AN EVALUATION OF PROPERTY RATING PRACTICE IN NIGERIA
(A CASE STUDY OF ENUGU NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA)
The creation of more state in Nigeria in 1976 gave rise to new urban centres, the rapid growth of which increased the need to finance the provision of public utilities. One of the major sources of finance is real estate taxation. Property tax reform is one of the alternatives proposed as a means for raising increased revenue to meet the financial needs of cities in less developed countries. Property rating is employed in Nigeria at the local government levels to raise revenues for public purposes. Rates are levied not on the nation as a whole but on a particular locality that is deemed ripe for the imposition of rates and with the consent of parliament. This consent is not given on every occasion of rate collection. The power is general one, given by statute without restriction and for all times.
The general lack of interest on the part of the property ratepayers and the reluctance of some assessment jurisdictions to disclose information, the property rate administration is often surrounded in mystery. This centres on the fact that the core of property tax (rate) administration is the value of each taxpayer’s property, so that each taxpayer will bear fairly his proportional part of the overall tax levy. Property owners have a right to know the approximate, fraction of estimated market value that is being used for tax (rating) assessment purposes.
If the local government have to exist and to viable as the third tier of government they must surely need some local revenue in order stand firmly property rating is the most obvious source of such revenue. Property rating not only helps in influencing development but is also the major source of local government revenue used in defraying the cost of services rendered by local government includes, inter-alia, parks, burial grounds, registration of marriage, death and birth.
It is important to note that rate is a form of tax, hence the use of property rate and property tax is interchangeable, although there is a slight difference between rate and tax, beside that rate is a form of tax, while in rating the amount of revenue required by a rating authority is first decided and then distributed among the rate payers according to a pre-fixed standard in other kind of tax the exact amount to be generated at the time of imposition is unknown.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
From investigation and empirical data on property rating in general and in Enugu state in particular, one observes a gold mine with proper handling waiting to be exploited as can seen in Enugu north it is, therefore the aim of this paper to examine the administration of property rating in the state, how well informed the rate payers are, their attitudes, improvement in the system, how well the system has been paying off, and of course, a critical appraisal of the system.
The purpose of this paper is to study and identify the sources of local government finance, its problems, methods of property assessment as provided in some rating laws/Edicts, the impact of control of rent edict on property assessment, prospects of property rating and make recommendations not only on how best to expand the local government financial base with particular reference to property rating system but also on how best to implement the rating in the country. The purpose also includes the prospect of site value rating as a means of boosting the local government finance.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The local government reform law gave the function of rate collection to the local authorities. The valuation unit in the old Anambra State was staffed by civil servants. The unit organized tenement rating and prepared valuation list which were after due procedure sent to the rating authority to serve demand notices and collect tenement rates.
One of the greatest rating problems in most rating authorities is the problem of collection. The weak or ineffective administration has resulted in a high rate of default. For example in 1978/79 in the whole of Enugu north 21% of the estimated rate revenue was collected. Some rating authorities are now embarking on a commission basis.
The question of prosecuting defaulters is not actively pursued in most local rating authority areas for two reasons:
(a) Most of the defaulters are the élites who will adjudicate such cases.
(b) For political expediency landlords are political power brokers who chairmen of local rating authorities would not like to embarrass by prosecution.
Part xiii of this Edict captioned “Rating” which includes sections 103 to 146 empowers a local government area, in other words, a rating areas to impose property rating on property owners as a source of revenue raising. In Enugu state in general, and Enugu North local government in particular, weaknesses are readily discernible in the present property rating structures which in retrospect, prevents successful implementation of their service. Most of the property rating administrators at the local government headquarters is mere technicians, others basely literate which in no less measure hamper their sense of judgments as per the nature of the properties they collect data from, to be used by the rating valuers in the ministry of local government as Enugu, to arrive at the annual values of the properties. This problem was aggravated during the political era when employment opportunities were nation on political rather than qualification basis.
In collation with this, most property owners in Enugu are illiterates and do not know their rights. Most of them do not know why they should pay property rate at all. Added to this ugly situation is the ambiguity mounted by the assessors (valuation officers) in their notice to the property owners indicating the assessed value thereof. They only show the assessed annual value with out signifying the actual rate payable. When most of landlords see these, they simply deafen their ears, and blatantly refuse to pay, misconstruing the annual value as the rate payable value. They are only brought to attention of this premise by litigation, which is not the best interest of the local government, the cost and time consummations.
Another factor is how to equate the rating burden of the property owners in the locality with the value of services provided by the government activity. Implicit in this problem is the question of how to improve the current deplorable situation and weakening rural development programs via sound administration of property rating revenue.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective for the introduction of property rating in the local government is to raise revenue from the source. Revenue, thus generated are utilized by the local government where the tenements/properties are located to provide essential service which the government grants cannot easily take care of.
Local government provides essential services such as the supply of water and electricity, repair of wads and bridge, supplementing of the government grant for the payment of staff salaries not employed by the government. They also, have the responsibility to provide good drainage system and the planning of their local government area.
It is a fact that no government could long exist without the power to levy and collect taxes.(Barlowe.R)goes on to contend that the power to tax is the one great power upon which the whole national fabric is based. It is necessary to the existence and prosperity of the nation as the air he breathes is to the natural man. Thus the taxing power provides government with the major portion of revenues they use to finance their many operations and function, and it also provides a tool they can use for various fiscal and regulatory purposes.
1.4 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This work can not be said to be a comprehensive work. This is because property rating is so wide a discourse that all its facets could not, within the time limit and the volume margin, be covered effectively.
Coupled with these constraints aforementioned, the Enugu State North L.G.A played a vital role in frustrating the researchers endeavours. Again, the notion of administrators that the documents relating to property rating were mainly secrets and could not be made available to researchers unless on government permission met with its own problem.
Further more, reluctance due to ignorance on the purpose of the research on the part of the property owners to disclose necessary information on their own parts of the administration was also there. This was so pronominal that most of them either refused the collection and filling in of the questionnaires or automatically dodged certain personal interview question.
Despite all these constraints, and with perseverance and strong commitments, to the task on hand, the researcher was able to break through, and gathered adequate data necessary to make objective deduction and generalization on the property rating administration in Enugu North Local Government Area, Enugu State.
1.5 DEFINITION OF IMPORTANT TERMS
A) PROPERTY RATING: Also known as local government value of property paid to local government coffer as an amount per naira of the dateable value of the property. It is a local government tax based in rates, which are levied on the basis of ratable values of properties.
B) RATE: Payment for the ownership or occupation of something valuable, that is, rate is payment for the benefit derived or derivable from services.
C) RATEPAYERS: Ratepayers are the property owners whose properties are ratable. The word may refer to occupiers of the property or agents of the property owners especially where the property owners is an absence landlord.
D) RATING AUTHORITY: Means a rating area or a local government charged with the powers to administer property rating. Where used in this write-up, it applies to Enugu north local government.
E) LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE: Is the management of inflows of money by the government, that is the obtaining (of income) and using (or expenditure) of fund.
PROPERTY RATING ADMINISTRATION
Property rating administration embraced the four board principal arms involved in property rating namely the assessment, the collection the payment, and the application machineries.
OWNER: Includes the person for the time being receiving the rent of the tenement in connection with which the word is used whether in his own account or as agent of, or trustee for any other person, or who would receive the sum if such tenement were let to tenant, and the holder of a tenement direct, from the state whether under lease, license or otherwise.
PROPERTY: The meaning of property varies not only among individuals but also among professions. T o Estate surveyors and valuer and in fact in legal sense, property consist not of object but of rights over or in things owned. In other words, property consists of rights which owners exercise over land which they posses. These rights are
(a) Rights of use (b) Right of ahenate
(c) Right to claim title to (d) Right of assimilate, and (e) Right to pass by succession. These rights are referred to as “bundle of right” or property power.
RATE NAIRAGE: Means the amount in kobo to be charged on each naira in the assessed ratable value. It is currently 10k (ten kobo) in Enugu State.
STATE: State here means Enugu State.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT: “local government” where used in this thesis implies the Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu State.
APPRAISER: In relation to rating is essentially a valuer appointed to assess the value of hereditaments in the rating authority area.
HEREDITAMENT: Means any land, tenement or property which are or may become hable to any rate in respect of which valuation list is by the rating Act made possible. In other words, it is any tenement included in the variation list.
SPOT VALUE: Means the amount at which a scheduled tenement is ratable.
RATING AREA: Means the area of operation of any rating authority. Every local government area is by section 99 of the local government edict made a rating area.