Federal Principle And Local Government Autonomy In Nigeria: A Critical Evaluation

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Federal Principle And Local Government Autonomy In Nigeria: A Critical Evaluation


Local governments are not sovereign unlike independent nation-states. It is a subordinate government, which derives its existence and power from law enacted by a superior government. The nature and structure of transactions or interactions between the three tiers of government determine the degree of autonomy. Local government in Nigeria is rooted on historical antecedents of reforms. The objective of the study is to show that the unwillingness of most state governments to adhere to the constitutional provisions on establishing democratically elected, freestanding councils is a fundamental problem about defining Nigeria’s federalism. This study examines the contradictions in local government system and suggests that the sustainability of local government autonomy should anchor on improved revenue base adherence to constitutional provisions, political stability, accountability and transparency in governance. Materials for this study have been drawn mainly from secondary sources found in libraries and archives in Nigeria; academic and other resources available in the internet, local and international publications (books and learned journals).

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Federalism, according to K.C Where, is the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. He said that the characteristics of this Federal Principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division of powers and co-ordinate not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions (K.C Wheare, 1953: 10). The practice of federalism in Nigeria is one of the legacies the British colonial masters bequeathed to Nigeria. Local government is born out of federalism because federalism has to do with the division of power between the central and the component units local government is a component in a federal system, it is recognized as a third tier of government which is charged with the responsibility at the grass root. The local government performs certain functions assigned to it by the constitution and the local government is to be autonomous in its own to carry out all its responsibilities without interference from the central government. The local government should do precisely the word government in its own sphere. The evolution of local government in Nigeria has undergone a lot of changes and all these are geared towards making the local government a system that could serve the purpose for its creation. But specifically in 1976, under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime introduced the 1976 local government reform.

The reform recognized the local government as the third tier of government in the Nation and it is expected to do precisely what the word local government implies that is, governing at the local level. The reforms also intend to stimulate democratic self government, encourage initiative and leadership potential and entrain the principle of this reform for the local government to be autonomous having the freedom to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference, the local government system in Nigeria still have some constraints that have impeded it’s autonomy. (Okoli, 2005: 107). This research work puts in focus, Ofu local government area in Kogi state. It will investigate the autonomous nature of the local government area and see the level of services that has been delivered in the area. Ofu local government area of Kogi state was created out of Idah local Government Area In May, 1989 in the then Benue state by the Federal Military Administration of Nigeria led by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. It has nine districts. They are; Ugwolawo, Itobe, Igalaogba, Ojokogbe, Aloji, Ejule, Ogbonicha, Igo, Omache and Ofoke.

The hand-quarter of the goo-political entity is Ugwolawo, the historical town that provides haven for the only Federal Government College in the Kogi Eastern Senatorial district. Graphically, the local government share boundaries with Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi state to the North while also sharing boundary with Ankpa local government to the south. Ofu local government equally shares boundary with Olamaboro local government area to the South East and also sharing boundary with Ajaokuta local government area to the west.

The local government area occupies a landmass of almost 8,747.5 square kilometer and a perimeter of 252.5 kilometers. The 1991 census figure of National population commission puts the population of the people at 112,697. The people are predominantly Farmers. The Land is fertile for large scale production of crops like maize, beans, groundnuts, rice, cassava, melon, guinea corn, Barbara nuts and so on while mangoes, cashew, palm trees, cocoa e.t.c yield in abundance for commercialization. The place is equally endowed with mineral resources like caoline, lime, marble, galena, fieldpars e.t.c lie beneath the earth there in large quantity for exploration. As it is the characteristic that is always endemic of the countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa, cultural activities are of paramount importance to the people of Ofu. Their tourist delights include Uloko Amo Waterfalls at Ofokopi, Ugbakoji hills in Itobe, Egane Waterfalls, Ofakete Natural Bridge and Ala Natural funnel.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Local government Autonomy is meant the Freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own Finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference. Before the 1976 Local Government Reform, Local Governments were under the direct tutelage of the state government which vested with the exclusive powers to make and unmake them. As a result, Local Governments were subjected to excessive controls by their respective state governments. These controls by their respective state governments were carried out through such mediums as approval of bye-laws and major contracts, appointment of certain categories of professional and administrative staff, approval of annual estimates and loan proposals and funding through grants-in-aid. These control measures posed negative consequences as they culminated into delays which in turn frustrated many important policies and programmes in the local government area. In addition, state governments created, modified, dissolved and suspended local government councils at will. The states had the power to abolish their local government system. In fact, local government existed at the mercy of the state.

The autonomy of local government in Africa countries such as Nigeria is more in theory than in practice. As Olowu (1988:71) succinctly puts it: Most government has opted for the direct control by central government of their local governments through a battery of legal, financial and administrative controls… So called “local government” units of central governments or worse still, exist as parallel institutions to the government’s field administration controlled by both the central and field units. The heavy dependence of local governments in Nigeria for instance on statutory allocation from the Federal government whittles down the autonomy of the former. It puts local government at the mercy of the federal government. Furthermore, successive Nigerian governments (both federal and state) have interfered in the actual functioning of the local government. For instance, between 1984 and late 1987, local government councils were abolished and the administration of the affairs of the local government were placed entirely on the sole administrator.

Again, in 1994, the elected local government council were disbanded by the military government of General Abacha and replaced with caretaker committees (Ezeani, 2004). Also the financial autonomy of local governments has on many occasions been tempered with by the state governments. This is currently the case in Nigeria were some state governments confiscate federal allocations to the local government and give whatever amount they like to the chairman to run the local government. (Ezeani, 2004:86). Despite these for reaching measures as recommended by the 1976 local government reform thereby making it the bedrock of modern local government system in Nigeria, One can safely assert that the local government still has some constraints that have actually impeded its success. These in the view of Olugbemi (1986) can be summarized as;

  1. Continued jurisdiction of state government over the most important functions allocated to local government in the guidelines and as stipulated in the fourth schedule of 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
  2. Continued imposition of various central government, it controls the selection of councilors, in budgeting and budget control, in policy determination including the determination of fiscal policies, in personnel management etc which tend to diminish the value of government in local governments.

Therefore, the study will seek to provide empirical and verifiable answers to these problems based on the following questions.

  1. Does Federalism guarantee local government autonomy?
  2. Is Nigeria local government system (Ofu Local Government) autonomous?
  3. Does the granting of full autonomy to the local government enhance its service delivery?

1.3 Objective of the Study

Every research work encapsulates and embodies diverse objectives to be achieved at the end of the research. Thus, the broad objective of this research work is to assess “the Nigerian Federalism and local government autonomy specifically Ofu local government area of Kogi state.

Specifically however, the study attempts to:

  1. To ascertain if federalism guarantees local government autonomy.
  2. To investigate if Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) is fully autonomous.
  3. To explain if full autonomy is given to Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) will enhance its service delivery.
  4. To ascertain the relationship between federal principle and local government autonomy

1.4 Research Hypotheses

For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;

  1. H0: full autonomy if given to Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) will not enhance its service delivery
    H1: full autonomy if given to Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) will enhance its service delivery
  2. H02: there is no relationship between federal principle and local government autonomy
    H2: there is a relationship between federal principle and local government autonomy

1.5 Significance of the Study

The study will give a clear insight on the federal principle and local government autonomy in Nigeria. The study will focus on the Ofu local government which the study will be benefited. The study will also look at the reason why autonomy is not given to local government. The study will serve as a reference to other researchers who will embark on this topic

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study covers the federal principle and local government autonomy in Nigeria. The researcher encounters some constrain which limited the scope of the study;

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

c) Organizational privacy:

Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Federal Principle:

The Federal Principle. The federal principle provides for the sharing of tasks – legislative, executive and financial – between the nine Austrian Provinces on the one hand and the federal government on the other. … In legal terms, federalism – the federal principle – is enshrined in the Federal Constitution

Local Government:

A local government is a form of public administration which, in a majority of contexts, exists as the lowest tier of administration within a given state.


In development or moral, political, and bioethical philosophy, autonomy is the capacity to make an informed, un-coerced decision. Autonomous organizations or institutions are independent or self-governing.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain federal principle and local government autonomy in Nigeria. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of federal principle and local government autonomy in Nigeria

5.2 Summary

This study was on federal principle and local government autonomy in Nigeria. Four objectives were raised which include: To ascertain if federalism guarantees local government autonomy, to investigate if Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) is fully autonomous, to explain if full autonomy is given to Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) will enhance its service delivery, to ascertain the relationship between federal principle and local government autonomy. In line with these objectives, two research hypotheses were formulated and two null hypotheses were posited. The total population for the study is 200staff of Ofu local government of Kogi state. The researcher used questionnaires as the instrument for the data collection. Descriptive Survey research design was adopted for this study. A total of 133 respondents made of directors, counselors, senior staff and junior staff were used for the study. The data collected were presented in tables and analyzed using simple percentages and frequencies

5.3 Conclusion

This study argues that in Nigeria, the kind of autonomy the federal and state governments devolve the local government via the Constitution is largely determined by the nature and character of the politics of the state. This explains why political elites at the federal and state levels are at war with each other over who controls the affairs of the local government. In Nigeria, politics at all levels of governance (federal, state and local governments) is driven by ethnicity, nepotism and corruption. These perennial values, which are an important part of the Nigerian psyche, have greatly influenced the way public policy and laws are made in Nigeria. These values shape federal-state-local relations in the country. Thus, the kind of autonomy the federal and state governments allow the local government to enjoy is remarkably influenced by these values. Consequently, with this kind of political culture in place, nothing positive can be achieved in terms of instituting a veritable local government system in Nigeria. We say this because there is no political system where the local unit is totally free from the regulation of the central or regional or state government. However, they do not interfere negatively by usurping the financial resources of the local councils and misappropriating them as it is currently being done in Nigeria. This is the kind of interference that led to the vex issue of local government autonomy. Nevertheless, if the federal and state governments can interfere positively in the activities of local governments in Nigeria, there is nothing wrong with that, since the local governments cannot operate in isolation. They can do that by taking responsibility for functions that can be best performed by them and devolve other functions to the local government with adequate financial backing

5.4 Recommendation

Local government autonomy should be all encompassing to impact on all the critical aspects of administration of local communities. According to Omoruyi (1992), local communities can only be meaningfully autonomous when popular structures, organizations and supportive values have been created to sustain, propagate and perpetuate fair representation, constant dialogue, openness of policy making, public accountability and collective self-defense. Existing structures and associations and new ones need o be identified and established as the focus of grassroots democracy. Governmental powers should be shared by such grassroots bodies in order to give meaning to the principle of local self-autonomy, participatory democracy and true federalism.

Project Material Download

5,000 5000

The Complete Material Will Be Sent to You in Just 2 Steps

Quick & Simple…

Step One Purchase

Make Payment (Through Transfer) of ₦5,000 to Any of the Account Below

Access Bank PlcAcc No: 0811003731
Samphina Academy
Current Account
Zenith BankAcc No: 1225513212
Samphina Academy
Current Account

Or CLICK HERE To Pay With Debit Card

CLICK HERE To Purchase Material ($15)
Make Payment of 120 GHS to 0553978005 | Douglas Cloud Osabutey | MTN MoMo

Step Two Purchase

Send the Following Details on WhatsApp ( 08143831497) After Payment

  1. Payment Details

  2. TOPIC: Federal Principle And Local Government Autonomy In Nigeria: A Critical Evaluation

The Complete Material Will Be Sent To You On WhatsApp After Receiving Your Details
T & C Apply

  Contact Our Help Desk

Need a Different Topic? Perform a Quick Search

List of Related Works

Click on Any Topic to Preview the Content


Samphina Academy

Samphina Academy is an Online Educational Resource Center that is aimed at providing students with quality information and materials to aid them in succeeding in their academic pursuit.