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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY-A SOLUTION TO LGA PROBLEMS IN NIGERIA
This work discusses local government autonomy: a solution to local government problems in Nigeria. Questionnaires were distributed. Interviews and surveys were also conducted.
Primary data were used. Simple percentages and tables were used in the analysis. It was discovered that local government autonomy has a significant impact in the development of Nigeria. There is a strong relationship between local government autonomy and the development of Nigeria
1.1 Background of the study
The 1976 local government reform defines local government as: government at 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. To determine and implement projects so as to complement the activities of the State and federal governments in their areas, and to ensure, through these councils and active participation of the people and their traditional institutions, that local initiative and response to local needs and conditions are maximised.
It is in this context I wish to re-evaluate the impact of local governments on the general well being of the grassroot people as well as our democratic system for sustainable development.
Many critics have argued that the 774 Local Governments areas that currently exist are not alive to their responsibilities in terms of development and grassroot reach. No doubt, the expediency for the creation of local government anywhere in the world stems from the need to facilitate development at the grassroots and gets governance close to the people.
However, this universal aim is being stifled in Nigeria by the conspiratorial attitude of the two sister tiers of Government, Federal and States Government.
Many Nigerians crave for change and adjustment in the structural deficit in local government system as presently constituted in order to not only bring it in conformity with present day realities, but also to make it live up to the expectations of the people who have been yearning for grassroots development. But this will however require a lot of processes like constitutional amendments and attitudinal change from the government as well as the general public.
As it is today, Local Government administration is anything but what it was meant to be. The original idea of bringing governance close to the grassroots by encouraging participation by the local people has since being hijacked and replaced with a sadistic intent to oppress the grassroot by the State Government. This tier of government has been reduced into an a political and financial apparatus with which Governors dispenses favour to willing accomplices, and serve punishment for errant and recalcitrant opponents. It has also being turned into a sort of a piggy bank for ruling parties, which funds are always used to canvass for votes in lieu of tangible developmental projects. This, in essence gives birth to poor management system of the whole administrative structure of the Local Government system. Things were done within the ambition and demands of Governors in complete violation of laid down administrative procedure.
Many may like to argue about the constitutional provision of joint account operation between the local and state government as a safety valve. This was a mechanism put in place to check the menace of public funds pilfering and ensure accountability and probity. However, this mechanism has since lost out to the creativity of Governors who take advantage of a poor and obsolete system of public financial accounting procedure in a manner that defies logic, common sense and patriotism. Governors have over the time perfected the art of muscling the local governments using their supervisory role to usurp the powers of the councils. Relations between State and local governments has been turned into a fraudulent affair with which the general public are short changed. Funds meant for developmental projects by Local Governments have been turned into some sort of slush funds with which the State Governments finances its extra governmental activities. This
activities includes settling political adversaries, political thugs, party hangers on etc, in addition to servicing unscrupulous public servants.
It is normal nowadays for funds to be released to Local Governments, under the joint account arrangement, for execution of certain projects, only for the funds to find their way back into the hands of State Chief Executives in collaboration with Local Government Chairmen and staff of the Ministry for Local Governments losing a fraction of the original value on the two way trip.
This further explains the frenzy of activity in the councils whenever elections are round the corner. In this jamboree, contracts are awarded without fulfilling the necessary requirements stipulated by law. This has gotten so bad that otherwise meaningful projects are haphazardly executed by incompetent contractors who rely on their loyalty to the Governor to have their contracts approved. That is why many public buildings are mere disaster waiting to happen. At best, these projects hardly survive a fraction of their expected lifespan.
This obtains generally in all the States of the federation, with some more alarmingly displaying a sense of fake patriotism than the others.
Council Chairmen are no longer “Executive”, with power technically taken away from them leaving them powerless to exercise control of financial and political decisions in their councils. Simply put, they are simple errand boys selected with utmost care, based on loyalty, regardless of suitability to overlook the affairs of the Councils without the relevant powers as enshrined in the constitution. Needless to say, this gave birth to the “absentee chairman” syndrome. These anointed council leaders can always be found hanging in the vicinity of sprawling government houses waiting for the the Governors to throw crumbs their way.
The 1999 constitution sadly compounded the problem by giving governors enormous windows to retard the local system by refusing to give it the free hand to operate. Equally, state assemblies, another lame duck, lack the will power to address the injustice being done to local governments because most have been compromised and pocketed by the governors. This lackadaisical attitude to rule of law has reduced local government administration to mere intricate cosmetic show of democratic activity without the corresponding gains.
Perhaps, that may explain why, for instance a Local Government badly in need of drinking water or a decent Healthcare Centre would end up with a badly thought, over ambitious, economically irrelevant and outrageously expensive dual carriage road network, even when it is apparent the project would neither add value nor solve any meaningful problem in the locality. Some that needed functional schools end up with badly constructed housing estates which contracts were shared to loyal followers of the Governor, even when it is obvious that they lack the capacity to perform credibly. To add salt to injury, such houses always ended up in the hands of the Governor’s loyalists and hangers on. In a particular State, cases abound where such legacies where shared among the cabinet of the Governor. In some cases, people living as far away as London or America were allocated houses while those living in the locality, and badly in need of these houses watch in awe.
This, in a way highlights the general misgovernance and executive rascality that defines the workings of Local Government administration in relation to State Governments.
It is in regard to this that many advocate for complete autonomy of Local Governments to enable them reach the grassroot without inhibition.
A situation where a Governor is in complete control of the Local Government machinery, even if by proxy spells doom for the system. At the heart of these problems is the issue of free and fair elections into the councils, and in fact into any elective post. In view of the new alpha and omega roles governors assumed in determining who wins what, it is imperative to address the issue of Local Government elections by removing the power of conducting such elections from the hands of State Chief Executives back into the hands of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to give the process some semblance of fair play.
As it is now, all we have are ceremonies of anointing favoured candidates. It is no longer news that one cannot aspire to become a Local Government Chairman without the blessing of the State Chief Executive. The meddlesome with electoral process in national elections by these governors is enough pointer to the fact that they do not have the moral capacity and democratic courage to conduct free and fair elections in the local councils.
A situation where popular candidates lost out to anointed government candidates with poor credentials as well as low public ratings describe the rot in the processes that defines our elections. This process has assumed a completely new definition from what obtains universally. Today, it is only in Nigeria that a ruling party keep winning every election despite poor ratings among the voting public. Internal party democracy has been stifled by government interference that no longer can any party boast of elected officials. All we have are selected officials to overlook the affairs of the party for the State Chief Executive, or the President at the Federal level. It was on record that a National Party Chairman of a ruling Party was once forced to resign at gun point by no less a person than the President himself. Such is the kind of democracy we celebrate.
The way and manner the executive arm of government at all levels suffocate every effort at building a decent democratic culture is more despotic than the military and calls for concern and urgent address of the menace. We can’t say we are practising democracy with all the necessary requirements down to the simple basics missing from our equation. What kind of democracy comes with poor tolerance of vibrant opposition and total neglect of internal party democracy. What manner of democracy would have one person at the top, President or Governor calling all the shots while denying the general public the right to vote and be voted. People are no longer under the illusion that democracy is a game of numbers. Sure, its a game of numbers, but our governors have perfected the art of cooking up these numbers using brutal force and monetary inducement. The possibility of opposition parties forming Local Government councils or wrestling power from a ruling party
exist only as a mirage. That may explain why in each State of the federation Local Government elections and in fact any other election is considered a rituals, and rightly so. What would one expect from a State Electoral Board constituted and funded by the Governor but results that will make the Governor happy. He who pay the piper, they say dictates the tune. Just as the President uses his power to coerce INEC into doing his bidding, so does State Governors arm twist State’s Independent Electoral Commissions to conduct elections that are anything but free and fair.
Funny enough, I read recently of a certain Governor who claimed he could not conduct Local Government election for lack of funds. Apparently the Governor was trying to justify his illegal act of constituting caretaker committees to overlook the affairs of Local Governments in his state.
Such is the mindset of our Governors, working with ambiguous and manipulative constitutional provisions that can be twisted to serve personal whims and caprices.
In this regard, there is an overwhelming need to consider overhauling the constitution to address the infractions and excesses of State Chief Executives over their over bearing interference with Local Governments administration and give them the much needed spa
1.2 Statement of the problem
The problem of governance particularly at the local level has been a recurring decimal in the political history of Nigeria. Local government in Nigeria started during the colonial era when it was vested in the hands of traditional rulers, and it operated in a very undemocratic manner.
Over the years, efforts have been made to democratise local government and make it more responsive to developmental needs. Similarly, 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 inter-governmental conflict.
1.3 Objectives of the study
- To understand the possible positive impacts of local government autonomy in Nigeria
- To understand the possible negative impacts of local government autonomy in Nigeria
- To understand the relationship between local government autonomy and the development of Nigeria
1.4 Research Questions
1. Does local government autonomy have a significant positive impact in Nigeria
2. Does local government autonomy have a significant negative impact in Nigeria
3. Is there a strong relationship between local government autonomy and the development of Nigeria
4. Is there a weak relationship between local government autonomy and the development of Nigeria
1. 5. Research Hypothesis
H0: Local local government autonomy have a significant negative impact in Nigeria
H1: Local government autonomy have a significant positive impact in Nigeria
H0: There a weak relationship between local government autonomy and the development of Nigeria
H1: There a strong relationship between local government autonomy and the development of Nigeria
1.6 Limitations of the study
There was limited time, funds and uncooperative responses from the respondents
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