Edo State High Court Restrains Edo Geographic and Information Service from Demanding for and Collecting Land Use Charge
.By:Gabriel Ehigiator Esq
The Edo High Court No. 6, Sitting in Benin City , Presided over by the Hon Justice P.A. Akhihiero in Suit No .B/99D/2021 :Chief Ferdinand O Orbih (Carrying on legal practice as Ferd O Orbih SAN & Co. v Edo State Geographic Infirmation Service & 2 Ors , has stopped the collection of Land Use Charge in Edo State , stating that it is unconstitutional , null and void .
The case of Chief Ferdinand O. Orbih SAN,FCIArb UK, was argued by the brilliant Benin Based Lawyer K.O Obamogie Esq., who submitted with a plethora of authorities that by Section 7 (1) (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria , 1999 (As Amended ) ,the collection of what the Edo State Government through a Law called Land Use Charge is the excusive duties of the 18 Local Governments of Edo State specifically donated by the Constitution , which does not allow any derogation whatsoever.
Counsel for the Claimant K O. Obamogie Esq., specifically made reference to Paragraph 1(j) of the Fourth Schedule of Constitution of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria ,1999 (As Amended ) , which stated thus :
“1 The main functions of a local government council are as follows:
(j) assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State ;and”
Counsel for the Claimant among other arguments contended that the Land Use Charge Law ,2012 was enacted by the Edo State House of Assembly in flagrant breach of Section 7 Subsection 1 nd 5 and paragraph 1(j) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution .Counsel submitted that the Local Governments can not give up powers given to them by Constitution to collect Tenement Rates through an Agreement between thev18 Local Governments and Edo State Government, being an obligatoey duty imposed by the Constitution and he asked the Court to grant the reliefs sought by the Claimant.
In her submission Counsel for the Defendant Mrs V. U. Adeleye (Director), Edo State Ministry of Justice , submitted that the Edo State Land Use Charge ,2012 is a valid Law that has consolidated property taxes and that the Law is not at variance with the Constitution.She submitted that only Local Governments whose powers were taken by the Law Can challenge the Law.Counsel also submitted that the Law is not illegal , but only strengthens the collaborative efforts of the Local Governments and the State Government in the collection of property taxes. Counsel asked the Court to dismiss the Suit .
In a well considered Judgment , the Presiding Judge , the Hon Justice P.A Akinhiero held among other ratios that there is no written agreement presented to Court between the 18 Local Governments and the Edo State Government delegating the powers to collect tenement rates to the State Government.The Court then⁷ held that it is the ouster of express powers provided by the Constitution ,for the Land Use Change Law to give powers to the Edo State Government using the Edo GIS to collect Tenement Rates expressly donated by the Constitution .The Court held that Local Governments are Constitutional Entities who must perform functions inposed on them by the Constitution .The Court then declared the Edo State Land Use Charge , Law ,2012 , which purports to take the powers o the Local Governments in Edo State to collect Tenement Rates as null and void .The Court then used the Blue Pencil Rule to strke down Sections 3(2), 5,24,27 of the Edo State Land Use Charge Law and declared same as null and void while reviving the Powers of Local Governments to collect Tenement Rates , after reinstating the Tenement Rates Law of Edo State .The Court then granted substantially the reliefs sought by the Claimant , including an Order of perpetual injunction restraining the Edo GIS for demanding or collecting Land Use Charge .