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Court certifies lawsuit on land use charge filed by resident

A Lagos State High Court has certified a suit filed by a resident, Owolabi Rotimi, against the state, challenging the Land Use Charge (LUC) 2018, as a class action.

Justice B. Oke-Lawal granted an order certifying the suit as a class action for the applicant and “all other recipients of the annual bill for Land Use Charge 2018 issued by the Lagos State government.”

The judge made an order appointing the applicant to represent members of the class of LUC recipients.

Justice Oke-Lawal held: “Having considered the facts as stated in the affidavit, the class of persons having an interest cannot be ascertained and found for now.

“Several Nigerians will be affected by the decision on the Land Use Act and it will, therefore, be an expedient and efficient procedure to have claims of all persons taken in one suit than multiplicity of suits.

“I am, therefore, satisfied that the applicant can be appointed to sue on behalf of the entire class of persons who are recipients of annual bill for Land Use Charge 2018 issued by the Lagos State government.

“I, therefore, find merit in the application and the motion is granted as prayed.

“I, hereby, certify this suit as a class action and appoint the claimant to represent the class as per the prayer in his motion.”

Rotimi, through his lawyer, Mr. Olumide Babalola, had filed an ex-parte application seeking leave to represent himself and other recipients of the LUC a class action.

In a supporting affidavit, the applicant, who said he was the owner/occupier of 13, Ina Abasi Street, Ogudu, GRA, Lagos, argued that class action would prevent a multiplicity of suits on the same issue.

He said sometime in February, he was served with a Land Use Charge Bill/Notice dated April 27, 2018, for the sum of N227, 435.55 for the period of January 1 to December 31, 2018.

According to him, on the face of the bill, the assessment consisted of tenement rate and ground rent.

The applicant said constitutionally, tenement rate ought to be assessed, levied and collected by local governments as opposed to the state government.

He contended that the ground rent and tenement rate constituted double taxation.

Rotimi said he approached the court because he did not want to be a part of illegality and unconstitutionality of paying tenement rate to the wrong entity.

“The applicant believes that numerous unascertainable owners and occupiers are interested and affected by the reliefs sought by the applicant in this suit.

“Numerous persons have been served with the same kind of bill/notice served on the applicant and they cannot be found or ascertained as at the time of this suit.

“This suit borders on the provision of the Land Use Charge Law 2018 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)

“It is expedient and efficient procedure for this honourable court to grant this application, otherwise this honourable court will be inundated with numerous suits bordering on same subject matter by members of the applicant’s class,” the applicant said.

According to him, his lawyer had been briefed by three different parties on the Land Use Charge already and more may follow.

“The applicant believes that his suit is not about the amounts payable in the bills/notices which varies, but the constituents (ground rent + tenement rate) and the collector (Lagos State government), which is uniform to all the bills/notices.

“It is expedient that this application is granted to avoid multiplicity of suit and/or conflicting decisions of courts on the issues raised herein,” Rotimi added.

After granting the order, Justice Oke-Lawal said the enrolled order should be served personally on the defendant by the court’s sheriff.

Credit: The Nation

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