The public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Lagos State 2018 Land Use Charge Law held Tuesday at the Lagos State House of Assembly amid protest by some persons.
The Land Use Charge legislation has been a subject of controversies in recent weeks following the government’s decision to jerk up the rate.
The uproar began when the government started distributing demand notices in line with the 2018 version of the charge, prompting protests and outrage on social media.
In response to the uproar generated, the Lagos State Government proposed a number of drastic amendments to the law including tariff cuts across board, with additional resolution to consider the amendments at the parliament.
On Tuesday, members of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) however, demanded that the hearing be postponed.
The Chairman of the branch, Adesina Ogunlana, argued that because copies of the law and the proposed amendments had not been made available to the public prior to the hearing, the hearing should be postponed to enable stakeholders look at the documents and make meaningful contributions.
But the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, disagreed with Mr Ogunlana, noting that the issues were not new, having been in the public domain for several weeks. He also argued that of the 37 sections of the Land Use Charge Law, only 8 were actually billed for amendment.
Members of the Ikeja branch of the NBA, supported by activists and other civil society organisations, consequently staged a walk-out of the venue and protested the speaker’s decision outside of the venue.
Meanwhile, a number of other participants at the hearing also complained of lack of access to the document, which they said would not make the engagement meaningful.
Speaking at the hearing, the state Commissioner of Finance, Akinyemi Ashade, said that the state had proposed a general relief rate of 50 per cent, up from the 40 per cent of old. He added that other reliefs included the charge rate for commercial properties which had been reduced to 0.45 per cent (from 0.76 per cent) while industrial charge rate had also been reduced to 0.230 per cent.
Some estate surveyors who spoke at the hearing suggested that discounted market value of property be used in the valuation as the replacement of the phrase “market value” of property, with just “value” would cause confusion.
Many participants who came with printed copies of their bills lamented the astronomical increase in the new amendment, calling on the government to take a second look at it.
Mr Obasa sought additional memoranda from particpants, adding that members of the public were encouraged to submit memoranda to the committee for consideration over the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations and lawyers from the NBA Ikeja branch who staged a walk-out said they will challenge the government and protest the Tuesday “charade.”