By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A court in Abuja has described the collection of tenement rates by the six area councils of the Federal Territorial Capital (FCT) from property owners as unconstitutional and has consequently barred them from further collecting the propter tax.
Justice Valentine Ashi held that the collection of the property tax by the six councils was usurpation of functions donated to the National Assembly by the Constitution.
“An area council in the FCT is equivalent to a local government area in a state in the light of section 318  of the constitution.
“By virtue of section 299 [a], the national assembly is conferred with exclusive legislative competence over and in respect of the FCT.
“However, until the National Assembly amends or enact another law to replace the Local Government Act, it remains the law in force the governs the area councils, as an existing law, within orbit of the provisions of section 315 of the constitution and in reading and applying its provision, even by the court, it must be read with such modifications as may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the constitution,” Justice Ashi held.
The area councils were taken to court by Planned Shelter Ltd on behalf of property owners in the nation’s seat of power.
In the same judgement, the court also nullified and set aside the various bylaws enacted by the area councils to give legal backing to the collection, saying they have no power and capacity to assess, determine, demand and legislate on tenement rate without strict compliance with the provision of section 1 of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution.
They were therefore prohibited from taking further steps whatsoever aimed at giving effect to the purported by-laws for the collection of tenement rates from any person or entity pending when the national assembly shall give effect to the provision of section 1 of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution.
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