Local Government System In Nigeria As An Instrument For Rural Development

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Local Government System In Nigeria As An Instrument For Rural Development


Local government in modern day life is responsible for delivering basic goods and services to its local communities in faster, easier and more efficient manner. Local government is the level of government in Nigeria at which the momentum to sustain national development is created. The rural development initiated by local government is expected in terms of specific projects such as kilometers of rural roads constructed and maintained; borehole and deep wells sink or rehabilitated and maintained by the local government; rural electrification; and rural people empowerment programmes. This could be expressed in terms of the improved quality of life the citizenry enjoy as optimized in the primary health care programme provided, procurement and distribution of fertilizer to farmers at subsidized rate; effective and efficient management of primary education as well as the regularity and quality of public enlightment programmes provided and enjoyed by the rural populace.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

In Nigeria, the rural people, thoroughly marginalized into a vacuous existence, make up the other Nigerians-forgotten and always forgotten. The line is like a perpetually recurring bad dram, a tale of extreme want in the midst of abundance.

There has been an administration upsurge of interest in the literature on development administration and in planning circles on the positive role local government could play in national development. Usually the emphasis is in terms of using local government as a strategic instrument for fostering, promoting and implementing rural development.

In Nigeria, local government as the tie of government nearest to the grassroots, has since the colonial era been recognized as an institution capable of transforming the live of the rural inhabitants either to create new local governments or to revamp the existing ones in the country with the objectives of utilizing them as fulcrums of rural development.

The continuous emphasis on rural development is understandable for, according to guy Henter: it is there that the great mass of the people are,: it is there that most indigenous resources of men and land are underused, there that nutrition can be tackled; there that success would be don most to slow the migration to major cities … finally, it is there that some redress of gross inequality in income distribution can be started.

1.1 General Background to the Subject Matter

With the formal colonization of Nigeria in 1900. the integration of the country into the world capitalist system this completed. The imperatives of economic exploitation and political domination resulted in the establishment of institutions and organizations quite alien and in most cases in opposition to the existing indigenous ones. This becomes necessary in order to forestall any frustration of the colonial policies.

It is within this context that we can understand the origin of the “indirect rule” system which was a system of local government introduced by the British. Essentially, indirect rule was a system of government in which the British government ruled Nigeria through the native institutions and authorities which they recognized and regarded as an integrate part of the machinery of government. The colonialists transformed “constitutional” monarchs of the pre-colonial era into native tyrants known as ‘native authorities’.

Indirect, rule, therefore, minimized the physical visibility of the alien exploit substituting in his tread, the local chief or “ruler” whose hitherto precarious political power within the pre-colonials setting was enhanced in his new role as the bridgehead between the “conquered” natives and the imperial conqueror. Therefore, as a result of mounting opposition to “indirect rule”, the then secretary of state for the colonies, Arthur Creech Jones, in 1947 issued his famous dispatch tot all governors of African tenitories calling for the rapid development of an efficient and democratic system of local government. “I believe”, the secretary of state, declared, “that the key to success lies in the development of an efficient democratic system of government. The 1947 dispatch was itself very revealing. It was an admission of the fact that up to 1947, the British colonial administration had not promoted the cause of her African subjects. It has all along participation in issues that affected their daily activities contrary to what existed in the pre-colonial society. The emphasis was on maintenance of political stability necessary for economic exploitation of the rural areas. Consequently, active participation of the rural population was not vigorously persuade except of course, in so far as it related to extraction of economic resources for the coffers of the imperial authority. The reforms and democratization of the local government system in the various regions of Nigeria in the 1950s were the outcome of the 1947 dispatch. Thus, Eastern Nigeria introduced its local government law in 1950, Western Nigeria in 1952 and Northern Nigeria in 1954. The local government laws in the eastern and western regions were based mainly on the practice in England and Wales.

Unfortunately, in spite of these reforms, local government remained the instrument of crucial and exploitation of the rural inhabitants, in the eastern western regions particularly, electoral processes were introduced to ensure grassroots participation. But the “nowean riche” (new men of authority in the influence) manicured themselves into positions of authority in the new local government system. They were mostly the kind of people that were called “efulefu”, worthless, empty men. No wonder their inability to contribute to the development of their various communities.

1.2 Problems Associated With the Subject Matter

The inability of local government to promote rural development contributed largely to the 1976 nation wide local government reform. This reform is significant in many respects. First it culminated in the uniform single tier structure of local government through the federation. Secondly, it resulted to a clear-cut distinction between local government and traditional authority. The traditional rulers were theoretically insulted from active participation in partisan politics and involvement in local government matters. Thirdly, the functions of the local government were clearly designated.

However, as mentioned earlier in this paper the ineffectiveness of Nigerian local governments stems from the socio-economic structure of the country. Therefore, mere administrative reforms cannot make them effective. This fact, our leaders had and still refuse to accept, consequently, they have always mistaken the symptoms of a ‘disease’ as the cause.

In spite of the far reaching changes brought by the 1976 local government reform, evidence abound that it continued to serve its role as instrument of exploitation. This was a period when the oaring and bickering politicians death a shattering death blocks to local governments by creating mushroom local governments just anyhow without any regard paid to the need for viability, efficiency and effectiveness. Thus the main concern of the second republic politicians was attainment of their selfish interests and not the improvements of the lives of the rural dwellers who were simply manipulated and exploited by the politicians. The political parties that formal the government of the day in the states regarded local governments “as part of their spoils of office”. Is it any wonder, therefore that the local councils were composed of nominees who were almost exclusively politicians favorites?

The level of corruption among the cancellers and chairmen of the local governments was very alarming. “A tremendous amount of money went into project that involved award of contracts. These include construction of official quarters, traditional council chambers rest houses, lorry parts and purchases of vehicles for traditional rulers. Thus, viable social development programmes that could have benefited the lower class individuals and raise their economic and social standards were hardly implemented. What emerged from the above discussion is that local governments in Nigeria were in parlous and perilous state of existence and were hardly in need of a resource operation when the military struck in December 1983, and the second republic collapsed.

1.3 Problems that the Study Will be Concerned With

The ineffectiveness of the local government system in Nigeria stems from the socio-economic structure of the society which natures an urban – oriented development strategy is hailed by foreign experts who have on numerous occasions advised our leaders and who still do so. As smock et al rightly pointed out, to asset that the lock of attention to the rural sector has been merely because of the short sightedness of Africa leaders would be to overdose the urban and industrial bias of the majority of foreign economists and technicians who have advised African governments and institutions over the past decrees”. D.K. Chisiza states that “the neglect of rural areas stems mainly from the fact that modern African political leaders are creatures of the tours”.

As a result of the urban bias of our development strategy attention has focused on the urban centers to the letter neglect of the rural areas where about 70 present of the population live. Athough many of he items that go into the content of rural development effort since colonial days, rural development as a specific national policy objectives is a later comer in our national planning experience. Indeed, it was not until Nigeria’s third national development plan (1975-1980), that special attention was paid to regional development as a plan sector rural development as a sub-sector had to wait the next plan, and even then, the projects under it had to do mainly with agriculture.

The clearest evidence of this deliberate policy of rural impoverishment is the ratio of investment in the rural sector to that in the urban sector. Thus the urban-elite bias of the colonial economy with its attendant rural depopulation and urban population explosion has thus been intensified in the post-colonial Nigeria. This development strategy has certain consequences which impede the ability of local governments to perform their functions. First, because the rural inhabitants are neglected, most of them live below the subsistence level and, therefore, cannot afford to pay rates. Consequently, the ability of the local governments to maximize their internal sources of revenue is minimized. They are therefore, not in a position to carry out any meaningful development projects. This is more so when the banks are reluctant to loan money to local government units, since they are known to be in perpetual financial crisis.

Secondly, since these local governments are always entailed in financial crisis, to the extent that they find it difficult to pay their workers, it becomes impossible for them to attract high-level manpower, and this affects their ability to execute any meaningful rural development project. As a result of the above factors, which are the outcome of our development strategy, it has been difficult for local government to exist as a viable instrument for rural transformation. Consequently, the colonial image of local government as an instrument of exploitation still persists.

1.4 The Importance of Studying the Area

  1. To assess the preference of Nigeria local government systems in the area of rural development.
  2. To explain why local government have been ineffective.
  3. To recommend a fundamental solution toward, making local government rural development oriented.
  4. Need to arrest this situation in order to arouse people’s interest in local government since the participant of the rural inhabitants is a sine guar non-for the effective performance of local government in Nigeria.

1.5 Objectives of the Study

Generally, the study seeks to examine the extent to which local governments have impacted on rural development in Aguata and Anaocha local government areas Anambra State.

The studies also attempt to achieve the following specific objectives:

  1. To assess the impact of Local Government on rural development in Aguata and
    Anaocha Local Government areas.
  2. To determine the extent to which poor capital funding affect Aguata and Anaocha Local Governments.
  3. To find out the extent to which community mobilization and participation affect rural development in Local government administration.
  4. To find out the number of programmes and project implemented towards rural development inSoba and Anaocha Local Government.
  5. To recommend solutions to the problems facing Local government administration towards rural development.

1.6 Hypotheses of the Study

  1. Ho: There is no significant relationship between the level of capital funding and the rate of rural development in Aguata and Anaocha local government areas.
    H1: There is significant relation between the level of capital funding and the rate of rural development in Aguata and Anaocha local government areas.
  2. Ho: There is no significant relation between the level of community mobilization and participation and rural development in Aguata and Anaocha local government areas.
    H1: There is significant relationship between the level of community mobilization and participation and rural development in Local government administration Areas.

1.7 Scope and Limitations of the Study

It is difficult to study what challenges are faced by all the local governments in terms of rural development because of different resources constraints. Hence to make the research easy, the study focused on the Anaocha being the urban local government and Aguata being the developing rural local government areas of Anambra state between the period of 2006 – 2011. This is done with the emphasis on the social, economic and infrastructural facilities.

Another reason for selection is that no study has been conducted on Local government administration for assessment of their impact within this period. In addition to that, though local governments have number of functions and responsibilities under its ordinance, the study focuses only rural development in terms of social, economic and infrastructural facilities. Rationales of selecting these services are because local government areas are rapidly moving towards urbanization and, the main challenge faced by the urbanized society is providing these services to their populace. For that reason, these services are more appropriate to get a clear picture of what challenges faced in the local government in terms of accelerated rural growth and development and how local governments would overcome their challenges and what innovations and strategies would work to deliver the better service to the rural populace.

In views of these facts, Local government administration have been selected as the case study in order to get a clear picture of what challenges faced by the local governments in terms of better service delivery towards rural developments. Local government as the third tier of government is expected to be the grassroots developers and mobilizes of the local communities, but unfortunately, over the years, local government in Nigeria have not lived up to their expectations, as they have become conduit pipes for the wastage of public funds. Local communities‟ probably possess the strongest capabilities and promises for mobilizing and managing local resources. This is because they are organic units for the formation of self-managing organization which ensure collective and co-operative action in the execution of rural development projects.

The inability of the researchers to access adequate funds to undertake the study. Inadequate record keeping by local governments councils limited the amount of information that would have been of immense help to the research. The confidentiality of some information at the Anambra State Ministry for Local Government also limited
access to information.

1.8 Definition of Basic Terms

Operational definitions are the definition of variables which must be practical, related to the subject matter and have emphasized referents (Ogbonna, 1991 in Agetwe, 2006). It has therefore become necessary for the terms used in this study to be operationally defined.

(a) Local Government

The term „local government‟ as used in this study mean local government as that tier of government closer to the people expected to serve as the basis of socio-economic development in the locality to the people at grass-root level. It can also be seen as a government that has been perceived as a panacea for the diverse problems of the diverse people with diverse culture.

(b) Development

As used in this study, the word „Development‟ implies an advancement of rural communities toward a desirable state accompanied by improvement in basic infrastructures and the reduction in rural poverty, unemployment and inequality. It can also be seen as a process that ensures the existing deplorable rural conditions are disappearing, with the overall goal of making conditions more livable and worth living.

(d) Rural Development

As used in this study, the word „Rural Development‟ here connotes conscious integrated system and programmes designed to uplift and improve the general standard of living of the rural populace through the provision of basic social amenities in the rural areas by the government through the institutions which amongst other things, encourage the predication of people in the process of development with the ultimate aim of developing human potentialities which is the basis for any development.

Community Mobilization: In this study mean how Aguata and Anaocha local government areas attempt to bring both human and non-human resources together to undertake developmental activities in order to achieve the overall standard of living in the community toward rural development.


This means in this study as Funding: The term funding in this study means; the statutory allocation is payments which are governed by the permission of the constitution or by Act of legislation. The constitution of Nigeria made it categorically clear that certain percentage of the amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account is to be given to all the local governments of the Federation. All the local government in Nigeria is to share 20% of the federation account. And the internally generated revenue simply refers to all monies which are obtained by a local government through legislation. This includes the various sources of revenue within the resources capability of the Aguata and Anaocha Local Government.

Community Participation:

This means is this study as situation where rural communities need to actively take parts in designing implementing and shaping the project that affect them in Aguata and Anaocha local government areas.

Capital Funding:

In this study, capital funding mean money spent and kept aside by Aguata and Anaocha on the purchases or improvement of fixed asset such as buildings, roads and other infrastructural facilities towards rural development.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Conclusions

As submitted by Lele, (1975) even before the wide recognition of the primacy of rural development, governments in all societies have launched various programmes and projects aimed at rural development. However, the extent of rural development varies from state to state. In other hand, the level of development of a society in a measure of the degree of presence or absence of certain infrastructures which could either positively impact or negatively affects the social, political, cultural and economic life of the rural dwellers. It is imperative to note that the provision of social amenities and other facilities are skewed in favour of the urban areas to the detriment of the rural sector/area were majority of the population live.

However,Aguata and Anaocha local government areas had not succeeded in the performance of this role as the areas during the period covered witnessed, abject rural poverty, high rate of rural unemployment, decay and inadequate infrastructural facilities in the areas of rural electrification feeder roads portable water, farm/business inputs, health care services, mobilizing community participation and ineffective capital funding towards financial, economic and executive autonomy to preferred a wide a range of functions at the grassroots level.

Nevertheless, it could be noticed that, the low level of rural development inAguata and Anaocha local government areas has been due largely problems faced by the local government in their rural development process such as corruption, bad leadership, poor management and selfishness on the part of leaders and other stakeholders in the areas.

The research now turn to provide alternative framework or recommendations that can help improve the performance of the third tier of government in rural development of the area and other parts of Nigeria.

5.3 Recommendations

Having considered the findings from the research, the following measured are recommended for improving the performance of rural development Aguata and Anaocha local government areas.

To bring about a more realistic rural development in Nigeria, specifically Local government administration, the local governments should minimize their total dependence on the federal allocation, and increase their efforts towards generating more revenue through the diversification of their internal revenue sources.

Again, rural communities in Nigeria, specificallyAguata and Anaocha local government areas are no longer seem as recipients of development programmes rather, they are become critical stakeholders that have an important role to play in the management of programmes and projects in their areas. It is also a step towards building their capacities to effectively participate in identifying and responding to rural communities issues and problems toward rural development.

Furthermore, the political representative and leaders need to identify with the development needs of the moral areas of their constituencies. Indeed, they need to articulate such needs and ensure that they become integral parts of the government‟s development agenda and that policy or programmes initiated to address them are monitored to ensure proper implementation.

Also, these is equally the need not only to adequately make budgetary allocation for rural development but, very importantly, in ensuring that such allocated funds are judiciously used with optimum financial autonomy to execute rural development projects and programmes.

Finally the local government in Nigeria, particularly Aguata and Anaocha need to eschew corruption specifically at the leadership level and emphasize accountability, due process, prudence and diligence. The leadership need to refocus firmly on its primary and statutory duty of administering local and rural development in integrated and sustainable manner. It is expected that the democratization process in Nigeria will aid the coming into existence of visionary and purposeful leadership in the local government system.

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