By Okunade Adekunle
Some Civil Societies Organisations (CSOs) comprising the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Joint Action Front (JAF) and Committee For The Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), on Tuesday, staged a peaceful protest at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja, over the controversial Land Use Charge Law, borehole charge and increment in Motor Vehicle Plate Number registration in the state.
The protesters who were led by the members and executives of the Nigerian Bar Association (Ikeja Branch) displayed various kinds of placards to register their grievances, chanting anti-government slogans.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards included: “Stop killing justice in Lagos,” “No to hike in Land Use Charge, LUC, CDHR,” “The country is hard enough don’t add to it,” “Developing Lagos to megacity and kill Lagosians with pharaoric taxes,” “No to taxes without consultation,” “Lagosians commit suicide daily, stop this hardship” among others.
In his comment, the Chairman of NBA, Lagos branch, Mr. Adeshina Ogunlana, stated that they were shocked by an alleged outrageous charge introduced by the State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode.
Ogunlana noted that a letter calling on the State government to reverse the new law would be made available to the Governor and the Speaker, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa.
“Our purpose is to communicate our grievances to Lagos State Government vis-à-vis the new direction by the Governor. We have a letter for h Governor. We have anticipated the Lagos Assembly will be more accessible than the office of the Governor,” the chairman stated.
Ogunlana therefore called for “a rethink and review of the Land Use Charge and other obnoxious charges,” adding that the law was passed without wide consultations.
He also faulted the enactment of the law under the state government, saying, “The legislation usurps the power of local government.”
While addressing the protesters on behalf of the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, the Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, commended the protesters for being civil and peaceful, saying that their profession is noble.
“It is your right to protest because peaceful protest is legitimate all over the world. The Clerk of the House, Mr. Azeez Sanni would receive the protest letter and give it to the Speaker, while the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamgbetan, would receive that of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
“I want a good relationship with the Nigerian Bar Association and the legislature. We will want you to attend our public hearing where we debate all our bills before they are passed into laws,” he said.
Agunbiade told the protesters that the request could not be attended to immediately, but that it would get to the Speaker of the House.
The Majority Leader assured them that the House of Assembly is doing everything possible to serve the people and pass people- oriented laws, adding that they do everything possible to work on bills.
According to him, the product of the bills is the responsibility of the executive and the legislature.
He stated further that democracy becomes better when people are conscious of their rights.
He told journalists that every law passes through three different stages such as first, second and third readings. The purpose of public hearings is to take the input of members of the public and there is no public hearing that we do that is not advertised in national newspapers for stakeholders to make their input.
The Majority Leader concluded, “If we do what we ought to do at the right time, then we will expect more people to attend the public hearing and come with their inputs. The Governor is a listening person and what affects one person affects another so the right thing would soon be done by the Governor. We represent the people and the Governor is also there to serve the people.”