The Relevance Of Local Government In Nigeria: Way Forward

Project and Seminar material for Public Administration

The Relevance Of Local Government In Nigeria: Way Forward


This project titled “Relevant of Local Government in Nigeria: A Way forward (Etsako West as a Case Study)” there is need for local governments in Nigeria as a federal system. It sought to identify services delivered by local government and to ascertain the impact of the services on the wellbeing of the people. Two sets of questionnaires were designed and administered i.e. one for the inhabitants of the area and the other for employees of the local government, so as to capture both the views of the inhabitants of the area and the employees of the local government. Questionnaires were conveniently distributed to 360 inhabitants and 314 were returned. Questionnaires were also conveniently distributed to 30 employees of the local government and the 30 were returned. This was further aided by interviews, focus group discussions, personal observation and the review of relevant literatures. The study revealed that, mismanagement of funds, joint account system, lack of transparency and accountability and restricted revenue sources available to local government and inability to effectively utilize its internal sources of revenue generation had impacted negatively on the provision of public goods at the local level. This is evidence in the poor educational facilities, poor healthcare centres, roads, etc; several problems were however identified as constraints to the service delivery efforts of the local government. These are; lack of viable sources of revenue, mismanagement, joint account, undue interference from state government etc. Hence, this study therefore recommends for the full autonomous status of local government both financially and administratively in order to fully deliver on its mandate, viable sources of revenue and a leadership recruitment process that is merit driven and people of unquestionable character and integrity should be at the helm of affairs, among others.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

This study examines the relevant of Local Government in Nigeria and the way forward. Over the years, efforts have been made to democratize local government and make it more responsive to developmental needs. The problems of Local Government in Nigeria have been documented and they include among other things inadequate planning, poor implementation of policies, inadequate revenue, corruption and mismanagement, lack of adequate manpower, lack of autonomy, lack of participation by the people and intergovernmental conflict. Local government is grassroots government recognized by law. It is defined severalty by authors and bodies.

Local government administration in Nigeria has had a tortuous history. It is an important process of government with significant consequences for national development. It is about mobilization of human and material resources at the grassroots level for societal progress and development.

Local government is supposed to be broadly participatory and responsive to the needs of the people at the local community levels, such as villages and towns.

Yet, during the period when the British colonized Nigeria and the mid 1970‟s when a major reform initiative was launched, local government administration was essentially undemocratic and authoritarian, either directly colonial in nature, or in indirectly so, but indeed undemocratic, under various traditional governance authorities referred to as Native Administration by the British colonial rulers (Jega, 2006:1). The local government reforms introduced by the Murtala/Obasanjo military regime in 1976, sought to democratize the system, by introducing elective offices, and also tried to use the new system „to bring government nearer to the people‟ for the purpose of „grassroots‟ development (FRN, 1976).The desire by the government to maximize rural and grassroots development is one of the major objectives of local government system in Nigeria. The above role is very significant because 70% of the country‟s population live and operate within this area (Ibok, 2010:12)

How well Nigerian local governments have carried out their constitutionally assigned functions has become a subject of national debate among scholars and practitioners. To say the least, their operations have come under serious and severe criticism with some persons calling for the scrapping of the third tier of government. Since the return to civil rule in 1999, there is a widespread agitation that the huge financial resources allocated to local government did not correspond to the services delivered. Therefore, this study is conducted to assess the service delivery mechanism of Etsako West local government within the context of the current civil rule in Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

The local governments are generally as government of the grassroots level and as a three tiers of government. The 1976 local government act defined local government as a government at local level exercise through representation council established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas. Deductively, from the above definition it is pertinent to say that local government is a very large extent have important roles to play in their policy formulation and implementation and very significant as a provider and as a promoter of certain values.

Be that as it may, the history of local government in Nigeria has revealed that not much has been achieved in local government administration over the years. Local government have experienced a chaotic situation which scholars and observers have quickly pointed out to be mainly result of insufficient autonomy, lack of competent personnel and inelastic revenue.

1.3 Research Questions

The major questions addressed include:

  1. What is the nature of performance of the Etsako West local government in service delivery in the areas of Primary Education, Health Care, Feeder Road and Infrastructural Facilities between 1999-2011?
  2. To what extent these services delivered by the Etsako West local government impacted effectively to the development of the people?
  3. What are the challenges that have impeded or are impeding the effective performance of the local government in terms of service delivery between 1999-2011?
  4. What are the possible solutions to these challenges?

1.4 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of the study is to examine the role of Etsako West local government area of Edo State in service delivery.

The specific objectives of the study include the following:

  1. To examine the nature of performance based on the services delivered by Etsako West local government in the areas of Education, Health Care, Feeder Road and
    Infrastructure from 1999 to 2011.
  2. To examine the extent to which these services have been delivered to the people of the area?
  3. To examine the challenges facing Etsako West local government in the delivery of services between 1999-2011?
  4. To examine possible solutions to the challenges?

1.5 Research Assumptions

The study is guided by the following research assumptions:

  1. Etsako West local government has provided some basic health and social services derived from its financial allocations.
  2. Etsako West local government has not significantly performed its role of service delivery within the available financial allocations between 19992011.
  3. State/Local Government joint account system is a major constraint to effective service delivery by the Etsako West local government.
  4. Proper utilization of financial allocations can enhance the capacity of the Etsako West local government in the delivery of services.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The study focuses on service delivery by Etsako West local government from 1999 to 2011. Specifically the study focuses on education, healthcare service, e.t.c.

The study commenced from 1999 as the beginning of the year of our case study because it is the year of the return to civil rule after long years of military interregnum. And also 2011 as terminal date because the span period is about one decade and two years of civil rule, a period one will expect to see major differences between military and civil rule in terms of mode of governance generally and service delivery to the people in particular.

In conducting the study, the researcher faced a number of constraints which included: Finances- There is lack of adequate finance and sponsorship to carry out the research in all the local government areas of the state, that is why we are limited to the local government under study and Data Gathering- the secretive nature of government and the unwillingness of local government officials under study to reveal relevant document that they termed secrets in order to aid this research, especially those documents that have to do with the income and allocations to the local government from the federation account, internally generated revenue and files of various projects executed by the local government.

1.7 Significance of the Study

The study is significant because a lot of the studies on local government were done during the military era, now with the return to civil rule in place and the publication of huge financial resources allocated to the local government system. This has enabled us to have an insight into the activities of the local government system, which is not significantly different from the military era.

Chapter Five

5.0 Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Introduction

This chapter is a summary of the major highlights of the thesis, from which conclusions were drawn and recommendation made.

5.2 Summary

This study assessed local government service delivery in Nigeria with specific reference to Etsako West from 1999-2011. The study assessed the nature and performance of Etsako West in its delivery of services to its inhabitant since the return to civil rule in 1999. The study therefore ascertained whether the local government had been able to effectively and efficiently established and maintained services and utilities that significantly improved the basics of live of the people and development.

The study made use of both the primary and secondary sources of data collections through the use of field questionnaire, interview, focus group discussions, participant observations and review of relevant literature on the subject matter. The structural functionalist theory as espoused by Gabriel Almond was used as the theoretical framework of the study; the point of departure of this theory is that, it is a form of systematic analysis which looks at political systems as a coherent whole that performs certain functions. Therefore, local government was seen as one of the structure of the state established to perform specific social, economic and political function and operate according to democratic tenets. The joint account system and other instrument of financial control impeded the performance of Etsako West local government in the delivery of services.

The study discovered there was a disconnect between the people and those in authority in the area, which has engendered lack of confidence in the ability of the local government to inspire and mobilize the people for their common good. Also gathered from the findings was that, the local government made very little efforts in uplifting the living standard of the people. This according to the people seriously affected performance of service delivery to the inhabitants. The local government has failed to impact positively on the lives of the inhabitants of the area, as attested by majority of our respondents.

Local government as a concept has a meaning in its practical sense, when the people of the local government levels benefit optimally. The whole essence of decentralization and the creation of local government as a sub-unit are to quickly and easily feel the impact of government especially in a democratic setting and federal framework.

5.3 Conclusion

The research assessed the services rendered by Etsako West local government from 1999 and 2011, in areas of education, health care delivery, infrastructural development, etc. The local government in the period under review performed below expectation. There is no doubt that as a third tier of government it has a central role towards her area of jurisdiction, in terms of development. This is an important reason that led to its establishment. It therefore, means that local government has meaning only when it contributes to the upliftment of the people‟s lives and state of living.

Etsako West local government had not succeeded in the performance of this role in the area during the period covered. This stem from the fact that there was still high level of inadequate and infrastructural deficits like poor feeder roads, portable water, educational facilities, health care services etc.

Nonetheless, it could be observed that the low level of performance by Etsako West local government can be attributed to problems encountered in her developmental drives such as financial emasculation in the name of joint account, poor leadership/mismanagement, etc.

5.4 Recommendations

The study offers some measures aimed at improving the performance of the local government system.

  1. The local government system in Nigeria needs to be reorganized and
    restrategized in its policies and programmes to meet the specific needs of the people, in order to make it more functional in the rendering of services such as quality feeder roads, quality and affordable health care services, and improved access to quality educational services etc.
  2. Enhancement of democratic practices should be encouraged at the local government level to make the system truly emanates from the people. In so doing, it will enhance transparency, accountability and rule of law. By extension, it will also promotes democracy at the local government level, enhances participation and the delivery of services.
  3. The non-involvement of the people in decision making process is counterproductive. The people should be made as part and parcel of development initiative and process. The over-reliance on elite as the only important stakeholder for consultation is not healthy for the system. A holistic approach, concerted efforts and mechanism should be put in place so that local initiatives can be stimulated to enhance the people‟s conditions.
  4. Security of tenure of elected chairman and councilors should be guaranteed in our constitution. The excessive abuse faced by elected representatives of the local government level and lack of adequate protection of their offices calls for concern. They are left at the mercy of the whims and caprices of the State government that can remove an elected representative of the local council at will, and appoint a sole administrator or caretaker chairman without recourse to the people‟s mandate is antithetical to their autonomy and development. This trend should be stopped. A fixed term of office for specific period as enjoyed by their counterpart at the state and federal level will go a long way to protect local government finances and enhances development.
  5. Direct allocation of finances to local government is important for their development. The issue of state/local government joint account is a strangulation of the system, as often state governments makes substantial deduction from the local government funds and uses other financial instruments to control local government chief executives for their selfish interest.

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