Adding to the ongoing rage over the ongoing Land Use Charge in Lagos was the discovery that AlphaBeta, a shadowy, private company that has been offering a yet to be clearly defined tax consulting services to the state has been specifically mentioned in the new law backing the increase in the rates.
The Ijora, Lagos based company described itself as a ‘new breed of Management, Information Systems and Technology consulting firm dedicated to providing comprehensive and value-added Information Technology solutions and management support services to financial and Public-sector institutions’’ on its website.
The company listed Lagos, some other state governments as well as Lagos Island and Amuwo Odofin Local Governments as its client. The company first became known when it was appointed as a consultant to the Lagos State Government, arguably its first client, under the tenure of Babatunde Fowler as the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue from 2005 to 2014.
The company was appointed when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was governor of Lagos State. The speculation, which has yet to be dissipated since then was the former Lagos governor completely owns or is a major shareholder in the company.
In the same vein, the State has also never denied claims that the company takes about 10 per cent of internally generated revenue of Lagos, now estimated to be about N40 billion every month.
A Lagos resident (Dr. Ademola Dominic) petitioned the Lagos State government directly on the 24th of October 2012, asking for a disclosure of public accounts as pertain the tax consultancy fee the Lagos State government pays out monthly to Alpha Beta, invoking the Freedom of Information Act.
But in its reply, the then government of Raji Fashola had declared that the FOI does not apply to Lagos. In the same vein, the Lagos State Government has not been forthcoming on the particulars of the services being rendered to it by the consulting firm. Mr. Olufolarin Ogunsanwo, Executive Chairman, Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), evaded questions regarding the agency’s relationship with AlphaBeta at a conference on tax reforms held in 2016.
But he confirmed that Alpha Beta is still one of the State’s tax consultants, but not directly collecting taxes. But he failed to answer questions on what kind of data the consultants provide and how much they are being paid.
One speculation that has endured was that the company was owned by former governor Tinubu who imposed it on the state. Critics say the company is one of the ways the former governor has been siphoning billions of naira from Lagos State accounts in the guise of consultancy over the years.
There has not be any strong denial of this claim either from the former governor or the state government. Thus, many Lagosians feel that the inclusion of the company under the Rules Governing the Distribution of the Lagos State Land Use Charge will again means that a significant portion of the funds to be generated will be funneled to Tinubu monthly.
The law states: “Alpha Beta or any other designated person(s) or corporate body, which has the responsibility of monitoring the revenues of the state through the collecting banks shall provide a report to the Accountant-General of the state.”
Critics says the naming of Alpha Beta, in the law to manage the revenue collection process in the section of the law titled, “Rules Governing the Distribution means the company has been give legal protection to monitor Land Use Charge collection on behalf of the government in perpetuity, thus totally shutting out other companies.
To nip the controversies in the bud, the Lagos State House Assembly on Wednesday admitted that it inserted Alpha Beta in the LUC Law, 2018, but said it was done in error.
It added that the process of the new legislation “is not complete until the state government properly gazettes it.” This claim made on behalf of the House by its Chairman of Committee on Information, Hon. Tunde Braimoh is believed to be an afterthought.
Nevertheless, the new LUC law has again brought to the fore, the issue of Tinubu, AlphaBeta and Lagos State huge tax funds.