NOTE: For applicable rate for Radio & TV License, please scroll to the end of the article.
A frequent talking point for analysts of Nigeria’s federal structure and its dysnfunctionalities is the lack of autonomy for many local government councils, with State Governors ultimately having control over council funds and, ostensibly, the power to dismiss chairmen and councillors. When the political and administrative insecurity that this leads to is combined with the fact that, as Ankio Briggs put it in her Channels TV interview of 9th October 2012, politics at the grassroots level is violent and frequently requires the employment of thugs (and local government council chairmen need to keep these thugs happy between election cycles), it is not very hard to see why the “face” of councils is generally unintelligent, insensitive and primitive.
Harsh words, yes, but I do not know how else to describe the system where local government councils authorise illiterate touts to set up road blocks and enforce non-existent (or illegal) laws on motor vehicles requiring radio and television licenses. It is a totally unworkable system, one that would require every Nigerian driver travelling cross-country to procure a radio licence for each council he intends to drive through. These thugs and touts threaten to impound vehicles (which never have them anyway) whose drivers refuse to pay for the ugly certificates they designed with rudimentary PowerPoint and most people pay something, usually slightly less than the “prescribed” fee, to be able to continue on their journeys.
I should add that, in many States, the vehicle radio licence is not the only surprise that councils spring on Nigerian citizens. For many businesses, council regulations (and levies) change according to the whims of the chairman and his councillors.
What is the actual extent of local government powers to impose levies? Let us take a look in the ultimate regulation in the land – the 1999 Constitution.
Section 7(1) of the constitution provides that –
“The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the Government of every State shall…ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.” I have emphasised those words to show that any authority to be exercised by a local government council must emanate from a Law passed by the State House of Assembly.
The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution states the main functions of a local government council, which include the “collection of rates, radio and television licences” (full list at the end of this piece) and this is apparently what councils feel empowers them to demand the procurement of vehicle radio licences. However, even a cursory look at the structure of the list of functions will show that it is not likely that it was the draftsman’s intention for that provision to apply to vehicles.
But even if, for the sake of argument, it was intended to apply to motor vehicles, by rules of interpretation of statutes (the “absurdity rule” to be precise), laws cannot be enforced in a manner that results in absurdity. And it is unquestionably absurd to be required to visit each local government council in Nigeria to buy their motor vehicle radio and television licences. What should happen in that instance is that the fee is collected centrally and disbursed to local governments according to an agreed formula (good luck to the National Assembly in getting States to agree to any such permutation).
However, we come back to the point that the “establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions” of local government councils are constitutionally required to be provided for by the Laws of a State. Local government councils can therefore not collect any levies which the State government has not authorised them to.
Luckily for us in Lagos (I am not certain about other States) there is the Local Government Levies (Approved Collection List) Law of 2010. The Law makes it clear what levies councils are authorised to collect and prohibits the mounting of road blocks for the collection of levies except in emergencies and as approved by the State government. The list of approved levies in the Law is as follows-
i. Shops and kiosks rates
ii. Approved open market levy
iii. Tenement rates
iv. Licensing fee for sale of liquor
v. Slaughter slab license fee in abattoirs under local government control
vi. Marriage, birth and death registration fees
vii. Street naming registration fee
viii. Motor park levy (including motorcycles and tri-cycles)
ix. Parking fee on local government streets or roads as may be approved by the State Government
x. Domestic animal licence (excluding poultry farmers)
xi. Licence fees for bicycles, trucks, canoes, wheelbarrows and carts (other than mechanically propelled trucks)
xii. Radio and television licence fee (excluding radio and television in motor vehicles, transmitters and other communication equipment)
xiii. Public convenience, sewage and refuse disposal fees
xiv. Cemetery and burial ground permit fee
xv. Permit fee for private entertainment and merriment in public places (excluding roads and streets)
xvi. Wharf landing fees
So there you have it. If any council in Lagos State ever stops you and demands for your radio licence, tell them Tex said they should get lost. For the ones outside Lagos, you probably have no other choice but to appeal to their stupidity.
FOURTH SCHEDULE TO THE 1999 CONSTITUTION
1. The main functions of a local government council are as follows:
a. The consideration and the making of recommendations to a state commission on economic planning or any other similar body on–
i. The economic development of the State, particularly in so far as the areas of authority of the council and State are affected; and
ii. Proposals made by the said commission or body;
b. Collection of rates, radio and television licenses;
c. Establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm;
d. Licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows and carts;
e. Establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences;
f. Construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State;
g. Naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses;
h. Provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal;
i. Registration of all births, deaths and marriages;
j. Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State; and
k. Control and regulation of –
i. Outdoor advertising and hoarding,
ii. Movement and keeping of pets of all description,
iii. Shops and kiosks,
iv. Restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale of food to the public,
v. Laundries, and
vi. Licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor.
I have come across this brochure which provides a further summary of the law and lists the rates collectable under each head. Click the link for the full information. For applicable Radio & TV licenses, see the table below –
|Revenue Heads||Revenue Bands|
|Highly Urbanised Communities||Urban Communities||Semi-Urban Communities||Rural Communities|
|Radio & TV License|