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Anti-Open Grazing, VAT Bills Scale Second Reading At Lagos Assembly

Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly on Monday committed an anti-open grazing bill to the Committee on Agriculture after it scaled second reading.

The House also read for the first and second time, the state’s Value-Added Tax bill and asked the Committee on Finance handling it to report back on Thursday.

Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, described the ‘Prohibition of Open Cattle Grazing Bill’ as timely and one that would ensure harmonious relationships between herders and farmers and protect the environment of the state and the South West.

He suggested that the bill should make provision for the registration of herders and prepare them for ranching.

“Allocating parcel of land is not enough but there should be a training of those who would go into ranching,” said Obasa who admitted that ranching was expensive and required adequate preparation.

Speaking about the bill on VAT, he expressed hopes that it would lead to an “increase in revenue and increase in infrastructural development. This is in line with fiscal federalism that we have been talking about”.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had lost its bid at a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt to stop the Rivers State Government from collecting VAT.

Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam who refused the application held that the revenue agency failed to file an application to set aside the tax law recently enacted by the Rivers State House of Assembly and signed by Governor Wike on August 19, therefore, the state law on VAT was valid and subsisting.

In his reaction, Obasa who believes the court decision affects all states, is hopeful that when passed, the VAT law would help the Lagos State Government to tackle the challenges in its various sectors.

He urged the government to do everything legally possible to ensure the judgement of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, is sustained even up to the Supreme Court.

The lawmaker decried a situation where about N500 billion was generated from Lagos State while N300 billion was generated from other south-west states, but paltry amounts were disbursed to them in return.

“It is an opportunity for us to emphasise again on the need for the consideration of true federalism,” he said.

Before the speaker’s remarks, some members of the house – Bisi Yusuff, Kehinde Joseph, Olumoh Lukeman, Gbolahan Yishawu, Tobun Abiodun, David Setonji, Adedamola Kasunmu, Rasheed Makinde, and Sanni Okanlawon, made various contributions.

While reacting to the bill on open grazing, Yusuff lamented the havoc that herdsmen had caused in the South West, saying farmers have continuously become afraid to visit their farms, leading to a shortage of food.

He also said many farmers had become indebted as they now find it difficult to pay back loans they secured, stressing that it was lamentable that cattle roam the streets, causing accidents and harassing people.

While the lawmaker advocated stiffer penalties for herders caught carrying firearms, his position was supported by Joseph who said open grazing in the 21st century was an aberration.

Joseph said the bill would ensure peaceful coexistence, reduce crime, and help to guide the activities of herders, while Lukeman suggested that the high courts should be made to handle cases from the enforcement of the bill when passed, or that the state should establish special courts for such purpose.

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