By Lizzy Chirkpi
OrderPaperToday – Residents of Abuja have expressed anger at the decision of the the National Assembly to reverse its earlier ban imposed on the collection of tenement rates within Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by area councils.
Recall that the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory Administration in deference to the legislature had on May this year imposed a temporary freeze on the collection of the rates owing to the huge outcry by residents who complained of the prohibitive costs imposed in mostly arbitrary and haphazard fashion by officials of the councils.
The new directive was contained in a circular signed by the FCT Permanent Secretary, Mr. Babatope Ajakaiye. According to the circular, the suspension at the time became necessary to sanitize and streamline the tenement rates collection process, as well as
ensure compliance with relevant provisions of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The new circular from the FCT administration is sequel to a letter from the House of Representatives dated August 1, 2017 with reference no: NASS/8HR/CT/.32/149 titled “Approval for the collection of tenement rates within the Federal Capital Territory by Area Councils” directed the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) to resume collection of the tenements rates with immediate effect.
The letter signed by the chairman of the House Committee on FCT Area Councils and Ancillary matters, Mr. Zaphaniah Jisalo said ” the issue of collection of tenements rates by the Area Councils had already been addressed by the National Assembly through the provisions of action 13 of the Federal Capital Territory Act, Cap 128, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“This piece of legislation by reference was made pursuant to action 229 (a) (c) and section 303 in fulfillment of the Fourth schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 wherein tenement rate is item (I)’
The chairman noted that “from the community construction of these constitutional provisions; section 13 of the Federal Capital Territory Act Cap 128 as well as the judicial authority in Advin Ventures Ltd and 2 others vs chairman Abuja Municipal Area Council(12th May, 2014, per Court of Appeal) the tenement rate of 4 percent or N4k per naira; currently being assessed and collected by the Area Council is within the contemplation of this established legal framework and accordingly, the Honourable speaker House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has directed that this should continue to operate without let or hindrance.
“It remains for me to emphasize, for avoidance of doubt, that the Area Council is under obligation to ensure that assessment and collection of the tenement rates shall be strictly in compliance with this established legal framework”
The resumption of the tenement rates collection has however sparked a fresh round of fury among residents of the FCT who construe the rate as prohibitive and unbearable in the current economic recession plaguing the country.
Most respondents who spoke with OrderPaper.ng decried the rates and berated the House of Representatives for lifting the ban when the economic recession is yet to abate, saying the resumption of the rates collection is a ploy by the ruling elite to inflict more hardship on the people of Abuja.