The Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, gubernatorial candidate, Jimi Agbaje, has denied the allegation by Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, that he is a tax evader and owes the state government N1.6 million in unpaid Land Use Tax.
In a statement signed by his spokesperson, Felix Oboagwina, Mr. Agbaje described Mr. Fashola’s statement as an “unprovoked attack on his person.”
He said the statement was a contradiction as he had just received a letter of commendation by the state’s Commissioner for Finance for his faithfulness in payment of tax relating to his residence in Apapa from 2011.
A copy of the letter attached to the statement and signed by Ayo Gbeleyi, Lagos State Commissioner for Finance reads: “A review of our payment records from 2011 shows that you have been consistent with the payment of land use charge on the above property.
“The Lagos State Government wishes to express its appreciation to you on your consistent fulfilment of your civic responsibility and your singular contribution towards the development of the state.”
On Wednesday, at the 8th Annual Stakeholder Taxation Conference in Ikeja, Mr. Fashola said Mr. Agbaje’s pharmaceutical company, Jaykay Pharmacy, did not pay the Land Use Tax from 2009 to 2012.
“You know that he manages a pharmacy called Jaykay Pharmacy, located at 9, Randle Close, Apapa,” Mr. Fashola said. “His pharmacy has not paid land Use Charge for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
“They paid in 2013 and 2014 because they discovered that the election would be holding in 2015. His pharmacy owes this state N1, 629, 064.62. Let us do that mathematics to see how many facilities that funds would have provided in our hospitals and stationary in our schools. But this was the same person who was complaining that the state government spent three per cent of its budget on education.
“Local Government is responsible for the management of the primary schools and yet he has withheld their taxes. This is the man who wants to be your next governor. And I will advise you that you avoid deception and tax evader.”
Mr. Fashola said it was illegal to evade taxes, adding that it was disingenuous for a politician seeking public office to advise the people not to pay tax. Mr Agbaje has severely criticised the Fashola’s administration for its high taxation of residence.
“When our opponent complained that the state government was imposing more taxes on the residents, they have forgotten that they enacted that law,” Mr. Fashola said. “Where we were years ago was where the central government had chosen to start. The payment of tax is the first principle of the social contracts between the government and the citizens. It is an irreducible legal minimum of citizenship and a breach of this responsibility is a criminal offence under our law.”
However, Mr Agbaje said although he founded Jaykay Pharmaceutical, he left the directorship of the company in 2006 and was no longer involved with the running of the company, not even as an executive director. He said all these were facts the government was aware of.
He said the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, was beginning to feel the heat and becoming increasingly aware that it would be defeated in the election thus the governor’s recourse to personal attacks.
“Are they feeling the heat of Agbaje and PDP’s impending victory in the state, or how does one explain this recourse to personal attacks recently embarked upon by chieftains of APC?” he asked. “It will be recalled that the governor only about two weeks ago said that Agbaje was too old to be governor, although the PDP candidate is only 57.
“This fresh outburst amounts to another futile attempt at mudslinging by a desperado group that is up against a formidable opponent, and it has only succeeded in staining the source.”