Autonomy Of Local Government In Nigeria: Issues And Way Forward
This study was carried out to examine the autonomy of local government in Nigeria: issues and way forward using three local government areas in Delta State as a case study. Specifically, the study was aimed at examining if the autonomy of local government in Nigeria is achievable; study the effort of the Federal government of Nigeria in making local government autonomous; and analyze if the local government has and will have any positive effect on the populace. The study employed the survey descriptive research design. A total of 150 responses were validated from the survey. From the responses obtained and analysed, the findings revealed that the autonomy of local government in Nigeria is achievable any time soon; The Federal government of Nigeria is not making any effort to make local government autonomous; and the local government has positive effect on the populace. The study therefore recommend Federal government of Nigeria to see to accomplishing of LG autonomy in the country. LGs in Nigeria need adequate autonomy that can facilitate their operations and development of the localities. This should emanate from institutionalized democratic process of elections for representative LG councils as and when due.
1.1 Background of the Study
The Nigerian government structure is made up of three tiers, which are the federal government, state government and the local government. The three of them are involved in delivering dividends of democracy to the people. They each have their roles to play as entities, but they also collaborate in certain respects, especially when it has to do with management and financing. This ensures improvement in performance and accountability.
The federal government is involved in defense, shipping federal trunk roads, aviation, railways, posts, telegraphs, telephones, police and other security services. They are also involved in regulation of telecommunications, interstate commerce and labour. Federal sees to mines and minerals resources, guidelines for minimum education standards at every level of education and water resources. Both federal and state collaborate to see to antiquities and monuments, university, technological and post-primary educations; health and social welfare; statistics and surveys; scientific and technological research; industrial, commercial and agricultural development and electricity.
State and local governments collaborate on issues related to development of agriculture and non-mineral natural resources, health services and primary, adult and vocational education.
The local government deals with issues related to roads, streets, street lighting, drains and other public facilities; sewage and refuse disposal, homes for destitute and infirm, cemeteries and burial grounds and economic planning and development.
Funding for the three is mostly being provided by the federal government. Certain percentage of the monthly allocation goes to states and the states. States and local governments presently have joint account. This means states disburse funds needed by the local governments under them. (Nigerian founder, 2017).
The National Assembly’s oversight function of amending the 1999 Constitution has once again brought the vexing issue of local government autonomy to the front seat of Nigeria’s political arena. Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has experimented with different models of local government administration (Oyeleye, 1988; Oyediran and Gboyega, 1979). From empirical evidence in extant literature, the rationale behind the declaration, principally, was to bring government closer to the people and effective service delivery to the rural areas. It is in connection with the aforementioned rationale amongst others that several local government reforms have been initiated by successive governments to ensure that they are achieved (Olowu, 1984). However, within the Nigerian context, the 1976 local government reform gave us not only the definition of local government, but also the basic rudiments of local government autonomy. The 1976 reform defines local government as:
Government at the local level exercised through Representative Council established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas. These powers should give the council substantial control over local affairs as well as the staff institutional and financial powers to initiate and direct the provision of services and to determine and implement projects so as to implement the activities of the state and federal government in their areas, and to ensure, through devolution of these functions to these Councils and through the active participation of the people and their traditional institutions, that local initiative and response to local needs and conditions are maximized. The above definition brings out the key elements of local government autonomy. First, the local government unit should have a legal personality distinct from the state and federal governments. Second, the local government ought to have specified powers and functions distinct from the state and federal governments. Third, the local government has to operate independently of the state and federal governments. That means that the local government is not an appendage or field office of the state or federal government. Fourth, local government ought to have the ability to make its own laws, rules and regulations. Fifth, local government should have the ability to formulate and execute its own policies and the right to recruit, promote, develop and discipline its own staff. It is pertinent to note that there is never a time that local government in Nigeria has been granted the kind of autonomy expounded in our definition above. And like we earlier pointed out, in all political systems, the kind of autonomy the central or regional government entrust to the local units depend largely on the nature and character of state politics. For example, in the United States of America, the degree of autonomy granted local authorities is derived from ideals and values such as liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, unity and diversity (Akpan, 2013).
The Local Government in Nigeria can be a successful autonomous entity provided the Federal and State governments are ready to work towards achieving this.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
In the last few years there has been so much avoidable controversy and confusion about the local government system in Nigeria. Quite a number of challenges have confronted local governments in Nigeria, in their bid to utilize their autonomy in the task of developing the localities. These include structural, operational, financial, patron/godfather pressure, unstable democracy, constitutional provisions and corruption. However, this could be as a result of Nigeria’s socio-political context, with multiplicity of culture, diversity of languages and differentiated needs and means, the importance of local government in fostering the needed national consciousness, unity and relative uniformity as well as preservation of peculiar diversities cannot be over-emphasized. Central to the creation of local government, however, is its 17 ability to facilitate an avenue through which government and the people intermix, relate and more quickly than any other means resolve or dissolve issues that may have heated the system. Local government has been perceived as a panacea for the diverse problems of the diverse people with diverse culture. The importance of local government in enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery no doubt contributed to the rapid creation of many local governments following the adoption of 1979 constitution. Even today, there are still agitations for the creation of additional local governments
1.3 Research Questions
This work is designed to provide answers to the following questions:
- Is the autonomy of local government in Nigeria achievable?
- Can the Federal government allow the local government be an autonomous entity?
- Has the Local government have any meaningful positive impact on the lives of the populace?
1.4 Objective of the Study
- To critically cross examine if the autonomy of local government in Nigeria is achievable?
- To study the effort of the Federal government of Nigeria in making local government autonomous.
- To analyze if the local government has and will have any positive effect on the populace.
1.5 Scope of the Study
The researcher shall restrict the scope studies to the analysis of an autonomous local government in Nigeria. The study shall focus more on how local government autonomy boost Nigerian economy.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Empirically, the study will benefit the citizens and government of Imo State on the implications of lack of autonomy of the local government. It will also help the policymakers to quickly amend the constitutional provision that weakens the autonomy of local government in Nigeria. If this is done, then local government will no doubt be perceived as a panacea for grassroots development. The study is also significant because it will enable the people of Imo State to enjoy the dividend of democracy at the local government level. Theoretically, this work is significant because it will improve the literature base on local government autonomy in Nigeria. It is also a contribution to the existing literature in the area of local government autonomy.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
As the case usually is, there are certain limitations the researcher will be faced with in the cause of this work. One is in the area is finance for the general research. Apart from finance, also considering the fact that research work of this nature is often done within a time bound.
However, it is believed that these constraints will be checkmated by making the best use of the materials available materials and spending more than the necessary time in the research work, therefore, it is strongly believed that despite these constraint, its effect on this research report will be minimal, thus, making the objective and significance of the study achievable.
Secondary sources of gathering data will be largely employed for our variables. This again will be based on content analysis, what these involves is the critical review of related materials, literatures, journals, magazines and textbooks, it will also involve sourcing or browsing the net for materials. Communication with authorities in the field will also not be overlooked.
1.9 Key Words
The right or condition of self-government.
This is the administration of a particular county or district, with representatives elected by those who live there.
This is the state of a country or region in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money.
Economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories.
The activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.
Conclusion and Recommendation
In this study, our focus was to examine the autonomy of local government in Nigeria: issues and way forward using three local government areas in Delta State as a case study. The study specifically was aimed at examining if the autonomy of local government in Nigeria is achievable; study the effort of the Federal government of Nigeria in making local government autonomous; and analyze if the local government has and will have any positive effect on the populace.
The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 150 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are active workers in the three selected local government areas sin Delta state. The findings revealed that the autonomy of local government in Nigeria is achievable any time soon;
The Federal government of Nigeria is not making any effort to make local government autonomous; and the local government has positive effect on the populace.
These dominant recommendations are made to promote the LG institution that the Political Bureau Report (Nigeria, 1987: 120), a foremost report that the vast majority of well meaning Nigerians contributed to, called ’Local Government for development’. LG areas in the country are in dire need of real development.
LGs in Nigeria need adequate autonomy that can facilitate their operations and development of the localities. This should emanate from institutionalized democratic process of elections for representative LG councils as and when due. This should be in line with what obtains at the State and Federal government levels where elections are timely conducted. More will be said about democratic consolidation below. Adequate autonomy should be manifestly accorded LGs in other areas such as finance, revenue generation and expenditure, personnel administration and development matters. The literature that has largely, if not indeed entirely, agreed about poached LG autonomy will recognize adequate LG autonomy when it is granted by higher level governments. Adequate LG autonomy will forestall the current alibi that LGs make with inadequate autonomy for their diminutive development impact in their areas. In this study, LG autonomy for development has been taken as an independent variable, an overriding factor.
Three aspects of LG revenue need representation in our recommendation here. First is that State governments should extend the rightful financial allocations to LGs as the Federal government does. State governments should also totally eliminate all forms of interference with LGs’ revenue from the federation account, an interference documented by many writers (e.g., Aghayere, 1997; Omoruyi, 1995; Ola and Tonwe, 2005). LG autonomy is no doubt promoted by such policy adherence. The second aspect is that LGs must work hard to share up their autonomy themselves through more internal revenue generation (IRG). This recommendation agrees with the recommendation of the Political Bureau Report (Nigeria, 1987). The ripple effect of this recommendation could be that the citizenry would have more stake in governance. They would be more sensitive to governmental activities and developmental efforts. This increased sensitivity could also encourage the LGs to engage in more development of the localities through enhanced transparency. All this in turn could culminate in more appreciation from the people and greater autonomy from higher level governments.
Action-not verbal- institutionalization
This recommendation dove–tails into the last one above. The concept of ‘action – not verbal- institutionalization’ is meant to strongly remind the LGCs in Nigeria about their developmental responsibilities to the people. This is because positive or development responsibilities are the raison d’ etre for the creation of LGs. A popular slogan says “by thy fruits, ye shall be known”. As at now virtually all the LGs in Nigeria try to institutionalize themselves verbally and in the media, especially in the electronic. They marginally institutionalize themselves through sparse or lean developmental impact on ground. Road works (rehabilitation or construction), pipe borne water, electricity, health care delivery, good learning environment and functional education are few and far apart in the LG areas. Hence the importance of this recommendation that LGs should do less of verbal, but more of action, institutionalization. A lot of advertisement, jingles, posters, political solidarity rallies, etc. rather than developmental activities as conceptualized in section two of this paper are carried on by the LGCs. There should rather be more developmental activities on ground at the local area, which would constitute the bastion of action institutionalization. The latter actually carries with it the verbal one in the spirit of the popular adage that “action speaks louder than voice”. In deed, any developmental action for a community is known by the community concerned and hardly needs any advertisement on television for the locality to know about it. Development activities, in fact, advertise LGs to the host community as well as to other communities and persons more than LGs do electronically. Action-institutionalization would earn the LGCs all the respect, protection and autonomy they need from the locality, the people and higher level governments. It may completely eliminate the spate of dissolution of LGCs in Nigeria. To be able to earn the above, the LGCs can hardly succeed through sycophancy or abiding by the whims and caprices of the higher level governments. Such has been the situation which has not taken LGCs far. To be sure, more developmental activities from the LGCs will, no doubt, do the trick.
Need for Democratic Consolidation
Nigeria needs democratic consolidation as a formidable partner with the rule of law that can help to entrench the constitutional provisions on LGs. As we have seen in this study, there are many provisions in the 1999 Constitution that are disregarded. For example, section 7 of the 1999 Constitution guaranteeing, ‘The system of localgovernment by democratically elected local government councils’ has not been respected by the State and Federal governments. Such provisions, including that on the establishment of a joint State – Local government account, can have easy recognition, acceptance and utilization by the Federal and State governments if a democratic culture is in vogue in the country. In it, the political leaders or elite will be afraid or respect democratic tenets. This is because they realize that failure to do so will earn them the wrath of the electorate who can exercise the right to change their leaders. The power of the electorate is weak in a non-consolidated democracy, the type which presently operates in Nigeria as at 2007. It is the one in which the political leaders select rulers instead of the electorate electing their leaders. The strengthening and application of largely acceptable democratic culture, in line with our conceptualization in section two of this paper will reduce arbitrariness. It will enhance respect for orderliness, the rule of law to the advantage of the LG system and hence its autonomy. All this is expected to have a rippling effect on the development of the locality by the LGCs to the benefit of the people.
Corruption, Discipline and Rule of Law
The great deal of corruption in Nigerian LG system should be properly handled by the appropriate institutions, including the ICPC and EFCC. The grand corruption described by the World Bank as not cohabiting with development is the intolerable type that should be excised from the LG system. Discipline should also be emphasized. The Political Bureau Report had emphasized discipline in the polity as a necessary ingredient for development (Nigeria, 1987). Discipline helps to eliminate corruption and, of course, any LG functionary who is corrupt and infringes on the law should be dealt with according to the law. This is the symbiotic relationship between corruption, discipline and rule of law. Corruption must reduce through discipline and operation of the rule of law. These and sustainable democratic process can also eliminate the canker worm of patron/godfather politics in the LG, to the enhanced development of the localities and great autonomy of the LGs.
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