Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has warned that any landlord who increases rent of their property as part of the land use charge will have the building confiscated by government and turned into a public school.
The Governor who gave the warning while speaking a at town hall meeting with stakeholders in the tax sector to sensitise the people the recently passed law on the Land Use Charge 2012 said it will not be a burden for the tenants but a levy on owners of large expanse of land especially in the Government Reservation Areas.
“If a landlord passes this burden to the tenants, they are taking unmitigated risk. The government will take the land of the landlord who increases their rent and bulldozers will go in to action and turn the land to a school,” he noted.
According to him, “nobody who is economically disabled will be made to pay the land use charge, it will not put additional burden on the poor and it will not be used in any way to oppress the poor and a good section of the middle class.”
While noting that the law is not for tenants, Comrade Oshiomhole maintained that the government will not devise policies against the poor because the poor need support.
“But those who are rich must be made to pay for the land because the most important resource in Edo State is the land which nobody brought from heaven. You will see how families are squeezed in old traditional homes, face-me, I face-you, in that same street, you have another man who occupies ten thousand square metres, from the beginning of the street to another. The truth must be told that before God we are all equal. If one man could take so much land, and the rest of the people live in a small 50 by 50 land, as he acquired the land, he will pay for it.”
The Governor noted that those targeted by the Land Use Charge Law are instigating some people to protest against the law, saying “those are benefitting from a system that impoverishes the poor will do everything possible to maintain their status”, noting that “those who do not wish the state well are doing everything possible to turn the truth on its head.”
“From the governor down, everybody must be under the law. I have the support of the only person who has what others do not have, that is the paramount traditional ruler who can say he owns the land, by reasons of our traditional law. That is the Oba of Benin, Omo n’Oba Uku Akpolokpolo, Happily he has been very supportive and those who are resisting this tax are collecting royalties on land from farmers who they have rendered tenants. Government-owned land that was reserved for them to use they have sub-let it to Yoruba farmers to use to make as much as forty million naira a year, collecting rent from the actual farmers while they are doing their practice in the city,” Comrade Oshiomhole added.
While assuring the poor that they will not be affected by the new law, Oshiomhole said “this government will never, ever under excuse implement evolve policies that will affect those we classify as poor.”
This law which I have signed, which we will implement ruthlessly, all our poor people living in high density areas of the state, all poor people will not pay. This tax is for people living in parts of the GRA. I want to assure you that all our rural areas, nobody there will pay tax, but, if you have a big house in the village in excess of 100 by 100, like myself, I will pay, but taxes will not be imposed on family houses. Market women are my people, I know where majority of them live, this law is not about them”, he noted.
The Governor insisted: “My mission in government is not only to build roads, to build schools, to build hospitals, to restore infrastructure it is also to ensure that there is justice. That the rich respects the rights of those who are not so rich. We must respect everybody’s age, but every elderly man must look at the child with pity and love and not wickedness.”
Comrade Oshiomhole disclosed that the reason Nigeria is not making progress is because for too long, the poor has been subsidizing the rich, adding that, the land use charge will be implemented ruthlessly in the state.
“On assumption office, I did promise that there are enough resources in the state and if managed prudently and order our priority right, we will be able to build a new Edo which our grand children will be proud of,” he added.
The governor appealed to students not to allow themselves to be corrupted by some rich persons to lead others fight.
In their various comments at the forum, some respondents commended the governor for taking a bold action which will make the rich pay taxes, while and a civil rights activist, Rev. David Ugolor appealed to the governor to invest in government owned media to enable them compete favourably with the private owned media in the state.