Sunday, 16 May 2010

News Release: Multiple Land Use Charges: DPA Begs Fashola To Intervene In Widow’s Tenement Woes

                               [Fashola: Lagos State Governor]

Democratic Peoples’ Alliance (DPA) has urged Governor Babatunde Fashola to wade into the case of an old widow recently handed an over 5,500 percent increase in her tenement bill, and cited the case as proof that the Lagos State Government had failed to streamline tenement rates and land use charges with local governments.

DPA said residents of Akerele Street in Surulere Local Government Area complained that they received two bills for tenement payments last year, one from the council another from the state.

The party said the cases vindicated its past campaigns that authorities were subjecting home owners to draconian and multiple charges even after the Lagos State House of Assembly indicated plans to review the Land Use Charge Law 2001.

According to DPA, Ikate-Ijesha Local Council Development Area wants the widow pensioner (Mrs. Mabel Ogunmoyela) to repeat tenement rate payments on her property that she had already paid in previous years to the state government.

“Clearly the council has discountenanced her past payments,” DPA said in a statement by its Director of Publicity, Felix Oboagwina. “The Governor must intervene urgently and save this old woman from this wanton display of injustice and executive lawlessness. There is real apprehension that she could have her house possessed by authorities.”

The party said problem started when the state usurped the constitutional role of local governments, contrary to the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution titled “Functions of a Local Government Council,” which stipulated in subsection (j) that: “The main functions of a local government council are as follows… assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State.”

“But what we see now is a case where the state government elected to take over the function of the local governments,” DPA said.

The Fashola government began implementing the Land Use Charge Law 2001 in 2008 but backdated it to 2006, provoking widespread protests, especially over its perceived violation of the Constitution.

According to the party’s statement, instances abounded where landlords had in the same year received both the Land Use Charge posted by the state government and tenement rates charged by the local governments. Home owners can lose such property to a government receivership should they fail to pay up within a stipulated period.

“Questions to ask naturally are: Where are previous payments made under the state’s Land Use Charge? Did the state government fail to remit them to the local governments and why? Have local governments been shortchanged?” the party said.

DPA highlighted the case of the widow pensioner (Mrs. Ogunmoyela) whose property, a three-room boys-quarters erected on a single plot at Olurolu Street, Ijeshatedo, Surulere, had its 2010 tenement bill jacked up to N120,614 by the Ikate-Ijesha Local Council Development Area, an over 5,500 percent increase from the N2,121.75 paid in 2009.

Records show that the widow had paid N108 as tenement in 1991, N190.70 in 1997, N450 in 1999, N450 in 2000 and N2,121.75 in 2009.

“This 80-year old widow is a retired nurse and only managed to erect the three-bedroom boys-quarters apartment to keep land speculators from encroaching. Now there are strong fears she will lose her land unless she repeats payments she has faithfully made to Lagos State in previous years,” DPA said.

Government documentation dated July 16, 2009 valued the property at N5,658,000 and computed the land use rate at 0.0375 percent or N2,121.75 being “solely occupied by the owner.” She paid the amount into the Ijesha branch of Bank PHB, one of the state’s designated collectors on 28th August 2009.

However, despite a Land Use Charge Notice from the Lagos State Government for 2009 indicating that the widow had no carryover payments from previous years, a Demand Notice dated 22/4/2010 from the Itire-Ikate Local Council Development Area office at 13/17 Baruwa Street Ijeshatedo imposed a N19,000 rate on the property for 2010 and went ahead to calculate outstanding arrears of N92,013. It also demanded she pay N9,201 i.e. 10 percent interest on the arrears in addition to a Radio and Television Licence Fee of N400, bringing the total to N120,614.

The net tenement charge of N19,000 that the Itire-Ikate LCDA computed for Mrs. Ogunmoyela for 2010 signified an 895.5 percent increase in last year’s rate of N2,121.75 only.

According to the party, the tenement charges were unreasonable, overly exploitative and had failed to consider the social security that real estate traditionally meant to Nigerians.

DPA recalled the case of two widows of the late Alhaji Eyiowuawi Asafa, who inherited his one-story, face-me-I-face-you house in Surulere. In 2007, the Itire/Ikate Local Government charged the family N2,700 as tenement rent, while in 2008 the state government fined the same house land use charge of N113,669.33.

Lagosians must muster the political will to challenge the state government’s usurpation of a constitutionally-allotted function of local governments, DPA counseled.

Felix Oboagwina
Director Of Publicity
Lagos State DPA