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 therewith” held at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on Friday June 16.
In an opening statement, the Speaker of the House, Hon Onofiok Luke, said the exercise which was organized at the instance of the House Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Renewal, was in line with the resolution of the 6th Assemble to involve members of the public in the law making process of the House of Assembly through the gathering of inputs that would enhance the enactment of people oriented laws. The Assemble has over the years established and sustained the culture of public hearing, “This is in line with our determination to democratize the purpose of lawmaking in our State. It is also in keeping with our core legislative policy and initiative”, the Speaker said.
The speaker, who was represented by the Chief Whip of the House of Assembly, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong, revealed that the property tax bill seeks to rescind the obsolete residence 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 a long way in fast tracking the development of the State, as it would shored up the revenue base of the State, thereby strengthening the State´s financial standing.
The purpose of this public hearing today is to make necessary input to the real property charge bill as this input today would decide the outcome of the law which we have proposed in the House. “I also articulated my obligation to you on your response to the call by the People Assembly and the members of the committee. Putting into consideration, 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 opinion, views, even your fears concerning the real property charge bill”
“Certainly, your presence here today is creditable patriot response to the clarion call to serve the people. The Akwa Ibom State House of Assemble is committed in meeting the aspiration of our people through the formulation of laws that meets the yearning of the masses. Effective and efficient tax system helps fast track economic development in any advanced society; Akwa Ibom State should not be exception. Lagos State with the help of its land use charge of 2001 has been able to significantly grow its revenue”, the Speaker maintained.
Assembly reference to the mixed reaction that straggled the introduction of the bill on the floor of the House, Barr Luke, upheld that the public hearing was an open invitation for members of the who had some observation about the bill to avail themselves of the opportunity by submitting input either through oral presentation or memoranda for consideration by the House committee.
Prior, Chairman of the Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban renewal, Hon. Otobong Jonathan said the essence of public hearing conducted by the committee, was to generate input from the public on areas that needed to be amend in the bill in order to make for a law that would be acceptable by all. He emphasized 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, said 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. Resources that would accumulate from the bill will be divided between the State and the Local government”, the paper presenter noted.
Speaking further, the Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Town Planning, Arch. Ime Ekpo, in his suggestion said that the elevation of properties be rested with Estate valuers and surveyors who are the ones vested with such responsibility
Also the Chairman Akwa Ibom State Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Okon Okon said a situation where a property owner pays related taxes/ charges on his/her property(ies) located in other States and pays nothing in his/her property (ies) located in Akwa Ibom is not only unfair but also unacceptable especially considering the huge investment in infrastructural development and expansion across Akwa Ibom State Government. It is expected that the bill when passed into law would engender civil enforcement of real property related charges in a progressive manner; with greater focus on up-tier property in high income locations.
Other Participants who submitted their memoranda and their input during the hearing include; Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, Mr. E.S. Udoh, State Revenue Consultant, and CEO, Romflex Ltd, Mr. Eyo Bassey, State Surveyors General, among others.