Governorship candidates in Lagos State, yesterday slugged it out in a debate aimed at letting people know each aspirant’s plans for the state and advise the electorate on who to vote in February.
The candidates present at the debate organised by the Diocese of Lagos West, Anglican Communion (Church of Nigeria), Ikeja, include the All Progressives Congress (APC) Lagos governorship candidate, Akinwunmi Ambode, his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Jimi Agbaje, National Conscience Party (NCP) governorship candidate, Ayodele Akele, Action Alliance, Ishola Aregbesola, Kowa Party, Victor Adeniji, Mega Progressives Peoples Party (MPPP), Kayode Jacobs, Alliance for Democracy (AD), Bolaji Ogunseye, Labour Party, Pastor Biodun Popoola and Independent Democrats, Akinola Obadia.
The debate, which is in its third edition, was moderated by Professor Bayo Asaju and had in attendance Senator, Musiliu Obanikoro, Lagos chairman of APC, Chief Henry Ajomale and others.
The candidates disagreed over the tax regime, the challenges confronting education and other issues bordering on the development of the state.
Defending the tax regime in Lagos, Ambode referred to the falling global oil prices and its effect on the economy. “Two-third of the Lagos revenue is generated from tax,” he said. “And we knew that a day like this will come and that was why we strengthened our tax system.
“There are eight million residents of Lagos who should be in the tax net but we have only four million captured at present. The next strategy is to ensure that we become more efficient in generating more revenue internally. We will be more creative with it by pleading with those that are yet to embrace the payment of tax in the state. The tax we get was what we have used to develop the state.”
Agbaje however differed. He faulted Ambode’s claim, saying “the state government is putting the burden of the eight million persons who should have paid tax on the four million tax payers. And it is heavy and they are grumbling. You have to expand the tax net rather than over burden the few that are complying. Also, there is need to expand the economy to create more jobs and others.”
According to Agbaje, the revenue generated within the state was enough to cater for its needs. “But there is a lot of wastage by the government. At the moment, the state does not encourage businesses.”
On his part, candidate of the AD, Ogunseye avowed that “the drop in oil price globally does not translate to over-taxing the residents. Rather than increase the tax levies, I will increase the number of production and the number of people engaged in it. Our problem is that few people are doing the job.
Jacobs, who is running on the platform of the MPPP also said that the tax regime in the state has forced “a lot of SMEs to relocate to Ogijo and Mowe in Ogun State. But for us, we will give tax holidays to these smaller companies in order to thrive.”
Akele of the NCP also disagreed with the tax regime, especially because he believes the money is being embezzled by some people. “The bulk of the revenue generated by the state government is been mismanaged by some individuals. But when I am elected, I will use 15 percent of the revenue generated in the state to run the State service and we will terminate the contract of those private individuals who manage the tax administration in the state. And we will have enough funds to provide infrastructure.
Reacting to the claim by Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu against him, Agbaje reminded Tinubu that he had no governance experience before assuming the post of governor in the state.
“Even the national leader of the ruling party in Lagos did not have government experience before he was elected as governor of this state in 1999. All he had was three months as Senator before he was elected.”