The discourse of Local government system is seemingly a disturbing argument in the Nigeria’s ricketyly practiced federal system. The trajectory of local government in Nigeria can be traced to the creation of Native Authorities occasioned by the British administrative colonial policy – indirect rule.
It has since this time endured varied reforms during and after colonization until 1976 when it became a legal tier of government courtesy of the 1976 local government reforms under Obasanjo regime.
The 1976 reform was a milestone in the local government system affairs in Nigeria. Local government before then was being refererd as “local administration” hinging it’s existence, relevance, operations, fiscal relations and control etc. etc. under the preference of colonial administrators, politicians, military dictators or as the case may be.
Consequent to the 1976 local government reform, local government system among other salient amendment was declared statutory. This implies that local government in Nigeria will now exist as a constitutional (third) tier of government thus saddled with a devoluted power to act, direct, and control it’s affairs without external interference. The 1976 reform also promulgated “election” as the only process for the selection of local government council managers. This is aside the reform enabling local government to receive it’s allocation directly from the federation account. This amazing reform was thereafter enshrined in the 1979 constitution upon which Sheu Shagari became the first democratically elected president to operate Nigeria’s three (3) tiers model of federalism.
So disappointing was that the democratic era of Shagari was sadly a retrogression. The operations of local government under his tenure was simply and in practice a resurgence of the yesteryears local administration. This ugly reality and other maladministration under his government arguably paved way for the Buhari’s military takeover in 1984.
In view of this. There was yet another symbolic attempt to build an effective local government system in Nigeria. This happened again under a military regime and this time, under General Ibrahim Babangida.
The government of IBB was seen to be concerned with the autonomy, legitimacy and functions of local government in Nigeria. Hence, he first abrogated the Ministry of local government affairs and decreed that local government should be responsible for the appointment, payment of salary, promotion, or and termination of local government staff. The protracted reform also gravitated the 1976 local government reform which allows local government to receive it’s statutory allocation directly from the federation account. The IBB’s diarchy also addressed the issue of government legitimacy by amending the demographic condition for creating local government. The result of which led to the creation of more local government areas.
This significant reformation inspired academics, pundits and policy commentators in political science and public administration to dignify, notwithstanding their autocratic tendencies, the regimes of Obasanjo and Babangida as the milestone, and landmark of local government system in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the return of Nigeria’s nascent democracy in 1999 has been an inglorious watershed for local government system. Although, the 1999 constitution was more or less a reiteration of the 1979 constitution and it explicitly safeguarded the legal and devolutionary relevance of local government in Nigeria. However, it’s operations has been manifestly reversive. The local government council managers are embarrassingly recruited by state Governors instead of popular elections. Their functions, revenue base and autonomy etc. etc (against the dictate of the constitution) has been hijacked by these notorious state governors who install and coronate their bootlickers in council offices to perpetrate these illegalities in perpetuity.
In truth, the need for a constitutional amendment that will resolve the technical loopholes between the local government and it’s state counterparts is undisputable. However, the prevalent overbearingness of the state government which in effect had dangerously converted local government as state appendages cannot be found in the constitution or any other known subsidiary laws that governs Nigeria. The fourth schedule of the Nigeria constitution is without any ambiguity on what is a local government, it’s features, functions, activities and intergovernmental relations. However, these notorious executive Machiavellian are supported with a system that pampers impunity, hence, they have no intention to act in accordance with the provisions of the constitution; an institution to which they have sworn, albeit spuriously, to preserve.
To this end, isnt it paradoxical that a local government which is an attribute of democracy had functioned better under military government than what it is under supposed civilian democrats. Is this not a place for behavioral politics that discountenance the melodramatized and exaggerated “strong institution”.
Against this backdrop, it behooves one to be curious on the relevance and fate of a purported strong institution (a mere body of structure) in the face of a pandemic of corrupt, reckless and indifference occupiers. The solution is therefore inherent in this very conclusion – responsible politicians is it.