…Says Only 700,000 Out Of 8million Taxable Adults Paid Taxes In 2017
…As Dangote, Ovia, Elumelu Urge Lagosians To Voluntarily Pay Taxes
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Tuesday said his administration is not oblivious of the hue and cry generated by the revised Land Use Charge Law, saying that the government is ready to dialogue to resolve the issues going forward.
Governor Ambode, who spoke during a well attended forum with the Organised Private Sector tagged “Lagos Means Business”, said the review of the law was not a deliberate attempt by the government to overburden property owners but a decision taken in the overriding interest of the future of Lagos.
The forum had in attendance major players in the business circle including former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke; founder, First City Monument Bank Group, Otunba Subomi Balogun; Chairman, Premier Lotto Limited, Chief Kessington Adebutu; Chairman, Eleganza Group of Companies, Alhaji Rasak Okoya; Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia; founder United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu; Chairman Honeywell Group, Dr. Oba Otudeko; former Minister of Industry, Chief Nike Akande, Chairman, Channels Television, Mr. John Momoh, members of the diplomatic corps, top business owners, among others.
He said the Law, enacted in 2001 provides for an upward review every five years, but that the State Government had not carried out any review of the Law up until 2017, adding that the recent review was in line with the present economic realities.
He said, “The law was made in 2001. It provides that every five years, we should review it and also find a way to increase. 15 years after in 2017, the law has never been reviewed. Now, the question is this; those who are having commercial properties, the rental income they were getting in 2002 as against the rental income they are getting in 2017, is it the same? The level of infrastructure that existed in 2002 as against what has happened in the last 15 years, are they the same? Did it not come at a cost? So, why is the market value of the property that you built with one million naira, 15 years after, you are selling at N20million. Why do you think somebody who is a buyer will pay N20million for it? Is it not because of the facilities around the property? So, we have to sacrifice; that is how it works everywhere.
“So, somebody comes and say we have increased by 400 per cent. The question is the 400 per cent of what? You were paying N10, 000 before, now we say you should pay N50, 000 and you are calculating and turning statistics upside down by saying it is 400 per cent.
Explaining further, the Governor said that while the revised Land Use Charge law requires owner-occupiers to pay just 0.076 per cent, pensioners, churches, mosques, non-governmental organisations and government institutions are exempted from payment.
“So, who is the one that will take care of the ones that are free? If you are owner-occupier you don’t need to pay. So, it’s the commercial part that people are complaining about.
“Why have we increased the rate? We should have been doing this every five years but I am looking at it if I must sustain the level of my vision, I have to give something back to people. I don’t have to come and meet you if I continue to borrow money, but we are borrowing to punish you ultimately which is not what we want because it is even the taxes you pay that would pay the interest and the principal. Somebody needs to tell us the bitter truth for us to sacrifice together and that is what we have done,” Governor Ambode said.
Reeling out statistics to explain the challenges that would confront the State in the nearest future, the Governor said Lagos is projected to become the third largest consumer market in the world with a population of 35.8million, closely behind Tokyo and Delhi, while the population growth and rapid urbanization would put infrastructure and public services under pressure.
He said the State requires a minimum of $50billion over the next five years to bridge the gap of infrastructural deficit, adding however, that a special infrastructure fund that would be driven by the private sector to address social challenges is the way to go.
“Assuming the entire budget for 2018 is spent only on infrastructure development, Lagos will be left with a deficit of about N14.47trillion and also require an additional 19 years of similar expenditure to bridge the infrastructure deficit,” Governor Ambode said.
The Governor, also expressed concerns that out of the eight million taxable adults in the State, only about two million submitted their tax returns while only 700,000 actually paid their taxes last year.
“We are 24million; taxable adults in Lagos is 8million. The number of people that actually submitted tax returns in 2017 is 2million and then only 700, 000 people paid their taxes,” he said.
He said the current tax returns were not enough to cater for the capital projects ongoing across the State, adding that major cities across the world with thriving economies are sustained by the taxes paid by residents.
Thanking the business community for their support over the years, Governor Ambode said his administration was committed to creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, adding that concerted efforts have been made to encourage investors to set up their businesses in the State, which according to him would have multiplying effects on the State’s economy.
“I invite you to come and own the economy. Whatever you say here would be taken seriously because this gathering is not just about knowledge sharing; it’s more about the future of Nigeria and not just Lagos,” the Governor said.
In his brief remarks, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote commended the Governor for deeming it fit to organise a forum to meet the business community in Lagos, adding that his (Governor) passion to make Lagos thrive was not in doubt.
He also said the economic drive by the State Government was one that required all and sundry to rally round the government and perform their civic responsibility of paying their taxes as and at when due.
“I am more convinced now and I think people should really be voluntarily paying taxes in Lagos. I think for people who are doing business here, Lagos is the most-friendliest States in Nigeria. If you really want to know, try other states and you will see hell.
“I am not advertising for Lagos but there is not a single time you go with a problem and the Governor will ask you to go and come back tomorrow because in most cases, he will call everybody and say let us sit down and sort out the issues. So, your Excellency, we congratulate you and assure that we will continue to support you,” Dangote said.
Also speaking, Ovia and Elumelu lauded the Governor for the massive infrastructural renewal projects across the State especially in the area of security.
Ovia, said that business owners now feel safe to invest in the State owing to the investment in security, just as he commended the Governor for sustaining the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), a public private partnership designed to enhance security in the State.
“Your Excellency, you have spoken today like a Chairman/CEO of a company to his shareholders. We are definitely one of your shareholders and we would renew your mandate in 2019 there’s no doubt,” Ovia said.
The duo promised to increase their donation to the fund, while also calling on others to contribute their quota to the enhancement of the State’s security architecture.
…Deal To Provide 500 Jobs, Facilitate Hybrid Energy Plant
The Lagos State Government and a United Kingdom firm, Low Energy Designs (LED) Limited on Monday entered into partnership to construct 10,000 LED street lights covering 300kilometres across the State.
The deal, which also includes the provision of about 500 jobs and construction of an LED lighting and Hybrid Energy Power Assembly Plant in Epe, is estimated at $7million (about N2.52billion), and is expected to be delivered in the next 12 months.
Speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the partnership held at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, the State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode said the development was a major milestone and a positive paradigm shift in the provision of street lighting for the State.
Governor Ambode, who was represented by the Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr Olawale Oluwo said the successful commencement of the partnership signposts a positive progress to the Light Up Lagos Project, which he said, is a special initiative of his administration composing street lighting, community electrification and embedded power programme.
He said: “With this agreement we are signing today, we are setting a new chart for the future of what street lighting, installation, management and control will be like in Lagos. It is a major paradigm shift.
“We have about 33,000 street lights in Lagos under the Lagos State Electricity Board. Now, the LED UK, based on this 300km, will give us about 10,000 street lights. So, technically, they are going to be having about 31 per cent of our entire street light infrastructure and this is a major significant development.
“The second major significant development is the fact that as from today onward, what we have with LED UK is what will be replicated to power Lagos with respect to street lighting going forward.”
Giving details on the agreement, the Governor said with the partnership, there will no longer be any fixed costs with regards to management of street light installations across the State, while all challenges hitherto associated with street lighting would now be a thing of the past.
“As a government, what we are doing is that we are not installing poles, we are not providing security, we are not bothering ourselves with diesel, we are not worried on Fridays and Saturdays about people coming back from clubs knocking down our poles.
“All those have been outsourced now. We are not going to be worried about that. We just buy light from investment of this LED UK with all their installations; they manage it, they provide the security, they power it and as long as we see the light, we pay. That is what has changed today,” Governor Ambode said.
While appreciating all the key players that contributed to the partnership including the British Deputy High Commission, Lagos State Office of Oversees Affairs and Investment, Lagos State Electricity Board, among others, the Governor assured that government would ensure seamless execution of the deal, as well gets maximum benefit which the programme is designed to deliver.
Earlier, Chief Executive Office of LED UK Limited, Mr Alan Parker said his firm was greatly honored to partner with the State Government to deliver the project, adding that over the next 12 months, a British and Nigerian consortium would work to retrofit major roads in the State with urban regeneration project in Ikoyi, Ikeja and Victoria Island.
“As part of this project, we will be employing over 500 local people here in Lagos and investing $7million in the construction and setup of a LED lighting and Hybrid Energy Power Assembly Plant here in Epe. This facility will offer ground breaking testing, training and education programs on renewable technologies whilst providing the future for all lighting and hybrid energy power systems in Nigeria.
“These high quality products will be built by Nigerians with the support, experience, knowledge and technology supplied by LED UK for all commercial indoor and outdoor applications for the African market,” Parker said.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Friday said his administration will go all out to transform the economy of Surulere and make it to be at par with those of Victoria Island and Ikoyi, starting with the resuscitation of the night life of the axis.
Speaking while unveiling a road project in Modele-Mathew Street and solar powered street lights in Modele-Mathew Street, Randle Avenue and Fred Anyiam Street in Surulere constructed by Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, Governor Ambode said the hospitality and entertainment business which the area had always been known for, would be revived and scaled up to actualize the plan for the massive development of the axis.
He said: “I have discovered that unless I pursue and take over the National Stadium and the Arts Theatre, I cannot achieve my goal because with those two projects and places, the hospitality and entertainment business in which Surulere is really known for will be brought back to life because the real entertainment in Lagos State actually started from Surulere.
“I will do everything to ensure that the economy of Surulere is as competitive as that of Victoria Island and Ikoyi.”
He said though a lot of projects had been implemented by his administration in Surulere, more would be done to truly change the face of the area, and make the economy compete favourably with others.
According to him, “So, what is it that I want to make Surulere to look like? You remember we have already done Ishaga-Mabo Road, Itire-Lawanson Road, Ijesha Road, the palliative is ongoing. We have upgraded Agboyin Avenue and then Simisola Mogaji Close. But what is very important to me in Surulere is to bring back night life hundred per cent in this area,” Governor Ambode said.
He commended Gbajabiamila for keying into the ongoing infrastructural renewal efforts of his administration, saying it was gratifying that individuals and corporate organisations were now joining government to fast-track socio-economic development and empowerment of the people.
Governor Ambode, who particularly lauded the commitment of the lawmaker to the welfare of the people of his constituency and all Lagosians, said it was on record that Gbajabiamila had used his seat in the House to attract numerous projects to his constituency and Lagos at large.
He recalled how Gbajabiamila in 2016 mobilized the Lagos Lawmakers in the House of Representatives to pull resources together to give Lagos a befitting Sports and Recreation Centre in Epe, as well as plans for federal engineers to rehabilitate Karimu Street in Surulere.
Showering praises on the federal lawmaker, the Governor said: “He (Gbajabiamila) has complemented the job of our Government very well at the national level and we appreciate him for his clever intervention especially his leadership role during the recent Constitution Amendment process. He defended the interest of Lagos in seeking for devolution of more powers to the States.
“Hon Gbajabiamila is a most valued legislator who has supported our government in all we have been doing and his support has been unflinching. On behalf of the government of Lagos State, I want to commend him not only for doing us proud in the House of Representatives but also making his Federal Constituency, Surulere, a beacon of development in Nigeria,” Governor Ambode said.
The Governor urged other public-spirited individuals and corporate organisations to emulate Gbajabiamila by adopting public infrastructure for maintenance or rehabilitation, just as he called on residents to make effective use of all public infrastructure in their neighborhood and protect them from vandalism or destruction of any kind.
Besides, Governor Ambode congratulated Gbajabiamila’s mother, Alhaja Lateefat Gbajabiamila on her 88th birthday which coincided with the commissioning of the projects, saying it was a perfect way to celebrate her for being the first woman to be elected a Local Government Chairman in Lagos State.
Earlier, Gbajabiamila said the decision to construct the road, which was hitherto in very dilapidated state, was inspired by the massive efforts of Governor Ambode in transforming all parts of the State.
“Today is not my day; today is the Governor’s day. I say this with a lot of deep thought because you can be a Governor, you can be a President, you can be a Chairman of Local Government, if you don’t have disciples, you are nothing.
“The Holy Prophet Muhammed had disciples; Jesus Christ had disciples. It is those disciples that go out there and do his work. Why I say today is the Governor’s day is because I am only complementing what the Governor has been doing all over Lagos State. He (Governor Ambode) is the one that has inspired me,” he said.