It is not common to find a highly placed government official back down from his lofty office in deference to the wishes of the masses of the people, whether in the implementation of polices or in just the day-to-day governance process.
The average occupier of a position of influence, is wont to flaunt his powers to show he is in charge; he is likely to stick to his positions even when such a position is suffocating the people that he is supposed to be governing. If you find any highly placed official do the opposite, it could only be because such a one truly has the interest of his people at heart.
This is one perspective from which many analysts now view the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunm Ambode. Just one move he made recently, above all others, has shown him as a man of compassion, a governor who is concerned about overral impact on the lives of the people than sticking to principles and procedures. With such a singular step, he had been able to demonstrate that governance is more about the welfare of the people than unnecessary expression of executive power.
Under reference here is the now famous Lagos State Land Use Charge (LUC) Law. It was successfully reviewed and then passed into law by the Lagos State House of Assembly on February 8, 2018, only for stakeholders to begin to raise issues concerning the law.
You would have thought that the state executive would ignore such agitations given that the said law had been given the seal of approval. and gone ahead to do the needful. In fact, some governors in some states out there would have staked everything to see that the dissenting voices are silenced by all means, and the law rammed into implementation.
Not so, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. He had the axe on his hands, and the authorisation to apply it, but he listened to his emotions as a human being; he decided to listen to the cries of the people directly affected by that law.
Thus he acceded to convocation of stakeholders meeting on the matter. After an extensive deliberation, his government came out with one of the most beautiful pieces of news for house owners this season; it announced a major reduction on those new rates payable by property owners under the new land use charge law. It equally waived penalty for late payments across board.
It was the State’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr Akinyemi Ashade, who addressed the press on the matter, saying the rates payable on commercial properties have been reduced by 50 per cent in response to the demands of the people.
The concession by government also covered reduction of the charges for Owner-occupier with third party including industries and manufacturing concerns by 25 per cent, while tax credits have been given for LUC charges already paid in addition to introduction of instalment payment system.
The decision to reduce the rates was taken at the weekly Council Meeting Chaired by the State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.
In the words of Ashade: “The Lagos State Government, in its desire to build world class infrastructure and improve the well-being of its citizens reviewed the Land Use Charges payable by all property owners. This exercise was received with mixed feelings by various interest groups who expressed serious concerns.
“In line with this administration’s tradition of inclusive governance and civic engagement, and as a Government that is committed to the welfare of its citizens and understands the importance of continuously engaging the populace, we undertook extensive dialogue with various stakeholders on the Land Use Charge (“LUC”) revised Law and its implementation. “Consequently, we received a wide range of responses from our dialogue with various stakeholders on the amended LUC Law 2018. The stakeholders included the Organised Private Sector, Nigeria Bar Association, Real estate investors & developers, Landlord & Resident Associations, Community Development Associations, Civil Society Organisations, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LCCI), Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors &Valuers and several other professional groups.”
With the latest development, a property valued at N20million for instance and earlier billed N91,200 would now pay N45,600 per annum as a result of the 50 per cent discount, while property occupied by owner, third party and property used for industrial and manufacturing purposes will now pay N23,040 per annum on a property valued at N20million as against the earlier N30,720 based on the 25 per cent discount.
On owner-occupied property, for a property valued at N20million, only N7, 752 would now be paid per annum as against N9,120 earlier demanded.
“We appreciate and commend property owners of all categories who have performed their civic duties faithfully by paying the LUC. Consequently, as a result of these new measures, those who have paid the original amount will be awarded tax credits to the extent of the excess amount paid and carried forward to next year,” Ashade said.
Obviously, there is no better way for a government to show responsibility and compassion than this one.
This is especially when one realises that the legislation had gone through the normal process before becoming law, and also, given the intense lobbying that goes with this kind of legislation.
To have factored all these and decided to stomach the repercussions is one move the state executive has made that deserves commendation. It demonstrates louder than ever, the state government’s determination to deliver the famed dividends of democracy. In rolling back the law, the government had demonstrated that it is pro-people, a listening and humble government.
Many in the position of Governor Ambode in other areas, would have perceived a possible reversal of that law as a personal affront and would have mobilised every resource, human and material to thwarting it.
Ambode did otherwise. Beyond personal ego, he saw a window to an impactful touch on the people’s welfare; he saw an opportunity to demonstrate his humaneness and did not let it pass by.
Long years to come, Lagosians, and indeed other analysts of governmental process would remember this singular gesture of Governor Ambode. They would be able to retail the tale that not all those who occupy executive office are driven by inconsideration, but that beyond their official briefs as elected politicians, that they truly feel what the people feel. This is one lesson that Governor Amode teaches in this magnanimous move. At the expense of sounding repetitive, it truly deserves commendation by all patriot and positive-minded persons. Kudos to you, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.