Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode

Organised labour under the aegis of United Labour Congress of Nigeria ULC, has taken a swipe at the Lagos State Government over the enactment of a new Land Use Act, which introduced a new regime of exorbitant charges on landed property in the state, describing it as a declaration of war against the poor and hapless residents of the state.

In a statement issued by the president of the congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero, Monday, the group said that the new legislation, which increased land use charges by about 400 per cent, was a continuation of the organised onslaught of the rich and mighty against workers and the masses targeted at pushing them out of a city that was built on their sweat and blood. The also said that this is unacceptable and must be withdrawn immediately.

In addition to demanding immediate and total withdrawal of the act, the union warned that if the state government fails to do so, it begin the immediate mobilisation of the entire the citizenry of the state against the government as well as demanding the resignation of the state Governor, Akinwumi Ambode and the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, which passed the law, insisting that the  act  would not be allowed to remain as it may spread to other states of the federation..

The president said: “We condemn the Lagos Land Use Act and see it as a declaration of war against Lagosians most especially the poor. We see in it a continuation of the organised onslaught of the rich and mighty against workers and the masses targeted at pushing them out of a city that was built on their sweat and blood. This is unacceptable and must immediately be withdrawn”.

“We are disappointed that Governor Ambode and the All Progressives Congress APC that rode on the back of popular slogan of making life and living better for the masses would turn around to enact such a devious law. The fulfillment of electoral promises is really a matter of morality and integrity. Any politician and indeed government that rides on the back of the sweet promises it made to the masses and refuses not just to implement it but deliberately goes out of its way to erect frameworks that work against the interests of the people loses the moral authority to continue occupying the seat of government”.

“Lagos State remains the most taxed and exploited environment in Nigeria. Its citizens and workers suffer the heaviest burden of taxation in the country. Virtually everything is taxed including the ordinary street hawker who does not have a roof over his head, the akara (baked beans) seller, the commercial motorcyclist (Okada), commercial tricycle operators (Keke), Wheelbarrow pusher, the scrap picker etc. The huge funds that accrue to the coffers of the state as IGR is virtually unaccounted for as Lagosians do not see its impact on their lives rather the government keeps on raising new taxes and increasing the ones being paid before”.

The union also regretted that this is a yoke that the people of Lagos state especially the workers are tired of carrying, arguing that a sensitive government that is people -oriented weighs the impact of its policies and actions on the people before ever embarking on it. It also alleged that in Lagos, the interest of the average citizens does not matter since all that is heard is one form of tax or the other.

The statement also reads in part: “We do not support this tax as it is heavily weighted against the poor who do not have their own houses and who depend on the rich for housing. A progressive government would have made the provision of housing a priority to ensure that most of the citizenry have access to quality housing but the thinking in Alausa seems to be different. Governor Ambode should tell us how many pro-poor housing scheme that he has embarked upon since assumption of office. We can category say none because what we see are houses built for the rich.

It is on record that Nigeria suffers heavy housing deficit and Lagos as one of the most heavily urbanised states in Nigeria has one of the highest deficits. The implication of this is that the supply of housing is short and creates a Landlord’s market as it leaves the masses with little options in the face of Landlord decisions. Anything that therefore raises the cost of supplying housing by the landlords will be totally transferred to the tenants who bear its final incidence.

This Land use Act which raises land use charges payable in the state by between 400 and 500% is therefore an unmitigated disaster for the poor in the state. This is within the context that the poor does not have alternatives as would have been the case if the supply of housing by the government is adequate which would have checked the extent to which Landlords are able to offload the taxes on the tenants. As soon as it becomes operational, Landlords will immediately transfer it to their tenants by raising rents payable on their properties. We believe that this ought to be against the avowals of a government that is committed to the people that voted them into office. With this Act, Ambode’s Government is inadvertently trying to make it difficult for the poor to live in Lagos thus distances himself from them. This is also inflationary as it will also elicit corresponding increases in the price of other services in the state.

If the intention is to deprive the poor and push them out of Lagos then it speaks volume of the characters that occupy the seat of Government in Alausa and that of the party that they represent. This is not how to create a Megacity or build any city at all in the world. Governments do not intentionally exclude the poor but here, the reverse is the case. Megacities are balanced cities that are inclusive catering to both the rich and the poor. Without the people, a mega city hollows out and eventually dies. It is therefore the people that give life to the city and Lagos is not an exception.

Ambode should understand the history of Lagos and how it came to become what it is today. It was built by the people and its sustenance is based on the people. We do not therefore understand the philosophy behind the present onslaught against the people.

This is why Lateef Jakande’s regime remains indelible in the hearts of Lagosians. He never placed undue burden on the people but sought ways to reduce the suffering of the masses and workers. Massive Low-cost housing projects were strewn all over Lagos state that gave access to quality housing to the poor. What we see today is an unfortunate reversal driven by selfishness and greed.

We urge Ambode not to place politics and IGR above the people. Governance is for the people and not the people for Governance. Any governmental policy that does not factor this into its processes suffers in the long run. He should think of the workers and the poor first in his actions and policies.

ULC does not understand why the state Government will place the interest of individual organisations above that of the people. It remains an aberration that in trying to make such a law, one organisation is named to have a monopoly of collecting the taxes. This is the height of political patronage. It makes a mockery of governance and democracy and truly undermines the integrity of this government. The insertion of Alpha Beta in the Act, which the House of Assembly claimed was a mistake tells us clearly what the goal of the law is – recycling public wealth into the hands of few private citizens”.