By Ade Akinbosade
Granted that no Institution is insulated from problems and/or challenges as they constitute an integral part of any organization and at best they can only be minimized as its total elimination might quite be difficult. In other words, it can be said that no group and/or organisation is entirely harmonious, for it would be devoid of process, structure or form. Challenges therefore, rather than being dysfunctional are essential ingredients of organizational structure as well as its continued existence.
Thus, it can be submitted without any air of contradiction that challenges are phenomena that occurs in all human institutions, and of course in all nations including Nigeria with her three levels of Governments: Local, State and Federal.
Thererfore, a good administrator must necessarily expect challenges in the workplace and his ability to tackle them at infancy before they degenerate into a consuming fire is a function of the Leader’s vision and the ability to think outside the box when confronted with same.
In the matter of Nigeria’s Local Government, it appears challenges, rather than being functional, it is dysfunctional resulting into her being endangered. Attempts shall be made at identifying these challenges and suggestions shall be preferred for its solutions. However, before itemizing this, permit me to x-ray the meaning and historical antecedent of Local Government in Nigeria.
DEFINING LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition (1978) Volume 17, defines Local Government:
as a sub-division of national government or in the case of federal system, a sub-division, of regional government
And Ugwu (2002) defines Local Government
as the lowest unit of administration to whose laws and regulations communities who live in a defined geographical area and with common social and political ties are subject.
Similarly, the 1976 Local Government Reforms has this to say:
Government at Local level exercised through Representatives 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 and institutional and financial powers to initiate and direct the provision of services and to determine and implement projects so as to ensure, through devolution of 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” and
M.P. Barber (1975) views Local Government
“as a system of geographical decentralization in which some functions and responsibilities of government are delegated to governmental units or bodies at the Local Government”.
These definitions seem to expose some features and characteristics of Local Governments as contained below:
- Local administration,
- Autonomous existence and endowed with a legal status.
- Specific powers though residual to other superior levels of Government.
- Capacity to impose taxes and incur expenses.
- Exists within a defined territory and/or non overlapping areas within a State.
- A distinct tier of government within a Federation.
- Avenues for promoting welfare of the members of Local Government Area.
- Comprises elected members, such as Chairmen and Councillors.
Constitutionally, Local Government is deemed as a third tier of government in Nigeria’s Federal configuration. Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides for the existence of Local Government through a democratically elected representatives. In Section 8, the Constitution provides further that
“State Government shall ensure the existence of Local Government under the law which provides for its establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions”.
The functions/duties of Local Government are contained under the 4th Schedule of the Constitution.
Since Nigeria became a single entity through her amalgamation in 1914, she had had to witness various forms of local administration with each system having its peculiar concepts and/or coloration. During the earliest period of colonial rule, the Indirect Rule System of Government was introduced with the use of Traditional Rulers and the Warrant Chiefs as facilitators of development.
With the various Constitutional enactments of 1922, 1946, 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1959, more opportunities were provided for mass participation in local governance. With the 1966 Military Coup and subsequent creation of twelve (12) States out of the then three regions in 1967, Local Administration was taken over by the Federal and State Governments. During this period, the use of the term “Native Authority” was changed in most States. Some States called it Local Government Authority while others called it “Development Council”. In the old Western part of Nigeria, comprising the present States of Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti, the method adopted was the “Council Manager System”.
However, by 1976, the Murtala – Obasanjo Military regime orchestrated a major reform which resulted into making Local Administration a third tier of government. This reform, for the very first time in Nigeria introduced a Uniform System of administration in the country. In the same vein, provisions were made for the functions, structure, funding and management of Local Government. It was the 1979 Constitution that formally provided for Local Government as a tier of government.
The development of Local Administration from the colonial era through the pre-Independence, Military eras and of course from the first Republic up till the present Fourth Republic has always been problematic. As could be seen in its historical development, there had never been a stable name, structure and/or a legal framework from one regime to another except only in 1976, when the Federal Military Government emplaced a Uniform Local Government administration. This uniformity has since 1999 given way to all manner of styles, depending on the whims and caprices of the State’s Governpr, pursuant to Sections 7 & 8 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Whereas Section 7(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides:
“the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every State shall subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, finance and functions of such governments”.
However, in practical terms, reports across the 36 States suggest that only about 1/3 of the 774 local governments are not under a democratically elected Chairmen contrary to the provision under Section 7 of the Constitution. What we have is a contraption called “Caretaker Committees” which are not responsive to the yearnings of the local populace. Similarly, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the Resource Control case between AG of Abia and 35 others Vs A G of the Federation affirmed that there are three tiers of government in Nigeria, Federal, State and Local Governments for the purpose of sharing Federal Allocation. This position is contrary to the stand of the country’ elites that Local Government is an appendage or a Parastatal of State Government and could thus be treated as such in term of financial and administrative empowerment. Only recently, an attempt by the National Assembly to accord Local Government autonomy had a still birth.
(2) NIGERIANIZATION AND LOCALIZATION POLICY
Before the World War II, the Colonial Governments avoided appointing Nigerians to positions of authority based on racial discrimination. However, during the war (1944 – 1946), great impetus was given to the Nigerianization of the Civil Service obviously because of the support needed from the Natives to win the war for the British Monarch.
The Labour Leaders led by late Pa Michael Imoudu and other Nationalists took advantage of this to clamour for more Senior Positions in the Public Service. The Nigerianization of yesteryears, it would appear, has today become what is known as Localization in the Local Government Administration contrary to the spirit of 1976 Reforms.
Whereas, the 1976 Local Government Reforms had orchestrated uniformity in local governance throughout the country and in order to guarantee this, a Committee headed by Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki issued a report in 1984 (White Paper on Dasuki Report) where operational guidelines were issued for Local Governments with a view to making them being on same page throughout the Federation. Sadly, however, the philosophy of uniformity has since been jettisoned in favour localization.
It is a common thing to find different styles of local administrations from one State to another. The Exchange Programme of Personnel which was the order of the day in early 1980s seemed to have been abolished. The Specialized Training Courses at the Universities of Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and the University of Nigeria Nsukka has suffered a setback almost irretrievably.
From the research carried out, it was discovered that most Local Governments have more workforce than their carrying capacity and in flagrant disregard for budgetary provisions. No doubt, in a responsible and responsive clime, recruitment and promotion of workers are done in consonance with felt need of the Government and budgetary provisions.
This position is buttressed in the Handbook on Local Government Administration (1992) published by the Office of the then Vice President of Nigeria, which provided among others that “recruitment in Local Government shall only be undertaken into critical areas after necessary due process must have been observed”.
This has only been obyeyed in the breach. Until recently, officials of Local Government are in the habit of carrying out recruitment with reckless abandon and in utter violation of establishment Rules and Regulations, the result of which is over-bloated workforce everywhere. The Ondo State Government, in 2013, had had to relieve of their posts hundreds of illegally recruited workers from the payroll. Has this not been done, perhaps payments of salaries would have been almost impossible with the situation of things now.
Statutorily, Local Government derives revenue from two principal sources – the external and internal sources. The External Source relates to the Monthly Allocation from the Federation Account (20.6%) Statutory (10%) ‘IGR’ contribution by the State Governments. State Governments are expected to pull together all funds received from the Federation Account with the 10% of the Internally Generated Revenue for the purpose of distribution to the Local Government – See Section 162 (6) of the 1999 Constitution. For purpose of clarity, this section is quoted below:
“Each State shall maintain a Special Account to be called “State Joint Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State”.
It needs to submitted that in view of this provision, some State Governments have at one time or the other tinkered with the funds hence the passage into law by the National Assembly on March 10th 2005 a bill entitled “The Monitoring of Revenue Allocation to the Local Government Act, 2005”. Simpliciter, the Law sought to ensure Local Government Funds were not abused by the State Governments. Unfortunately, the Revenue Monitoring Law was to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when it was challenged by Lagos State Government in conjunction with 35 other State Governments.
The other area of revenue which should have given Local Government succour is contained under Section 100 of 1976 Reforms and the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution otherwise called “Internally Generated Revenue”. These are listed below:
- Poll Tax
- Tenement Rate
- Bicycle License fee
- Hackney Permit fee
- Liquor License fee
- Palm Wine tapper/seller fees
and a host of other 40 items which are outdated and/or mundane revenue heads which fetch little or nothing to the coffers of Local Government.
Indiscriminate Creation of Local Government Resulting In Non-Viability
The Ibrahim Dasuki Report of 1984 (supra) and the White Paper issued thereto by the Federal Government listed some conditions that should be fulfilled before Local Governments are created. Some of these are: Population, Viability, Landmass, IGR, among others. However, it is painful to note that the same Military Government that set up the Committee and issued the White Paper, still went ahead without considering the listed criteria to wantonly create Local Governments in 1980s.
This arbitrariness in the creation of Local Government explains why some States have more than their fair share. In addition, an attempt since 1999 to create new local Government by the State Governments which felt shortchanged has been difficult.
In the matter between AG of Lagos State Vs AG of the Federation, on the creation of Local Government by Lagos State during the tenure of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Supreme Court declared that, though States could create Local Government, but the National Assembly must necessarily enlist it in the Constitution, before it can fully be called Local Government and be entitled to grants from the Federation Account.
CORRUPTION AND MISMANAGEMENT
Grafts and corruption by Public Officers at the Local Government level had in the immediate past assumed a cankerworm that has almost defied a solution. According to Aghayere (2010), “there is probably no level and institution of government where corruption is as wide spread, undiluted and unambiguous as Local Government”. Another commentator also averred as follows:
“In the face of non provision of welfare service to the locality yet public officials siphon and mismanage local government fund. Council Fiscal Allocation is purportedly shared among local government officials and to party members, political god-father with flirtation and unexecuted contracts”.
When the Muritala Administration initiated the process of local government reform through Decree No. 32 of 1979 (10), the intention was to enhance development at the local level and give people a voice in the democratic process. It certainly did not envisage that the Local Government Chairmen would become the local lords we see today, strutting about with no idea of what their functions are, they are experts in awarding grossly inflated contracts and diverting public funds or as Nuhu Ribadu would say, “Direct stealing”. Hear the comment of a newspaper columnist,
“After paying staff salaries every month, the party begins. Bogus contracts are awarded and re-awarded but never executed. Salaries are paid to hundreds of non-existing workers. Unnecessary workshops and conferences (including to the U.K. to learn local government administration) are paid for unneeded consultancy and feasibility studies are commissioned, paid for and promptly dumped”.
INTER-GOVERNMENTAL CONFLICTS/LACK OF AUTONOMY
The suffocating interference in Local Governments’ affairs by State Governments through the Ministry of Local Government constitutes another problem. The Local Government is supposed to be a government on her own in a real Federal System of Government but in Nigeria where her Federal arrangement is more of Unitary Government, Local Government should be expected to be under the beck and call of their respective State Governments which determine their structure, finance, composition among others. (Section 7 & 8 CFRN).
In addition and sadly though, there is the assumption of functions in some areas by the State and Federal Governments which stifles the finances of the local government for the fact that they have been left with difficult and dry areas to raise revenues (Vehicle Licence and Signage). According to J.A. Egounwan, I quote:
“from the appropriation of technical function by the State Government the government has acquired the more in creative elastic and collectible revenue source (e.g. water rate, motor vehicle, license fee, building plans) leaving local government with taxation with low ceiling, revenues which are administrative and politically difficult to exploit in an environment where vast majority of the people are poor, self employed and dispersal in the rural areas”
leaving local government with low revenue base.
QUALITY OF LEADERSHIP
In some parts of Nigeria, Local Government Chairmen with little or nothing pedigree, live in a world of their own, completely detached from reality. Most of them, have full retinues of aides and hardly had time to stay in office or in their localities attending to the needs of their subjects. Getting appointment to meet them is virtually an exercise in futility.
They dispense favours to acolytes and praise singers with reckless abandon, the entire budget of the local government is operated more in the breach than in compliance. Parochialism and Nepotism become the directive principle of policy.
Excessive commitments to ethnic, sectional and partisan personal interests that negate the oath of office seem to have made it sometimes impossible for many local governments to function effectively and efficiently. Most often, Chairmen and Councillors see themselves as representing their personal or town’s interest rather than the collective interest of the Electorates in the entire Local Government.
Similarly, Career officials have not been helpful either. As Administrators, they help themselves liberally from the public purse by exploiting the weakness of the gullible Chairmen and Councillors. In some States, some civil servnts took over the leadership of the Union ‘NULGE’ so that they become law unto themselves with a view to intimidating the elected officials and their workers alike.
THE 1999 CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION
We have seen in the historical antecedent of Local Government how it emerged/evolved from the native authority to the stage of being a third tier of government. Through the various legal enactments from the 1976 Reforms, Ibrahim Dasuki Report, 1979 Constitution, the 1988 Civil Service Reforms as applicable to Local Government among others, governance at grassroot has become mature to such level that time was when agitation for the scrapping of State Government almost assumed a National acceptance.
However, it is disheartening to note that the hitherto autonomy and pride of place enjoyed has been rubbished by the combined Sections 7 and 8 of the 1999 Constitution and other State Government enacted Laws pursuance to the two sections above. By the singular provision of Sections 7 & 8 of the Constitution, the State Governments are thus given the license to determine the fate of Local Government as it pleases them.
No wonder, the structure and operation of Local Government since 1999 seemed bastardised everywhere. In addition, the 1999 Constitution which was to be an improvement on the various enactments glossed over many important items on Local Government, which include but not limited to the following: Establishment of Office of Local Government Chairman, Qualification, Removal from Office, Creation of Local Government, Tenure of Office, Election of Councillors, Local Government Service Commission and a host of others.
Conclusively, a practical look at how the functions of local government have been carried out today has shown a wide gap between the supposed functions and the level at which those functions are actually performed. That is why today, there are places in Nigeria that cannot be reached by any form of motorized vehicle; reaching those places entails abandoning vehicles and trudging on foot.
These are also the reasons why in some areas today, medical emergencies are transported to clinics on motorcycles. This is why in many places Primary School Pupils still study under trees in lieu of classrooms. The same reason we must ask; where are the boreholes that are supposed to provide potable water? Why do so many people die from preventable diseases like malaria, typhoid, cholera, dysentery and meningitis? Why do we have mountains of refuse and clogged drainages all over the country? Why do Local Government Primary Health Care facilities are not functioning? And so many why dos all over the place. It is therefore no surprise that Local Government from all intents and purposes have become not only problematic but endangered.
The time has come for the lovers of grassroot development to come together to jaw-jaw on the way out of the quagmire Local government has found herself. As a prelude to the discussion, permit me to list some of the critical areas that need to be touched. Instituting new Regulatory books – Staff Regulations, Financial Memoranda, Financial Regulations, etc, budget accountability, financial discipline, transparency.
In addition, the position of Chairmen, Councillors, Enlistment in the Constitution, the State Local Government Service Commission, Administrative and Fiscal autonomy, review of Federal Allocation, among others. Should this call be heeded to, the fortune of Local Government which appears to have collapsed irretrievably will rise again.
Akinbosade, Permanent Secretary Ondo State Local Government Transitional Department