Babatunde Ruwase, the president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has called for the suspension of the implementation of the Lagos Land Use Charge (LUC) law, as he wants the grey areas sorted out in the interest of fairness, equity and natural justice.
Ruwase said Friday at the chamber’s stakeholders’ forum on the matter that sanctions on defaulters under the reviewed LUC law are too severe and not in tandem with democratic ideals.
He said there is no evidence to show that adequate dissemination of information to critical stakeholders was followed and conditions stipulated for law review occurred before implementation of the law, hence the need for its suspension.
On the sanctions, he said while the chamber would not encourage or support any form of infractions of the law, the sanctions must be proportional and fair.
His words: “The Nigerian economy is only just gradually recovering from a recession. Many companies are yet to return to profitability as there would be instances where the citizens are willing to pay, but just do not have the capacity to pay, given the state of the economy.
“Industrial capacity utilisation has declined, purchasing power is still very weak, occupancy rate in many commercial and residential properties are still very low and all of these have adversely impacted the returns on investments in property market and points to the fact that current market value of property may not necessarily reflect the rental income for the property.”
He said emphasis should be on getting more property into the tax net, rather than imposing an additional burden on those currently on the database as only 300, 000 property was paying the charge, while 700, 000 property were identified for tax payment.
He urged the government to explore the platform presented by VAIDS to capture more property owners into the net.
Stakeholders were concerned that assessed value used for computation of the law was high and difficult to justify, the chamber chief said.
“The business community appreciates government’s efforts in investing in infrastructure and security, and businesses are willing and ready to pay their tax but the government should create a tax environment that would be fair, equitable, inclusive, transparent and investment friendly,” Ruwase added.
Akinyemi Ashade, Lagos State commissioner for finance, at the event, said the law was aimed at entrenching a regime of self-assessment that would allow property owners to make their own calculation and know their rate with the help of professional valuers.
Ashade said various reliefs had been made available to payers, including a general 40 per cent relief for all property liable to LUC payment as the property of N10 million and below constitute 75 per cent of property owners in the state and are expected to pay N5000 per annum as land use charge.
Ashade said the new Law also established an Assessment Appeal Tribunal which authorised the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution in resolving disputes concerning LUC demand notice, provided the appeal was lodged within 30 days after the receipt of the notice.