Sunday, May 16, 2010

NIGERIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ITS NEEDED AUTONOMY

Local government is that tier of government closest to the person, which is vested with certain powers to exercise control over the affairs of people in its domain.

According to the United Nations Division of Public Administration, Local Government is a political sub-division of a nation or state in a federal system which is constituted by law and has substantial control of local affairs, including the powers to impose taxes or use of labour for prescribed purposes. The governing body of such an entity is elected otherwise locally selected.

The third tier of government therefore is expected to play the role of promoting the democratic ideals of a society and coordinating development programme at the local level.

It is also expected to serve as the basis of socio-economic development in Nigeria because local government is a platform that those who have any interest in common, which they do not share with the general body of their countrymen may manage that joint interest by themselves and subsequently ensure representative and responsible government at the grassroot level.

Before the popular nineteen seventy-six Local Government Reform, local government were merely local administration without formal recognition as a tier of government. But the reform led to the codification of local government under section seven of Nigerian nineteen ninety-seven constitution and still takes section seven of the contemporary nineteen ninety-nine constitution.

Giving justification for the nineteen seventy-six Local Government Reform under Muritala/Obasanjo regime, the then Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Major General Shehu Yar’Adua said and I quote “The Local Government suffered continuous whittling down of their powers. The state governments have continued to encroach upon what would normally have been the exclusive preserves of local government, lack of adequate funds and appropriate institution had continued to make local government ineffective and ineffectual.”

Hitherto, local government cannot be said to have justified its establishment and its inevitable importance to the people at the grassroot level as a result of inadequate finance, inadequate skilled workers, poor revenue generation, corruption and maladministration, overstaffing, political instability and interference which in turn hinder autonomy of local government in Nigerian.

Observations have also shown that local government in Nigerian has not performed up to expectation because of wide-scale embezzlement by officials at the grassroots, perceived indiscipline among workers in the third tier of government.

Intrusion in local government affairs by the higher levels of government has contributed in no small measure to ineffectiveness of local government in Nigeria. Examples are abound from across the country where state Governor unconstitutionally dissolves the entire elected council’s officers, and such action therefore hinders smooth administration at grassroots level.

The fact that local government sustain itself based on revenue from federation account and allocation from state government as well as grant and subsidies form the higher authority make local government susceptible to undue influence.

To ensure that local government complement the effort of both central and state governments in Nigeria, the third tier of government should be allowed to actually fill the envious position as recognized by the nineteen ninety-nine constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Local government council should also be alive to its responsibilities by performing its statutory duties with a view to making local government serves as bedrock for national development as well as veritable ground to training future national leaders.

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