By Mfonobong Ukpong
A public hearing on “a bill for a law to provide for the imposition of land based charge, to be called Real Property Charge for the levying and collection of the charge and for connected purposes”, held today at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
Declaring the hearing open, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Barr Onofiok Luke, said the exercise which was organised at the instance of the House Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban renewal, was in line with the resolve of the 6th assembly to involve members of the public in the law making process of the House of Assembly through the gathering of inputs that would guide the lawmakers in the enactment of people oriented laws.
Represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong, the Speaker disclosed that the property tax bill which seeks to repeal the outdated tenement rating law cap 130, laws of Akwa Ibom State 2000, would ensure transparency and accountability in the collection of tax on real property within the state. The Speaker said if passed by the House, the bill will go along way in fast tracking the development of the state, as it would shore up the revenue base of the state, thereby strengthening the state’s financial standing to enable it fund her numerous social infrastructure and others.
“We are gathered here today to make input to the real property charge bill. This input today will decide the outcome of the law which we have proposed on the floor of the House. I also express my appreciation to you on your prompt response to the call by this honourable House and members of this committee.
Considering the direct impact which this proposed law would have on the lives of our people, this House could not have taken any further legislative action on the bill without your expert opinion, your views, concern and even your fears concerning the real property charge bill “.
” Indeed your presence here today is a commendable patriotic response to the clarion call to serve the people. The sixth assembly which you all know as the Peoples assembly has over the years established and sustained the culture of public hearings. This is in keeping with our determination to democratise the purpose of lawmaking in our state. It is also in keeping with our core legislative policy and initiative, key among which is legislative transparency”.
Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly is committed in meeting the aspiration of our people through the formulation of laws that meets the yearnings of the masses. Effective and efficient tax system helps fast track economic development in any advanced society, Akwa Ibom State should not be an exemption. Lagos state with the help of its land use charge law of 2001 has been able to significantly grow its revenue.
The IGR made from the real sector of Lagos state alone has helped to strengthen the state’s final standing among states of the federation. for example, the state has generated over N7 Billion in 2006 fiscal year alone and more than N6 Billion in 2015. Akwa Ibom State real property charge law seeks to repeal the outdated tenement rating law cap 130 laws of Akwa Ibom State 2000, thereby ensuring transparency and accountability in the collection of tax on real property within the state “.
Making reference to the mixed reaction that trailed the introduction of the bill on the floor of the House, Barr. Luke, maintained that the public hearing was an open invitation for members of the public who had some reservation about the bill to avail themselves of the opportunity by submitting input either through oral presentation or memoranda for consideration by the House committee.
Speaking in his capacity as Chief Whip of the House, and Deputy Chairman of the committee Hon. Ekpenyong, told the gathering that proposed law would enhance the state’s economy when passed into law.
Earlier, Chairman of the Committee on Lands, Housing, and Urban renewal, Hon. Otobong Jonathan Akpan, said the essence of public hearing conducted by the committee, was to generate input from the public on areas that needed to be fine tuned in the bill in order to make for a law that would be acceptable by all.
He emphasised that the committee needed superior argument on the matter which he noted has generated serious concern especially on the social media.
In a lead paper presentation, an economist, and university lecturer, Prof. Emmanuel Onwuiduokit, and said the bill was interest of the masses especially the poor.
“This bill is in the interest of the poor. Government provides infrastructure, education, health care with funds, and the funds are sourced from the revenue accruing to the state. If we want to make progress, we must create ingenious way to move forward.
” Resources that would accrue from the bill will be divided between the state and local government areas”.
Prof Onwiduokit who is a former Commissioner for Economic Development in the state, said the state needed to boost her revenue base to be able to meet its social responsibility to the citizenry.
Also contributing, the Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Town Planning, Arch. Ime Ekpo, suggested that the evaluation of properties be rested with Estate valuers and surveyors who are the once vested with such responsibility. His counterpart in the Finance Ministry, and Linus Nkang, applauded the House of Assembly for introducing the bill, and cited Lagos state as example of states that are benefitting immensely from property tax.
“It is through the tax that the government has revenue that it uses in the provision of social services. What makes ‘so called developed world to be developed is tax. Property tax law will boost IGR. Without enough money you cannot deliver”.
Other stakeholders who submitted input during the hearing include, the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Okon E. Okon, Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, Mr. E. S. Udoh, State Revenue consultant, and CEO, Romflex Ltd, Mr. Eyo Bassey, State Surveyor General, among others.
Those who could not make oral presentation, submitted their memoranda to the committee, and while the Chairman of the committee also took time to respond to questions raised by members of the public who attended the hearing.