Registration of Doubtful Intent

Skepticism trails the introduction of residency registration by the Lagos State government

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Nov. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

MIXED reactions have continued to greet the ongoing Lagos residents’ registration initiative. While some residents applaud it, others are rather skeptical about the motive behind it. Some are yet to make up their minds on whether to register or not. When Realnews visited some of the registration centres, the number of people coming for the registration was few. For instance, at the Iba local development council, the turnout was very scanty.

One of the registration agents told Realnews that people have not turned up irrespective of the massive advertisements by the state government. Those who support the initiative argue that it is necessary for the government to know the number of people residing in the state, where they live, what they do and other details about them. But those who have mixed feelings have said that the motive for having the names and other details about the residents is to bring them into the government tax net.

Ikechukwu Ogana, a resident, said the initiative is good to the extent that it will enable the government to know the number of people that reside in a certain place, the number of households and their identities. But he pointed out that he would not support it if it’s going to be used for revenue generating purposes either now or in the future. “There is nothing wrong with the initiative. I believe it is a process whereby a database of people living in a place is collated and the number of houses too. This is to make governance effective. But I won’t support it if it is ultimately used for revenue generating purposes,” he said.

Kingsley Azubuike, another resident, is critical of the exercise. He believes that at the end of the day, the database will enable the government to know the number of adults who should be asked to pay tax. He said that even if the exercise is for the state government to know the exact number of residents so as to know how to plan for them, he currently does not access social services in the state, except roads.

“Though I have heard about the residents’ registration initiative, I have not registered because I am still skeptical about it. It might be a ploy by the government to know the number of adults who should be within the tax net. I pay my tax regularly, yet I don’t have access to health services in public hospitals owned by the government. I use the private hospitals together with my wife and children. My children don’t attend public schools. The only social service provided by the state that I enjoy is the road.”

Another resident, who gave his name as Gbenga, looks at it from another perspective. He said that the state might use it to get a reliable census figure of the residents. But he is afraid that the government might use it to tax people in the state. He had gone to the registration centre to register but was told to produce her recent tax clearance, among other documents requested for registration. “I had to go back home, with the thought that the exercise might be a ploy to know the number of those who are paying taxes and those who don’t,” he said.

But Lateef Ibirogba, commissioner for information in the state, dismisses the insinuation that the exercise is for tax collection purposes, adding that it is meant for the government to have a near-perfect database of residents to allow for proper planning for them. “Those who are expected to register are those who reside in the state, and those visitors to the state who will be here for six months or more. From that registration, each resident will be issued a unique number, including his or her biometrics,” he said.

According to him, this process is part of efforts taken by state government towards making Lagos a model mega city in Africa. He called on the residents of the state to endeavour to register before December 1. “My advice to the residents is to go and register,  because from December 1, whoever does not register will not be able to access social services in the state without producing the residency card.”

The state government wants an e-registration of all residents and it is in view of this that it established the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency in 2011. The agency was mobilised to implement a residents’ database and identification card programme for the state.

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