by Opeoluwa Quadri
The Local government in Nigeria considered as the third tier of government is not real. In reality, there is no local government autonomy in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, what we have is two tier federal government and not a three tier system.
The fact that the constitution does not expressly recognize the local government as a third tier of government but rather subordinated it to other tiers of government especially the state makes the system nothing but a waste of financial resources and efforts. The Local government system in Nigeria defeats the purpose for which you have such kind of government at the grassroots level.
Section 2(2) of the 1999 constitution expressly stated thus “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and Federal Capital Territory”. Hence it is nothing but a federation of two tiers of government.
Section 7(1) stated thus “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, composition, finance and functions of such councils”
The above section though recognizes them but tied them to the apron strings of the states.
Before the present amendment amendment on the autonomy of LGs, there had been an earlier amendment on October 21, 2014 to give more autonomy to local government when the Senate granted an interim financial and administrative autonomy to Local governments; the National Assembly passed the amendment but when the bill got to the states’ houses of assembly in February 2015, the required 24 states needed to pass it was not gotten. This raised suspicion on whether the states are ready to let Local government of their hook.
Yet if we must have an effective local government system that is responsible to the electorate, then we must give them financial autonomy and not subject them to the joint account system they operate with states.
Politically, the states sees local government as their satellite, and then do not give them the liberty to freely deliver public goods to the people at the grassroots. This also explains why citizens are particularly not interested in governance at that level.
Local government in Nigeria are deliberately under funded by the states and sometimes the projects they execute are selected for them by their state.
The implication is that the LGAs are then not directly accountable to their electorate but to the state government if they must continue to be in the good books of their state governors. Transparency in governance at the level of local government is then practically difficult to measure. Also because the politics of selecting candidates for the various political offices at the local government level has been distorted in favour of the ruling party, hence making people to feel that LGs are just mere appendage of the states that does not need to be questioned.
It is thus important that LG are granted autonomy in all ramifications to encourage and stimulate citizens engagement at that level as well as to directly make them responsible to the electorates