By Olamide Fadipe
Dozens of lawyers and civil society activists marched in Lagos, Tuesday, in protest of some new tax regimes introduced by the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode government.
The protesters said the taxes are “anti-people.”
“The tax increments by Ambode would cause hyperinflation, insecurity, encourage crime and hunger,” said Adesina Ogunlana, the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, during the protest.
The protest came after the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum given to the state government by the lawyers’ body to reverse the increments.
“If the governor refuses to stop and reverse all tax increments after our protest, we will go to court.,” Mr. Ogunlana continued.
“The law court is part of our struggle. We are here for one purpose; to fight against our oppressor. We know our condition of life, sweating everyday, having problems with food, accommodation and they are here asking us to pay taxes, taxes and more taxes.
“I know of a school given N5 million for borehole permit. Are the parents of the students not in trouble?
“Ambode’s tax is illegal, toxic, satanic and we are not going to accept it. We voted for him and now he wants to vote us out of Lagos.”
Last week, the Lagos State government introduced a new fiscal regime that saw a hike in property taxes in the state, prompting a backlash from residents and activists.
But the government defended its actions saying the funds generated from the increase in taxes, such as the land use charge, would be used to build infrastructure.
On Tuesday, the protesters insisted the only solution is to reverse the increments.
“This is not about negotiations, it is about a total reversal,” said Abiodun Aremu, Secretary, Joint Action Front.
“We resisted Fashola on the doctors’ strike. NBA was with us at Ojota in January 2012. This protest today should not end up like the Ojota charade. It is their plot that the poor people must be driven out of Lagos and we must resist them.”
The protesters converged on the NBA secretariat at the Ikeja Magistrate Court on Tuesday morning and marched to the Lagos State House of Assembly where they were initially denied entry.
After sitting at the gate and insisting the Assembly complex was a public building, a state lawmaker, Sani Agunbiade, arrived and ordered the security guards to open the gates.
Addressing the lawmakers, Mr. Ogunlana said, “Our purpose here is two-fold, to communicate the grievances of Lagosians vis-a-vis the new directory of revenue generation of the government and also to present a letter to the Governor and the Speaker.”
Mr. Ogunlana then read the letter out loud accusing the government of enacting a law without proper consultation, adding that Mr. Ambode should not to be like the Biblical King Jeroboam who said ‘my father whipped you with iron but I will whip you with Scorpion.”
In his response, Mr. Agunbiade, the Majority Leader of the House, welcomed the protesters and informed them the Speaker and other members of the House were on an assignment outside the state.
“We thank you for the peaceful presentation of your position. The clerk will receive the letter on behalf of the Speaker and the Commissioner for Information will receive the letter on behalf of the governor,” said Mr. Agunbiade (APC, Ikorodu 1).
“We want a good relationship with the NBA especially when bills are to be passed into law. We expect you to state your position in the public hearing.”
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