Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State says his administration is not oblivious of the controversy generated by the revised Land Use Charge Law, and is ready to dialogue to resolve the issues going forward.
He spoke on Tuesday at the “Lagos State means Business” forum, where he held a parley with business owners in the state. The revised law has attracted criticisms from several quarters, with some people appealing that it be reconsidered.
Mr. Ambode, however, said the Law, enacted in 2001, provides for an upward review every five years, but the state government did not do anything in that regard for many years. The governor said the recent review is in line with the present economic realities.
“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,” he said.
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. Mr. Ambode said that there was need for all sectors of the economy to be reviewed.
According to him, the state, as such, has committed over N50 billion to the blue rail project, and the waterways has been opened to investors to partner with government, so as to ease the pressure on road transportation. He said the waterways, with a stretch of 200km from Badagry to Epe, had been contracted and the contract for cleaning the water space was already in place. These, the governor said, are all to ease the pressure on road transportation.
“Lagos wants the best of everything. We must understand that there is a paradigm shift of trust in governance in Lagos and that is my message to you today. Do you believe that the dividends of democracy are being delivered to you? Are you seeing what your taxes are being used for? Would you entrust me to do more for democracy are being delivered to you? Are you seeing what your taxes are being used for? Would you entrust me to do more for you, as the man you have chosen to be in this office?” he asked.
Mr. Ambode said it was his intention that businesses and investments should be the major drivers of the state’s economy. According to him, this is the way to go and how governance can work; reiterating the importance of a private sector-run economy. He said government is not in competition with the sector, neither is it against private participation in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
The governor said his job is to ensure an enabling environment, create investor-friendly policies and tax rebates, provide security, as well as a level playing field, among other incentives for investors in order for businesses in the state to thrive.
“I want the business community to own the economy. We, as a government, only create an enabling environment while the private sector drives the economy. There are so many opportunities in government; we want all sectors to thrive because we have the market.”
“There is need for infrastructure fund driven by the private sector in conjunction with government to attract investment. We must drive capitalism with social sector reforms. For instance, Lagos needs strong food strategy and policies to cater for 24 million people. We must realise that Lagos is working toward the goal of food security,” Mr. Ambode said.
Mr. Ambode said the state was strong on judicial sector reforms and technology was being deployed to block leakages in the system. He said as a former Auditor General and Accountant General in the state, he understood where the leakages were, and how to eliminate them.
On the staff strength of the state’s state civil service, Mr. Ambode said it stood at 103,000 personnel with a monthly wage of N10 billion. According to him, it is pivotal in keeping the social fabric intact.
He said the challenges were enormous for Lagos, as about seven and a half million people were moving in and out of Lagos business district on a daily basis. Mr. Ambode told the business community that there was still plenty of room for investment in the education sector. He said there was need for specialist schools and varsities in Lagos.
He also said there was intention to bring in top class hotel brands and create a technological hub as has been done in Yaba. In shoe making, he said brands such as adidas could be brought in. He said brand names such as google could as well be considered.
“We aim to build hospitality institutions that will help train and improve the hospitality business in the state. We are looking for solutions to challenges facing the state. We need to encourage the youths to help proffer solutions and design new ways for the future,” Mr. Ambode said.
The forum had in attendance dignitaries including former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; founder, First City Monument Bank Group, Subomi Balogun; Chairman, Premier Lotto Limited, Kessington Adebutu; and Chairman, Eleganza Group of Companies, Rasak Okoya.