Lagos State Government yesterday buckled under pressure, reducing all levies for its new Land Use Charge (LUC) that had attracted public outcry by 50, 25 and 15 per cent.
The Commissioner for Finance, at a press briefing, said commercial property owners, who are undoubtedly the stakeholders mostly impacted by this amended Law will be granted 50 per cent discount, while property occupied by owner and third party and property used for industrial and manufacturing purposes will now enjoy 25 per cent discount.
He added that owner-occupied properties would enjoy 15 per cent discount.
The commissioner said the penalty regime for late payment of LUC has been waived completely.
Ashade also announced that the state government would give tax credits for LUC charges already paid, besides allowing instalmental payment.
“Other rates and reliefs, apart from the ones stated above, will remain unchanged and will be implemented as stipulated by the Law. These include 40 per cent general relief, 10 per cent for 70 years and above, 10 per cent for properties owned by persons living with disability and 10 per cent for properties that are 25 years old.’’
The Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, said the LUC Law has provision for dispute resolution and the state has set up a tribunal in Ikeja to handle disputes that may arise from the payment of LUC. He also said that there are plans to set up four other tribunals, which has got the governor’s consent, so that each division of Lagos would have a tribunal for dispute resolution.
Meanwhile, the Lagos chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conscience Party (NCP) have called on Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to revert to the old Land Use Charge (LUC) rate, saying the 50 per cent reduction is still on a high side for the masses.
Speaking with The Guardian on phone yesterday, the State chairman of the PDP, Mr. Moshood Elsalvador accused Governor Ambode of insensitivity to the plight of the citizens and also expressed shock over the administration’s desperation for money without considering the implications on the masses.
He faulted the 50 per cent reduction as being on the high side, saying that in a simple arithmetic formula, those living in highbrow areas and whose property is valued at about N40 million and above would still have paid high LUC. The same thing is applicable to those having property in less expensive locations.
In a similar vein, the state chairman of NCP, Mr. Fatai Ibuowo said it is either zero percent LUC or nothing. He wondered the moral justification for a government that could not provide water, good roads and other necessary infrastructure to be hell bent on over taxing the people under the guise of generating revenue.
Also, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has described the announcement as not meeting the expectation of the association on what should be appropriate charges.
The Director General of the association, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo declared that while it commended governor Ambode for granting some concessions, NECA is still not satisfied with the pronouncement, as the reduction is not far reaching enough.
“Well, it hasn’t met our expectations. We are still studying the pronouncement and once we obtain the appropriate clarity from the government on it, we will make our position known to the public.”
According to the DG, the reduction is not sufficient for the law to stay as it does not commensurate with the actual percentage deduction, it would amount to about 500 per cent increase in the land use charge.
“When you translate the reduction to the actual percentage deduction we will still be talking of almost about 500per cent increase in the rate which is still high and that is just the truth about it. The 50 per cent is going to be on the invoice amount and when you look at it in terms of the impact, we are still talking about 500 per cent increase, which we still considered very high.”
He pointed out that the so-called reduction amounts to tokenism as government smartly ignored the fundamental issue of doubling of the base percentage rate and the unreasonable application of the assessed market values, which are the crucial issues the association is calling for review.