Home > Your say > Ambode, please let me handle this – #DukeOfSomolu

Ambode, please let me handle this – #DukeOfSomolu

There has been a lot of hue and cry over the recent increase in Land Use Charges by the Lagos State Government. They have said that the increase at about 400% was astronomical and would lead to all sort of dire consequences especially in the standard of living of the people thereby speeding poverty.

All sort of hell raising permutations were given with figures that I must say were very scary. One analyst had opined that a building with a value of N20m would be paying about N1m per annum and all sort. This really threw a dark reality into the minds of Lagosians who have expectedly been running around screaming and renting their clothes wondering what type of government is this.

All explanations by the government especially the lucid explanations by the Chairman of the LIRS have fallen on deaf ears. People have been carried away with the emotions of it all failing to even attempt a logical reasoning of the situation.

For me, I kept quiet waiting for my own bill and this morning it came. My house was valued at N18million and my land use charge was calculated at N14,000.00. How they reached the amount, was clearly stated and a code was given for payment. The bill was also followed by a letter from His Excellency thanking me for my understanding and explaining the rationale behind the payment.

My people, I quickly took my PHCN bill and I saw a stark N47,000 monthly bill with no explanation other than the fact that my meter was MD labeled. Whatever that meant is left to the authority. I sank on my sofa with a sigh of relief and just laughed.

Let me attempt a logical sequencing of it all. Last year I had paid N3,000 for the same Land use and this year I am seeing N14,000 a huge leap abi? Ok so the percentage increment is astronomical but naira for naira, what is N14,000 for the year which comes to about N1,166 per month. So if my landlord will now want to increase my rent at the same rate because of this bill, let him go ahead.

The truth is that most people have been under paying and even a vast majority have not been paying at all. So government now for the first time, decides to systemise collection, put transparent process of collections and puts the levies/charges at market rate and we are all screaming. Let us even not pay at all na. That way we will know that we are living for free. N14,000 per annum is really nothing as compared to the earlier PHCN bill that we are paying monthly and not even seeing the service.

Let me put it more succinctly. The Ambode administration inherited a huge debt exposure from the last administration; some tied to an irrevocable deduction from source, his allocation from the centre is dwindling thereby hampering his ability to deliver on his election promises. We have not looked at his recurrent expenditure and the huge infrastructural gaps that is clearly staring us in the face and the need to position Lagos as a modern day global city befitting its status as a mega city and the fifth largest economy in Africa.

What are the options now opened for him. Does he like his other colleague governors just sit down and fold is arm waiting for an increasingly reducing Federal Government subvention or does he look for creative means of shoring up his IGR thereby giving him a fighting chance at delivering a better life? Did we vote him in to preside over just the sharing of Federal Government allocation or did we vote him in to be a creative and pragmatic visionary. For me, I am liking what I’m seeing.

The challenges facing a mega city like Lagos cannot be tackled with emotions or pandering to the nuances of people because these same people will still be the ones shouting that Ambode did nothing. They are the ones who will still scream that “nothing is working in Lagos”. I think we should forgo the statistics which is screaming percentage increase being astronomical and look at the naira increase and its resultant effect on the people. So if I live in Banana Island and I am asked to pay even if its 1m a year which translates into about N100,000 per month what is wrong with that when I am using the same amount if not more to pay for Phillipino housemaids and the like. What is N50, 000 a year to a Yaba or Magodo resident even if he was paying N5, 000 before if these payments will give him a better quality of life?

Which landlord will increase rent because his rate has gone up from N3,000 to N14,000? Please let’s get serious abeg.

The government has set up arbitration platforms for us to go and complain especially if the valuations or pricing are not correct. They have also even given us valuation services with which we can take advantage of. The bitter truth is that Lagos just like London and New York are very expensive mega cities and it is really not compulsory to live and work here. Like New York, you can go to Mowe and live in peace or Agbara and commute. People don’t go stay in Manhattan and be complaining about tax when they can easily move to New Jersey and live like lords.

For me the main issue is the usage of the funds when totally collected. Are we sure the funds would not be diverted or used for other purposes apart from what has been sold to us. We should test the structures of executing and distribution, ask for the programmes and insist on transparency in its use and forget about all these emotional dribble that seems to have taken up the Land.

I wish Ambode well and even if he bows to public pressure, he still stands up there in my books as a true Lagosian. The Duke has spoken and stand to be corrected.



Joseph Edgar
Joseph Edgar is an Investment banker and Columnist with Thisday and DailyTimes newspapers. He is witty and is a hilarious writer.