Updated: March 6, 2021
Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, is usually a hot and chaotic metropolis, with about 21 million people and few roads. The noise from generators because of lack of electricity is deafening. Crime is rampant and armed robberies attacks are so regular that robbers often write communities to alert them of when they would visit. When that day comes, the robbery is often successful in a country where corruption is outstandingly high.
In the midst of that chaos, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and his weak legislative arm imposed a new land use charge law on the already struggling population. It did not go well.
Protesters at the office of Governor Ambode of Lagos on Wednesday night 15 November 2017 protesting forced evictions despite court orders in their favor. Photo: Omoregie Osakpolor.
The people erupted in anger and the noise was loud enough to trigger a reduction of the charges from the governor.
In a lawless country like Nigeria, government officials are often the law, they add or subtract what they want, spend or keep or even loot how much they want. But this time, outrage is overwhelming.
On Friday, the Socialist Party of Nigeria joined the chorus of critics and called for the repeal of the new law not a deceptive reduction from Mr. Ambode.
Read full statement below
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) Lagos State Chapter condemns the new land use charge recently introduced by Lagos state government and calls for the total repeal of the law. We are not swayed by the purported reduction of the charges which is a well-worn tactic to deceive the masses to believing that the government has shifted ground while it has actually settled for the originally intended figure. The masses have experienced similar tactics many times with different hikes in fuel price.
We strongly hold that the Lagos State Government does not have moral basis to impose any new tax on the people having not accounted for how the state revenue realized from the previous taxes has been spent. Yes, it is true that the state government has embarked on a few infrastructural projects, but there is utter lack of accountability and transparency in those projects as Lagosians do not know their cost.
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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (2nd left); Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem (left); Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilyo Atilade (2nd right) and Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petitions & LASIEC, Hon. Fummilayo Tejuosho (right) during the swearing-in ceremony of Three Judges of the Lagos State High Court at the Banquet Hall, Lagos House, Ikeja, on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
We are aware that all the attempts by media and civil society organisations to know the costs of the projects are rebuffed. This can only mean that the costs of the projects are criminally inflated. It also suggests that the real intention behind those projects is not necessarily for public good but creating a conduit for looting of the state resources. Besides, the entire state budget is treated as a classified document while procurement process is kept as a state secret. This is not only undemocratic but also fraudulent. This is why we see the increase as a means of maintaining opulent lifestyles of political office holders both past and present.
We therefore reject the justification by Governor Ambode that the tax increase is needed in order to finance infrastructures. We believe that the current revenue of the state if judiciously and democratically managed can largely finance not only provision of physical infrastructures such as roads, railways and waterways but also quality education, health care and decent housing. To achieve this, we call for all political office holders to be placed on the salary structure of civil servants and the cancellation of criminal life pension and severance pays for former governors and other political office holders. We also call for public works department to be well equipped and staff well trained such that they can execute any construction work and not just reduced to patching of bad portions of the road. Also importantly, all projects must be put under democratic control of elected representatives of workers, community people and relevant interest groups. All these the SPN will implement if we are in the government of Lagos
We are also of the view that the purported reduction and so-called relief in the land use charge have not addressed the issue of market valuation of properties which can be used to exploit the people by the government and its agents. In any case, we strongly hold that the masses who struggle to build houses in the face of the failure of the government in its responsibility of providing social low-cost mass housing for them must not pay any tax on property. Besides, the failure of the government in its social responsibilities also mean that ordinary people have to provide electricity, water, children education and family health care at huge costs. Therefore, it would be a double tragedy asking such ordinary people to pay additional tax.
We also hold that asking the ordinary people who are landlords to pay land use charge amounts to double taxation as they are not exempted from personal income tax. Indeed, many of these landlords use the rent as a means of eking out a living and pay bills that they would not have if the government plays its roles.
However, we are not against making the rich to pay tax on properties most of which are luxury. We indeed call for progressive tax that puts more tax burden on the rich and super rich. The land use charge is not a progressive tax. It is disproportionately against ordinary people in low and medium income categories.
By and large, the SPN holds strongly that meeting the needs and aspiration of the people in terms of job creation for all, putting in place basic and functional infrastructure/amenities will require a planned economy that rest on the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under the working class democratic management and control. This is the only way resources on a very large scale can be channeled towards economic and social transformation devoid of profligacy, corruption and huge profitability to a few at the expense of the vast majority.
We also see the land use charge as the continuation of anti-poor mega city agenda of the APC government of Lagos which accounts for unjust demolitions of houses, settlements, shops and workshops of the ordinary people as well as arbitrary arrest, heavy fine and imprisonment of the poor masses over sundry offences by Lagos State task force and tribunal.
We therefore call for a wider mass mobilisation of community associations, trade unions, landlords and tenants’ associations, youth organizations, human right groups, professional groups to resist not only land use charge but all anti-poor attacks by the Lagos State government.