The Nigerian constitution divides the Nigerian federation into three tiers of governments each with its designed structure, functions and share of responsibilities to carry out and for this to happen equally all the ties have been provided with equivalent power and resources to facilitate its activities.
The federal government is at the centre, holding the mantle of leadership at the highest level, executing activities appropriate to it – external relations, sovereign protection, currency printing and so on.
Followed by the federal government is the state government with its equivalent responsibilities termed as concurrent: this is as those responsibilities are carried out hand in hand with the federal government viz. education, healthcare power supply and etc. The federal government’s functions are termed as exclusive list being exclusively carried out by the federal government.
Down the hierarchy of the federal structure is the last tie of government: local government which is located at the grassroots level, therefore, being the closest to the people among all the tiers of government. It is saddled with the responsibilities of initiating, executing and delivering development programmes in the rural areas.
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The constitution provides it with specific responsibilities, functions, power and resources for this purpose. However, over the years despite huge money allocated to the local government areas in Nigeria, local governments have not been able to achieve the responsibilities they are saddled with; in fact, sometimes you can’t even believe local government administration exists in the country.
The rural areas are wretched; rural people are living in abject poverty and squalor, hunger, ignorance and insecurity.
Primary school education, supposed to be taken care of by the local government through the local education authority (LGEA) is in a state of total collapse and deterioration. There’s total decadence in education at the local governments. The infrastructure is not there and where it exists it is in a state of great deterioration and decay.
There are no enough qualified teachers. This is what is found in every other sector in the rural areas: when you go to primary health care, the facilities are not there and where they are found, they are in terrible condition; enough qualified healthcare personnel are simply not there; and no drugs… nothing.
The same applies to rural roads, pipe-borne water and electricity. The list is endless.
However, this is not what is envisaged. In fact, if local governments had been allowed to discharge their constitutional responsibilities properly, the story would have been otherwise.
Along the way, a bottleneck was created and it has not allowed the local governments to breathe in the Nigerian rural space.
Over the years, inquiries and investigations in the affairs of local government have shed light on many reasons or obstacles responsible for local government’s total failure in the country. These are inter alia:
Excessive power of state government over the local government: It’s well known that state governors control the election and tenure of local government chairmen through the state electoral commissions and this is further worsened by the lack of a timetable which specifies regular time for local government elections.
The state governor has every power to manipulate the outcome of local government elections at will: bringing to the throne anyone he wishes or dethroning anyone. This trend and many others render the local government council and the chairman helpless and act like toothless bulldogs; unable to stand on their own. They simply act as the state governor’s boys who don’t have their own way of carrying out their constitutionally assigned responsibilities.
In addition, the state governors control the finances of local governments through the joint account; this has never allowed the local governments to access their monthly grants coming from the federation account.
The state governors simply sit on such money and use it for campaign leaving the local government areas for which the money was allocated with nothing.
For local government areas in Nigeria to experience meaningful development, this tradition has to be abolished. The grassroots democracy has to be strengthened; there must be new laws and amendments to the existing ones to empower the state democratic process. Most especially, the state electoral commission must conduct regular, fair and independent elections in the local government areas.
Local government areas also must have their separate financial administration. Unnecessary encroachment from the state governors has to be stopped. This needs to happen for local government areas to experience meaningful development in Nigeria.
Furthermore, local governments in Nigeria lack competent and qualified manpower for the execution of various social and economic developmental programmes, administration and financial management as well as executive incapacity where political leaders holding political offices are barely literate.
Local government politicians and bureaucrats also engage in public funds embezzlement; corruption is rampant in local government administration; here a mechanism should be put in place to check corrupt practices by the local government officials and training and development should be included for the officials to be more enlightened.
Therefore, for local government areas to record any meaningful development, the democratic process in local government politics must be strengthened. The constitution must ensure the local government’s independence by controlling the state government’s excesses on the local government.
The local governments should also be allowed to manage their finances without too much interference from the state government. Local government areas should also strive to increase their internally generated revenue and utilize it for their activities.
Ado wrote from Kano via [email protected]