Ever found yourself thinking, “What exactly is the work of my local government chairman?” Well, we did ask people about their perception of their local government chairpersons, and they had some interesting answers.
In Nigeria, local governments provide and maintain services such as roads, education, health care, and many more. Yet, despite this legitimate need, several obstacles prevent local government from functioning as intended. For instance, tight control over local government resources impedes project completion.
For the effective delivery of public goods and governance, the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo implemented the local government reform in 1976. The reform created a national framework for local government regarding its activities, makeup, and funding.
What are the obstacles?
However, in recent years, state governments have continued to overstep their bounds and infringe on local government autonomy. In March 2022, the National Assembly approved repealing Section 162(6) of the 1999 Constitution – the “State Joint Local Government Account.” This has been subjected to a great deal of misuse, with state governments and governors becoming supervisors and overlords of the local governments. The states use Section 162 (6) to collect money owed to the councils, and after deducting administrative costs, they make independent decisions on what they believe the local government should get.
Strong local government is essential. That is why every civilised society must have robust, independent local administrations. Regrettably, local governments in Nigeria are weaker politically, administratively, and financially. But what is the next step?
The way out
We must first acknowledge that state governments, not the federal government, are responsible for local governments. Local governments are the parts of the state, just as states are the country’s federating units. A complete constitution restructuring will be the only way to get local governments out of the dilemma. Moreover, if the modification is accepted, it will significantly improve local government governance, accountability, and service provision.
One of the 44 amendment legislations that the National Assembly sent to the 36 State Houses of Assembly in March 2022 for approval was the LG autonomy bill. Twenty state assemblies have voted on the measure, and 16 of the 36 states have voted in favour. Three states—Lagos, Ekiti, and Benue—out of the 20 states that participated voted against the bill, while Adamawa abstained. The 16 states that supported LG autonomy were Abia, Kogi, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Nasarawa, Niger, Kaduna, Cross River, Osun, Enugu, Kano, and Bauchi.