New political association, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), has strongly condemned the recently introduced land use charge regime in Lagos State, saying it was conceived to squeeze life out of already impoverished citizens.
The ANRP made its position known in a statement issued at the weekend by Mr. Sesugh Akume, its spokesman. According to the party, the new land use charge regime represents an "inversion of the essence to governance from the collective good for all citizens to a plutocracy that favours a tiny clique, their families, friends, and associates".
It added that it amounts to the conversion of public property and services to private ones for some individuals.
"In the past weeks Lagos State Government (LASG) amended the Land Use Act 2001, replacing it with an obnoxious law which increased the land use charge by 400%, motor rates and taxes by 1,600%, court rates by 2000%, borehle taxes by 68,000% and so on," stated ANRP.
The party rejected the argument canvassed in some quarters that taxes/rates in major cities of the world are usually higher than in other places in the same countries and that those who cannot cope may relocate to other places where they may be able to cope.
"ANRP rejects this argument and line of thought in its entirety. In Lagos (as all across Nigeria) citizens already procure services the government is responsible for providing. For instance, the whole idea of digging private boreholes is an anomaly. Governments around the world provide water as a quasi-social good and it is the failure of governance that necessitate individuals and private concerns to drill boreholes which the Lagos government now wishes to tax at an exorbitant rate," contended the party.
It similarly argued that refuse collection is the duty of local councils, but Lagos State government has an agency responsible for this. The agency's responsibility, stated ANRP, has been relegated, with a foreign private company now positioned to monopolise refuse collection and is failing woefully at this.
"There are mountains of disease-causing waste and debris all over Lagos presently and the state seems helpless.
"It is in this context of a glaring failure of governance that these intolerable rates increment were announced.
"Everything about the new rates is wrong. For instance, hiking court fees by 2,000% implies that justice is for sale, and not to be accessed by everybody. We believe strongly that before such massive upward rate/tax reviews, it is important for government to reflate the economy by ensuring millions of opportunities for employment and business for its citizens," contended ANRP.
The party also noted that Alpha Beta, a company widely known to be owned by Mr. Bola Tinubu, a former governor of the state, was included in the newly reviewed legislation as the sole revenue collector, a development the state legislature attempted to deodorize by describing it as mistake.
"ANRP believes the Mr. Akinwumi Ambode-led administration should not be allowed to paper over this monumental gaffe," the party stated.
The ANRP added that as part of the state government's malevolence, it forcefully evicted residents of Otodo Gbame a few months ago. Some residents, it noted, were killed in the process, while others had properties burnt in clear violation of court orders.
"The area has been forcefully taken over by displacing the residents without compensation in order to create private luxury apartments for those who can afford. What the state government seeks to achieve is to forcefully chase citizens away from Lagos with the obnoxious rates. With this barrage of obnoxious taxes and rate reviews, it is evident that the Lagos government has embarked on a puritanic quest to create a state where only millionaires can inhabit," alleged ANRP.
It noted that governments raise funds through taxes, charges and other legitimate and fair means, but they are required to demonstrate clearly how the funds raised are deployed. "Citizens must be able to testify that quality service is being offered them and their finances are being prudently managed and transparently, too. One of the main issues in our society is the growing deficit in trust between the government and the governed due to the lack of honesty, openness, transparency, and accountability," the party reasoned.
It similarly reasoned that governments need to prioritise the welfare of the largest number of people in society, especially its most vulnerable members. This way, said ANRP, is how developed societies function.
The party demanded a total reversal of the new land use charge regime. It also called for a change of mind by the government to come to the realisation that the state belongs to all, not only the extremely rich