Open-grazing Act not intended as punishment
Opponents of States’ collection of Value Added Tax, VAT, have got a reply. It will not impoverish other States and make collection cumbersome, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso has said.
He gave this assurance while speaking today on “Your View”, a TVC current affairs programme.
His words: “Lagos has a solid case in the ongoing legal dispute as the crux of the disagreement is about equity, justice and fairness. Whichever way it goes, it will also enrich our jurisprudence and enhance the way we see and relate with the Law. No matter what, Lagos will always stand for true Fiscal Federalism”.
The Commissioner pointed out that the volume of air, sea and road transport activities in Lagos puts pressure on the State’s infrastructure, adding that additional revenue from VAT will facilitate infrastructure development for faster movement of goods and services as well as economic growth for the benefit of not only Lagos but other States as prices will fall.
Speaking on the demand for a special status for Lagos, Omotoso described the State as a “Giant that carries most of the burden of Nigeria on its shoulders and the engine-room of the nation’s financial and business activities”.
“Lagos must be empowered to play this role to the benefit of Nigerians”, he said.
Omotoso noted that other States can partner with Lagos to generate more revenue or resources by taking advantage of its huge population and massive market to sell their agricultural produce and other products, while profits realised therefrom would be repatriated to create more wealth for farmers and other producers in such States.
He recalled that it appeared like Lagos was turned into an orphan following the movement of the Federal Capital to Abuja on December 12, 1991, as there has been only modest support from the Federal Government.
In his view, should the State gain the right to collect VAT, there will be resources for more infrastructure or facilities in transportation, health, education etc, that will be of benefit not only to Lagosians, but others who troop in every day.
The Lagos spokesperson also promised that the State will sensitise residents concerning its position on the debate.
Open-Grazing not for punishment
Gbenga Omotoso while speaking about the open-grazing said that the Lagos State Government was committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure the implementation of anti-open grazing, stressing that the legislation is not targeted at any individual or group.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu signed the bill into law on Monday.
Omotoso said the law followed the resolution of Southern State Governors to stem clashes between herders and farmers, and strengthen the security and safety of the people.
His words: “The Law is not to punish anybody or group as extensive public engagements were done before the Law was passed. The Government organised stakeholders’ meetings; the Lagos State House of Assembly conducted a public hearing to connect with the residents and incorporate their opinions. The State EXCO also reviewed the bill before it was signed into Law”.
“The Anti-Open Grazing Law makes it illegal to parade cattle on streets; cattle rearers are to get permits for cattle movement from the Ministry of Agriculture and those interested in ranching are to consult the Ministry for regulation and control. Parading cattle and carrying firearms now attract 21-year jail term”.
Omotoso said that the law is in consonance with the State Government’s plan for the Red Meat Value Chain, which is to ensure quality in the processing and wholesome production of red meat for the benefit of all stakeholders, including consumers.
Responding to the speculation that the Law will lead to an increase in the price of cows, the Commissioner affirmed that Lagosians want modernisation and movement into the 21st Century Economy being vigorously pursued by the Sanwo-Olu administration and such a comment that the North is against it, is sentimental and imaginary as northerners also live in the State.
“The Law does not hinder the transportation of cows into the State. It only restricts the rearing of cows on the streets. That a cow will now cost two million Naira is preposterous and not realistic”, Omotoso said.
He also said a task force comprising officers of security agencies, who will enforce the Law and prosecute offenders at the regular and special courts, was being put in place.