In this Part 4 of my commentaries on the Real Property Charge Bill, 2016, being sponsored by the member representing Esit Eket/Ibeno state constituency in the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Mr Usoro Akpanusoh, I will be looking at the conflict that exists between the Bill and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). That is another mischief in the Bill, which is why I termed it as a Witchcraft Bill.
Section 3(3) of the Property Bill says; “For the purpose of carrying out the identification of assessment of a property, the identification officers or assessors or their authorised assistants may, on any day between the hours of 7.00am and 4.00pm:- (a) Enter, inspect, survey and assess the property. (b) Request for documents or other information to be produced to the identification officer or assessor. (c) Take photographs and geo-coordinates. And (d) Make copies of necessary documents of the (sic).”
Whereas Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN (as amended), says; “THE PRIVACY OF CITIZENS, THEIR HOMES, CORRESPONDENCE (emphasis mine), telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby GUARANTEED AND PROTECTED (emphasis mine).” The Bill is already dead on arrival. I recommend a befitting burial for it.
The Akwa Ibom House of Assembly is an institution of government established by the same Nigerian constitution; hence its members should be guided accordingly not to breach provision(s) of the Constitution, with passage of obnoxious, satanic and anti-people’s Bill such as this.
However, I have read some arguments credited to the proponents of the Bill to the extent ‘that it will boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state; that it is targeted at the multi-national companies operating in the state; and targeted at the rich in our society.’
These would have passed for fantastic arguments if Section 4 of the Bill did not read; “Subject to Section 2 of this Law, EVERY OWNER OF ANY PROPERTY (emphasis mine) situate in the state shall be liable to pay, in respect of each taxable property owned by him, a Charge computed in line with the formula contained in the Schedule to this Law.”
Akwa Ibom state is a civil service state. Majority of its people are civil servants. Majority are pensioners, let our lawmakers be mindful not to provoke the anger of the society with such an outrageous and repugnant Bill.
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator