As the Federal government face a cash crunch due to plunging oil price, some State governments like Osun are looking inwards to raise their internal generated revenue, with the signing into law of the Osun State Land Use Charge Bill.

Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who signed the bill at the Executive Chambers of the Governor’s Office in Osogbo, stated that previous and present administrations had so much relied on the allocation that, when the oil glut came, it could no longer pay salaries and other critical expenditures of government.

Aregbesola held that the state has learnt a lot of lessons from the situation where it had to go cap in hand to the Federal Government for the allocation that can no longer take care of the primary needs of the state.

He described a situation that suggests that the state cannot be self-sufficient in the light of the human and material endowments on the state by God as an insult, saying looking inward for progressing the state has now become a must.

The main objective of the newly signed law, he explained, is to generate additional revenue and also the provision for a single property charge which replaces all other state and local governments taxes on real property, including taxes like tenement rates, ground rents and neighbourhood improvement charges.

Aregbesola pointed out at the signing ceremony that the aim of the new law is to do away with multiple rates, increase efficiency in collection and avoid discriminatory and arbitrary application of property based levies and charges.

He said, “As you are all aware, governments at all levels have been under severe financial assault for some time. This is as a result of a precipitous fall in revenues from the federation account.

“We are here facing formidable challenges in paying salaries and meeting other critical expenditure of government. This is because we have been programmed to live day-by- day on allocation from the federation account.

“The lesson we are taking from the situation is that living on other people’s bakery is never reliable. It is high time we started to bake our own cake by ourselves, if we don’t want to starve.

“It is even an insult to suggest that we cannot be self-sufficient, in the light of the human and material endowments it has pleased the Almighty God to bestow on our land. One of these is land. Land is of great value where there are humans because it is the primal resource. We live, work and derive other resources from land.

“This is why we, as a government, have decided to make a law that will also benefit government from part of what the people derive from land. This is the basis of the Land Use Charge Law,” the governor stressed at the signing of the new law.

Aregbesola held that part of the attraction of the law is safeguarding people from abuse and arbitrariness, noting that a chargee under the law, on receipt of an assessment, can make a formal complaint to the Commissioner for Finance on high assessment and that it should be reduced.

He added that such charge also has the right to file an appeal against the assessment to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal on the precondition that the chargee pays 50 per cent of the amount assessed and the fees that would be prescribed by the Appeal Tribunal for the filing of the appeal.

Governor Aregbesola said the new law is predicated on the principle of mutual delegation of authority between the state government and each of the local government areas (LGAs) in the state.

“By this new legislation called the Land Use Charge Law, once the Land Use Charge is imposed upon a property, the rates and charges which were hitherto payable under the old legislations will no longer be applicable and due on the same property.

“The Local Government Authority in the jurisdiction/locality where the property is situated is the authorised collecting authority, but in order for there to be compliance with the constitutional requirements on the division of powers between the States and the Local Governments, this new law is predicated on the principle of mutual delegation of authority between the State Government of Osun and each of the Local Government Areas in the State.

“The new Land Use Charge Law will also boost job creation in the State because between valuation and assessment and between revision and collection, we see thousands of people being employed.

“With the implementation of this law, there will be an accelerated development in many areas of the state’s economy because the multiplier effect of this new development is that by the time the owners pay property tax on their property that has been lying fallow, they will be forced to find economic use for it and in the process thousands of other unemployed youths will be gainfully engaged,” he added.

Governor Aregbesola, who attributed the new law to what he regarded as a direct instrument to boost the state revenues, however disclosed that the implementation and enforcement of the new law would exempt some institutions like religious bodies, public utilities, traditional grounds, and non-profit making organisations.

The governor therefore sought for collective supports from all and sundry, urging the people to ensure total compliance on the new development in order to move the state forward.

“I implore us all as citizens of this great state, in furtherance of our collective resolve to move our state forward by enhancing the frontiers of our economic independence, to join hands with the government to make the State of Osun Land Use Charge Law work,” he stated.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the consulting firm of Interspatial Limited, Pastor Olumide Bolorunduro, said the charge is a law in form of the executive bill sent to the House which, according to him, has already been passed into law after being assented to by Governor Rauf Aregbesola.

He said the effective implementation of law would in a greater was help in achieving a harmonised law on standardised rate.

He said, “The beauty of this exercise is based on its uniformity nature by putting into consideration the value and size of every property put together in a formula being applied in bringing in the charge.

He extolled the prompt enactment of the law which he said would go a long way in encouraging accountability, transparency and openness and as well eliminating all forms of leakages in taxation.

He said, “This new law would definitely enhance accountability and eradicate the shortcoming in all forms of taxation especially on land use charge.

“The accountability nature of the charge dictates that there will be no leakages, as all that involved in taxation and value of property or all relevant laws in this regard bringing in inter-ministerial approaches to the charge.”

Pastor Bolorundoro disclosed that a committee would be set up to give and bring in reports on monthly basis about the exercise which according to him would remain greater ingredients to harmonize the exercise.

He expressed optimism that the exercise will in no small measure increase the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state.

The Coordinating Director, Bureau of Lands, Mr. Tayo Hassan, said the implementation of the law would in no measure assist the state to jerk up its resources and revenue, hence facilitate all round development in all sectors of the economy.

Hassan expressed confidence in the socio-economic benefits of the law if properly implemented, saying it would help to complement and balance the meagre allocation accruable to the state from the Federation Accounts.

“Effective implementation of this law will increase, improve and assist the societal infrastructural activities in the state.

“At the same time, it will optimally guard against multiple land taxation as well as economic planning purposes,” he added.

Mr. Hassan said if the law is embraced and supported by all, it has the capacity to take the state to greater heights never witnessed by any administration in the state.

Enumerating the legal implications and benefits of the Land Use Charge Law, former Commissioner for Special Duties and Regional Integration, Dr. Bashir Ajibola, said the passage of the bill into law by the state legislature was a signal to the fact that the state was towing the path of economic sustainability.

Ajibola noted that the exercise would engender essential human and material development in all aspects of life and assist the state to harmonise all existing laws on property acquisition for better uniformity.

He revealed that with proper implementation of the law, some local government, which have not been benefiting from the collection of the charges on land used will be able to benefit, saying state would henceforth get more from the exercise.

Ajibola said the new development has clearly departed from the previous policies in which the charges had been beneficially centralised.

“With all the efforts being made by the present government in the state, coupled with the economic reality on ground, there is a need for collective support just as voluntary compliance is required by all and sundry in making the state a better place to live,” he added.

The Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly, Najeem Salam, said the bill was passed into law purposely to increase the state’s IGR and as well serve as a driven force to eradicate all forms of leakages in the revenues being generated by the government.

Salam said with the passage of the law it has become a must for every land user to comply with the dictates of the new law on land use charges.

The Speaker stated that the House, having painstakingly considered all factors involved, believed that the only sustainable way to boost the state IGR was to support the bill for physical development.

He said, “Obviously, what we have today is a fallout of what transpired during the public hearing we had.

“Due to the current economic reality on ground, both on the side of the masses and that of the government, we have intensified a considerable approach to achieve the said aims and objectives of the new land used charge.

“Our beliefs remained the fact that if this law is well implemented, the state IGR will definitely improve as it is a must that will do the needful and not optional.”