Captains of industry and members of the Organised Private Sector, OPS, have cried out over multiple levies being collected from them by officials of Local Governments in Lagos, saying the levies hamper their businesses.
This is coming as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode promises to streamline all levies collected by LGs in the state in order to curb harassment of the OPS by council officials.
The captains of industry made their grievances known to the governor at the 5th edition of the Lagos State Corporate Assembly tagged: “A+ Meets Business,” held at the State House, Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, on Thursday.
President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Nike Akande, lamented the multiplicity of levies and fees being collected by LGs in the state, saying that the manner in which it was being collected is frustrating.
“We have issues with the manner in which the Local Government Councils manage this aspect of their functions. There are concerns about the method, the process and transparency. There are several instances of arbitrariness in the imposition of levies. Most often, these are at variance with approved rates.
“Some specific examples are: radio and television permit. Many organisations have suffered embarrassment following demand by Local Council officials for radio and television permit. Again these come with a lot of arbitrariness with rates ranging from ₦50,000 to ₦200,000 per annum.
“Parking Permit: Many organisations have been served with various charges for parking permit ranging from ₦100,000 per annum to ₦500,000 per annum, depending on the locations and number of parking lots. There are instances where both the local and the state officials make demands on the same companies for parking fees. For companies in the small and medium enterprise categories, these demands could be very burdensome.
“We appreciate the fact that the state government does not have direct responsibility for the administration of local governments, but we believe you can prevail on them for a moderation of the fees, streamlining of the levies/permits and proper coordination between the states and local councils. Information on approved rates and fees should be widely publicised to curb abuses and also allow for better planning by businesses,” Akande appealed to Ambode.
Akande also raised the issue of movement of delivery vans, lamenting that there were too many permits and licenses to be obtained.
She said the situation could be so bad that some of these vehicles carry as many as 15 stickers on their windscreens.
She listed the mandatory licenses and permits to include: Lagos Drivers Institute License, Driver’s License by the Road Safety, Local Government Permit, Hackney Permit and Dual Carriage, Vehicle License, Certificate of Road Worthiness, Barge Permit, Conductor’s Barge, Vehicle Identification Tag, Vehicle Radio and Television Permit, Vehicle Outdoor Mobile Environmental Sanitation Permit, Nigerian Police Emblem, Lagos State Consolidated Emblem and the Ministry of Transport Certification [MOT] certificate.
“These copious permits and licenses will certainly create compliance problems. This has therefore created a problem of logistics for companies operating in the state, most of which are SMEs. The result of this scenario is that many of the delivery vans would not go out of the factory gates until very late in the day when they would be sure that the VIOs, Road Safety and the Local Council Officials have closed for the day,” she added.
Also speaking, Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Apapa Branch, Babatunde Odunayo lamented the harassment by LG officials who used touts to collect all manner of illegal levies from them under duress.
“There is a cry as to who will save us from LG personnel and the highways. They extort us so much. We recognise that these permits are for revenue generation, but touts generate these permits at the backyard door,” he said.
Odunayo appealed to Ambode to allow his government work with LGs to fashion out a blueprint for better collection of levies at the grassroots, rather than being harassed by touts and LG officials.
However, other issues raised by the OPS include difficulties in cargo clearing at the Lagos Port, fixing of the rail system to facilitate the evacuation of cargo from Lagos ports in order to reduce the use of the articulated vehicles and indirectly reduce carnage on Lagos roads; relocation of Tank Farms to reduce the convergence of fuel tankers on the Apapa corridor, perfection of land titles, need for International Convention Centre in Lagos, right of way for telecom operators, among others.
Reacting to the various demands and questions raised at the event, Ambode said his administration would address the issues of multiplicity of levies being charged by LGs in the state, saying that he would harmonise all levies collected by LGs into a single one so that once the OPS paid, nobody would harass them anymore.
He, however, said, Lagos is open for greater business, as the goal of his administration is to improve on the ease of doing busineses, adding that all the challenges raised created opportunities to move Lagos forward.
“The gathering is to synergise and collaborate. We place greater emphaisis on SMEs and artisans. We have established the Employment Trust Fund. The ETF is to create a fund to inject N6.25 billion into the economy annually for SMEs participation. We need to inject better relationships with professionals to stimulate the economy,’ he said.
The governor said all issues raised by the OPS would be addressed for the benefit of all and to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Lagos, adding that “We will partner with you (OPS). The private sector actually owns Lagos State. Whatever we can do to support your business, we will do it.”