Alpha Beta Consulting said on Thursday that it has no contract with the Lagos State Government in execution of the state’s newly-introduced land use law.
But the firm was silent on allegations that its name was specifically mentioned in the new law that hikes tariffs for homeowners across the state.
“We would like to state that our company, Alpha Beta Consulting, is not involved in the collection and administration of the Land Use Charge of Lagos State,” the company’s deputy managing director, Bode Oluyemi, said in a statement on Thursday morning.
“Although we do business with the state as we do with other individuals and organisations that require our services, Land Use Charge collection and/or administration is not part of our brief,” he added.
The disclaimer comes as tempers flare amongst Lagosians over the new rates for land use and the claim that Alpha Beta, a private firm, had been specifically favoured by the law as a potential consultant to be engaged in verification of land use payments to state coffers.
The Lagos House of Assembly responded to the criticism yesterday, telling newsmen that Alpha Beta was erroneously written into the state law.
“It was a very costly mistake that should not have happened,” Tunde Braimoh, a spokesperson for the Lagos State House told newsmen by telephone Wednesday afternoon. “It was erroneously put in the draft copy of the law and we’re already working to remove it completely.”
“Alpha Beta or any other designated person(s) or corporate body who has the responsibility of monitoring the incoming revenue of the state through the collecting banks, shall provide a report to the Accountant-General of the State,” according to a section of the proposed Lagos State Land Use Charge Act 2018 said.
Mr. Braimoh has that Alpha Beta would be removed from the law within three weeks.
He also said the new land use law, which is a revision of a 2001 law, has not been signed into law. But it was later learnt that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had given his assent to it since February.
Residents across the state are also reporting on social media that they have started receiving notification about the new tariffs.
State officials promised to make a copy of the signed law available to newsmen before the end of the week.
Alpha Beta did not say whether it was inserted in the law or now, but insisted that “the stories making the rounds that link us to it is not true and do not represent our correct relationship with the government.”
The company has been favoured over the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service in the state’s tax administration since the days of Bola Tinubu, who was governor between 1999 and 2007.
The role of Alpha Beta in Lagos State has been a subject of widespread speculation amongst residents, especially since successive administrations after Mr. Tinubu have failed to disclose the terms of their contracts to the state’s residents.
The opaque nature of the transactions between the parties has made it difficult for taxpayers to know how much Alpha Beta is taking from its engagement.
Some opposition politicians in the state have repeatedly taken on the state government over its affairs with Alpha Beta.
In 2012, a Lagos-based medical doctor, Dominic Adegbola, filed a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to state authorities, seeking detailed information on all Alpha Beta contracts with Lagos State since 1999.
But the state’s attorney-general’s office rejected the request, saying the FoI is a federal law that does not apply to the states.
However, in November 2017, a state judge ruled that the FoI is applicable to Lagos State. The judge said the law was duly enacted by the National Assembly and does not require domestication to take effect in states.
The controversy around Alpha Beta featured prominently during the 2015 election in the state, with Jimi Agbaje, candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, vowing to terminate the contract if elected.
“We will empower and strengthen Lagos Internal Revenue Service because they are the right people to do the job,” of collection of taxes,” Mr. Agbaje said on February 26, 2015, during a social media hangout. “We can’t have consultants forever. A model is needed that even when we use consultants, they transfer skills and leave”.