public hearing on the proposed amendment to the 2018 Land Use Charge Law held yesterday at the Lagos State House of Assembly. Interest in the Land Use Charge legislation has been very high ever since the uproar generated when a few weeks ago, the government began distributing demand notices in line with the 2018 version of the Land Use Charge. Some members of the public were surprised at the new Land Use Charge tariffs charged, sequel to the new law. In response to the uproar generated, the Lagos State Government proposed a number of drastic amendments to the law including tariff cuts across board. It is these amendments among others that are now being considered by the parliament.
The Lateef Jakande Auditorium of the Lagos State House of Assembly was therefore understandably full to capacity as all of its segments including its gallery were crowded with Lagosians from different walks of life.
The Ikeja Branch of the NBA, however, had sought a postponement of the Public Hearing. In the view of the Chairman of the Branch, Mr. Ogunlana Adesina, because copies of the law and the proposed amendments had not been made widely available to the public prior to the hearing, the hearing ought to have been postponed in order for this to be done.
In over-ruling this request, however, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Mudashiru Obasa reminded the House that the issues being discussed are not particularly new, having been in the public domain for several weeks. Besides, he added that of the 37 sections of the Land Use Charge Law, only 8 were actually billed for amendment. The issues, therefore, were not particularly new as to warrant further delays or postponement he said.
Upon this pronouncement by the Speaker which the House took well, as there were no subsequent protests or murmurs from the floor, the members of the Ikeja branch of the NBA staged a quiet walk-out. About 15 or so members all dressed in red or white T-shirts, quietly walked out of the hall.
The walk-out however did nothing to disrupt the proceedings as the Public Hearing continued seamlessly.
Public representation was heavy with organized groups such as the Organized Private Sector, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, different resident associations including Magodo, the Lekki Corridor, Apapa, Festac, Ikorodu etc, Estate Agents’ Association, Private medical practitioners association, hoteliers, and many others were at the public hearing and contributed significantly to its proceedings.
Some of the key issues discussed revolved around the Assembly’s intention to replace the phrase “market value” of property, with just “value.” Several commentators were worried that this may leave the term vague and made different suggestions as to how to get around this issue. Estate surveyors suggested that discounted market value may be the way to go.
Many respondents also hailed the impact of the Lagos State Government so far especially regarding its efforts on infrastructure. They conceded that while it has done so well and they appreciate that indeed taxes make development possible, they called for moderation in the tax regime in order to enable Lagosians pay conveniently.
The Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Akinyemi Ashade announced that the Executive had proposed a general relief rate of 50%, up from the 40% of old. He added that other reliefs included the charge rate for commercial properties which had been reduced to 0.45% (from 0.76%) while industrial charge rate had also been reduced to 0.230%.
Speakers at the Public Hearing also raised the issue of “pensioner,” adding that any pensioner regardless of whether he worked at a pensionable office before retirement ought to benefit from the reliefs in the land use charge law.
The Speaker sought additional memoranda from members of the public, adding that members of the public were encouraged to submit memoranda to the committee for consideration over the next two weeks members.
The Speaker hailed the session as the best attended Public Hearing in the history of the Lagos State House of Assembly.