How will the recently-passed Lagos State Land Use Charge Law (LUCL) 2018 affect access to land and housing for low-income earners, including residents of informal communities in Lagos State? This was the objective of the March 22, 2018 community outreach organized by Communities Alliance against Displacement (CAD) and SPACES FOR CHANGE | S4C in Okobaba community, Mainland Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State. Workshop participants comprised leaders and representatives of CAD-member communities namely: Apata-Oro, Badia-East (Apapa LGA), Oko-baba, and Toluwani (Mainland LGA), Snake Island (Amuwo-Odofin LGA), Mowo-Phase II (Badagry LGA), and Ayetoro (Yaba Local Council Development Area). Deborah Buisson of the French Embassy also participated in the community outreach.
The outreach started with a training session focusing on the rights and obligations of rights-holders vs. duty-bearers. At this session, participants learned about the state and national statutes that protect citizens’ property, housing and land rights. They include the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the Land Use Act, urban planning regulations of various states etc. They also learned about the variety of legal mechanisms that redress state and non-state interference with, or violation of those rights. Conversations during the plenary centered on the concerning role of Omoniles (native landlords) in Lagos communities, with many sharing experiences of their encounter with them. Omoniles are native indigenes of the state and land speculators famed for chasing out genuine title holders from their land based on spurious claims of a superior title. They also impose illegal charges for land development and occupation in local communities.The Omoniles have also gained notoriety for forcefully taking over land or reselling the same piece of land to innocent purchasers for value, giving rise to protracted land disputes and floodgate of litigation. S4C informed that the Lagos State government has set up a Land Grabbers Unit under the Lagos State Property Protection Law, 2016 to redress cases of landgrabbing which is a common occurrence in the state. Participants further learned about how to formally register their land titles in the land registry, to avert claims of superior title from omoniles.
The second session focused on the recently-passed Land Use Charge Law. A large number of the participants heard for the first time, that the Lagos State House of Assembly has passed a new law which increased the land use charge payable in the State by over a hundred percent. Although the increment is part of the state’s revenue drive for infrastructure development, the law raises a number of issues and challenges that may affect access to land and housing in the state. Not only that, it was passed without adequate consultation of residents and dissemination of information regarding its provisions. In March 2018, SPACES FOR CHANGE conducted an indepth analysis of the law, and made submissions to the Lagos State parliament, seeking parliamentary review of several provisions of the law.
LUCL fixed a minimum charge of NGN5,000.00 per property. While it is true that the law mainly targets property owners and/or occupiers of a lease up to and exceeding 10 years, there is s strong likelihood that property owners will transfer the huge land tax burden to their tenants through uncontrolled rental increases. For land owners and occupier of properties in the informal communities who are predominantly poor, higher charges for land use exposes them to greater financial burdens and sanctions in event of default. This has serious implications for access to land housing, especially in a city where landlords traditionally demand multi-year rents from tenants, including agency and caution fees. Other notable gaps of the law include inadequate definition of certain terms used in the law, lack of specificity of the government agency to engage with citizens on property assessment, inadequate time to appeal against property assessment, among others. One take away for the participants is the recognition of their collective power to influence change. They can demand changes to the law by engaging their elected representatives at the state parliament. They can also protest hasty passage of laws without adequate stakeholder consultation.
CAD and SPACES FOR CHANGE also sensitized participants on the provisions of a bill currently before the State House of Assembly named “A Bill for a Law to Consolidate all Laws Relating to the Environment for the Management, Protection and Sustainable Development of the Environment in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes”. The bill criminalizes sale or distribution of water by container, tanker or any other method without a valid license issued by the Department of Water Resources.