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Stakeholders fret over proposed land use law

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Stakeholders fret over proposed land use law

 

If the current bill before the Lagos State House of Assembly is anything to go by, some identified wrongs in the Lagos State Land Use Charge (LUC) Law 2001 will be put in proper perspective as stakeholders register their concerns. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

The bill seeking to repeal the Land Use Charge Law, 2001 and enact the Land Use Charge Law 2017 to provide for the consolidation of property and land based rates and charges payable under the land rates law is receiving public attention in the Lagos State House of Assembly.

 

If the law is passed, the new land based charge will harmonise Land Rates Law, Neighbourhood Improvement Charge Law and Tenement Rates Law.

Justifying its essence, Chairman of the assembly’s eight-man Ad hoc Committee on Finance, Hon. Oluyinlka Ogundimu, gave assurance to stakeholders at the meeting comprising professional estate surveyors, religious bodies, non-governmental organisations and tax consultants among others, that the proposed bill would prevent local government from coming with tenement rates and the state government coming with another rate on the same property Professionals under the auspices of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers are already raising dust over the proposed market value formula being adopted by the proponents.

 

Ogundimu said that the LUC would be based on market value and will be beneficial to property owners.

According to the chairman, the new law will correct some wrongs in the system, describing a situation where some houses still pay N1,500 as land use charge as ‘not palatable.’

He said: “We have to harmonise some bills to form this new one. With the new law, the local government will not come with a bill, while the state government would come with another one on property.

 

“We want everything to be harmonised and make it convenient for the people. We have ensured that we will consider the market value of the houses.”

The lawmaker added that some of the houses were closer to the market value, while others are far from it, adding that what would be given out would be the value of the land and building and that the rate would be determined by the government.

“What we will have will be the market value and this has been reduced by 40 per cent. We called the public hearing to hear opinions of people. We will look at their position papers,” he said.

Experts’ perspectives

Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos branch, Mr. Olurogba Orimolade, faulted the formula being proposed by the government, saying it was defective to apply the same formula for residential, commercial and industrial properties.

“The formula should have more engagements of the institution and I would say that the Lagos State Government is losing money through the formula,” he said His deputy, Mr Dotun Bamgbola, corroborated him, saying that the government should not use the same formula for residential and commercial property.

“The formula should be transparent to everybody and people should know how they are being assessed,” he said. Bamgbola said that NIEVS would still engage the lawmakers and make clear cut suggestions on the issue.

 

A former Chairman, NIESV, Lagos branch, Pastor Stephen Jagun, said the formula was not known, urging them to bring in professionals to help them in the harmonisation and implementation of the law. A representative of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Thompson Akpabio, cautioned against over burdening of property owners.

Akpabio said that the bill failed to address how terms like land value rate and building value rate were defined and could be subject to any form of interpretation.

 

Proposed formulae

Section 6 of the bill states: “As from the commencement of the law, the annual amount of the Land Use Charge payable for any property shall be arrived at by multiplying the market value of the property by the applicable Relief Rate and Annual Charge Rate using the prescribed formulae outlined below and more particularly described in the schedule to this law.

The bill explained the formulae as Land Value + Building Developments Value * Relief Rate * Charge Rate. According to section 6 (2) of the bill, “the land value and building value rates constituting the market value of the property shall be reviewed at least once every five years on the basis of information available to professional valuers, and may vary from area to area.”

Some of the stakeholders who attended the hearing commended the state government for coming up with a bill that would harmonise charges on properties but cautioned it not to over burden the owners and occupiers. The Chairman of Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria, Mr. Lawrence Nnoli, said that the law usurped some constitutional provisions.

He said: “I will implore the House not to be against the federation.” He urged the House to exempt some non-governmental organisations from payment of charges as, according to him, they are not profit oriented.

Also, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Mr. Rasak Balogun, said that educational institutions should not be exempted from the payment of land use charge, saying that some of them were being operated as commer- cial organisations. Balogun also advised that there should be proper identification and notification so that those coming for valuation would be identified by property owners.

He suggested that estate valuers, architects and others should be part of the tribunal to be set up for the bill, when it becomes a law. Officer of Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry, Mr. Akinbajo Adekunle, said that summary conviction was not well spelt out in the bill, and that it would increase pains of property owners in the state.

On “Property Excepted from Payment of Land Use Charge,” Chairman, Lagos State Community Development Advisory Council, Alhaji Tajudeen Quadri, urged the House to include community halls, arguing that some of the community halls were constructed through self help and in many cases were for recreational purposes.

 

Exemptions

The Lagos State House of Assembly said that religious organisations and cemeteries would only be granted exemption in the proposed harmonised bill on Land Use Charge if they do not engage in commercial activities.

He said: “Nothing has affected religious bodies if they have not gone out of the way from being religious body to being religious cum commercial body.

But if any religious body starts going commercial with any of their religious activities, then such religious body has to really be under the tax regime. “If it is a religion, it must purely be religion, but if you have a name of religious outfit and at the same time running a school or event centre or others, such property will not be exempted.”

Ogundimu said the 27-section bill would be beneficial to property owners in the state, adding that it would not increase the tax burden of property owners as being speculated, but will, rather, checkmate multiple taxation.

 

Besides, he said the harmonised bill would prevent situations where the local government would be coming with tenement rates and the state government coming with another rate still on the same property.

Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, gave assurance that the new law would make life easier for the people of the state, stating that the House was passionate about anything that would affect the people positively.

Obasa, who was represented at the event by his deputy, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, urged the stakeholders to express their minds at the public hearing. While giving an overview of the bill, the Majority Leader, Sanai Agunbiade, stated that the proposed law differed from the old payment charge as the new charges would be based on market value.

 

Land Use Charge

The Lagos State Land Use Charge (LUC) is a consolidation of all property and land-based rates and charges payable under Lands Rates, Neighborhood Improvement Charge and Tenement Rates Laws of Lagos State. The Land Use Charge derives its legitimacy from the Land Use Charge Law No. 11, of 2001.

It was designed to help government generate additional revenue needed to develop the state in the light of increasing demand for provision of urban and rural infrastructure and other expenditure. However, the implementation and enforcement of the Land Use Charge have continued to raise dust.

 

The modus operandi of the law has generated controversies over the years and some residents of Lagos are still confused as to what the land use charge is really about.

 

It is on records that the state government realised N7 billion from Land Use Charge in 2016 against N6 billion in 2015.

 

Last line

This time around, all hands must be on deck to ensure collaboration with all stakeholders for the success of the harmonisation, implementation and enforcement of the new land use charge.

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