Kudos, knocks over amended Lagos Land Use Charge Act
Although details of the amendment to the Lagos Land Use Charge (LUC) Law 2018, is still sketchy, the recommendations by members of the Lagos State House of Assembly to amend the act has continued to elicit reactions among major stakeholders in the state.
The amendment, which came about 20 months after the 2018 law generated uproars and series of protests leading to its eventual suspension was seen by many as not extensive.
To stakeholders, one very important point to note is that even though the land lord is obliged to make the LUC payment to government, it is the occupier of the property that is liable to bear the cost unless It has been specifically included in the rent payable by the tenant.
They also submitted that the issue of pensioners and family houses could be clearly defined in the law.
Another point of discomfort was the manner in which the whole issues were handled as there seemed to be no further communication to the stakeholders after they submitted their position papers and memoranda especially, when it was seen as the major factor that affected the second term aspiration of former governor, Akinwuni Ambode.
The stakeholders, who made their submissions during a public hearing organised by the Assembly include, members of Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), architects, residents associations, members of Building Collapse Protection Guild (BCPG), Estate, Rent and Commission Agents Association of Nigeria (ERCAAN), legal practitioners, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) and Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
During the protests that trailed the amendment in 2018, they had queried the parameters used to value their property, especially without the participation of owners amongst other knotty issues.
According to them, the reversal will accord relevant stakeholders the opportunity to study the law and come out with a workable and more robust legislation.
For example, NIESV has then described the LUC as a misnomer, as it will increase rents, bring about negative returns on investment and lower property development in the state.
Following the uproar, the House of Assembly on March 19, 2018 constituted a six Man Ad Hoc Committee to further look into the bill and report its findings.
Last week, the Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Hon. Rotimi Olowo, presented its report, which was adopted while the amendment was announced.
Olowo highlighted observations made by the participants at the Public Hearing: Some of which include the issue of who qualifies as a pensioner and issues of vacant plot of land and unoccupied properties.
According to him, Section 1(2), “Pensioner” should be redefined to include all retirees resident in the State from Federal and State Institutions and from both private and corporate organizations domiciled in the State.
“The public hearing revealed that the increase is generally perceived to be arbitrary and unrealistic in a recessed economy and the State Government should revert to status quo of the Land Use Charge for 2017”, he said.
Similarly, participants and stakeholders agreed that vacant plot of land and unoccupied properties should be exempted from the Land Use Charge liabilities.
The Committee also posited that contrary to Section 17(c) (i), there is no need for 50 per cent payment by aggrieved owners over disputed charges before their eligibility to appeal; aggrieved residents/owners should pay the preceding year’s charges while the disputed charges are being resolved; amongst others.
There was also recommendation that from the commencement of this Law; there should be proper classification of commercial and residential properties in the State for the purpose of levying charges in accordance with the provision of this Law by the property identification officers of the Ministry;
He further recommended that there shall be twenty per cent increase from the fees chargeable before the repeal of the Land Use Charge Law Ch. L79 2015, and the increment referred to in sub-section (1) above shall be renewable every ten (10) years; Pensioner should be replaced with a person who retires from a Pensionable Office; The owner of the property is liable to pay Land Use Charge in respect of any taxable property;
But reacting to amendment, Chairman, Lagos Branch of NIESV, Adedotun Bamigbola said the news reflects that the State government is listening to Lagosians “even though, we only have excerpts of the press release, it will be good to have the full report of the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Committee as adopted by the House of Assembly”.
He stressed that the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Committee has incorporated some of the recommendations of the Technical Report submitted by the Branch to the Lagos state government and the House of Assembly in 2018, on the Land Use Charge Law.
According to him, the issues of inclusive definition of ‘Pensioners’ as now recommended; exemption of vacant properties and reduction of the rates chargeable among others, were contained in the technical report.
He, however urged the Assembly and the Executive arm to look at NIESV recommendations and provide a valuation list to entrench transparency in process.
“We hope the adopted recommendations would be forwarded to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for accent and for the implementation of the amended law to take effect from January 2020, while other areas will still be looked at by both the executive and the legislators”, he added.
Also, the State’s chairman of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Yinka Ogunseye, applauded the amendment, saying it was a demonstration that the government is a listening one but wished that stakeholders reached before the final ratification of the recommendations.
For the chairman of Banana Island Property Owners/Residents’ Association, Mr. Chudi Ubosi, the amendments and recommendations by the House of Assembly are in order, as it will encourage people to pay their Land Use Charge bills.
He, however said the challenge of calculating the rate still remains.
According to Ubosi, who is also a valuer, sometimes arbitrary calculation of the rates could generates high bills and creates resistance amongst the people.
“ But all in all, I believe this is a step in the right direction.
“ They also need to widen the net to get more properties in and in the final analysis, Lagos residents must see the effect of the payments of these rates in the services and infrastructure around them”, he added.
Similarly, the second vice chairman, Magodo Residents Association (MRA), Mrs. Kemi Omotoso said it is a welcome development, “I read it and think it is something that will be of benefit to everybody the way they have listened to us. You know we went there on a protest at the House”.
“They have considered what we have said and I believed it will be inculcated in the law. They should revert to 2017 before the astronomical increase, which is good. This is one of the actions that made the last administration unpopular”, she added.
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