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10 Problems of Local Government in Nigeria and Solutions

The Local Government is the third tier of government. It was created to bring government closer to the grassroots and give the people a sense of belonging. There are 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. There are so many problems facing this tier which we shall discuss.

Here we will try and give explanations the following queries used by readers, policy makers and researchers:

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1. The Constitution

The Nigerian Constitution has undergone a lot of reviews through the years but unfortunately, it has failed to address the major problems of the local Government which include: Qualification and Tenure of Chairmen And Councillors, Removal Process, Local Government creation processes, operation of the Local government Services Commission, Qualifications of Employees, amongst others.

There is no clear distinction of the constitutional powers and boundaries of both the State and Federal Governments as it affects the establishment and operations of the Local Governments. We see these other tiers of government encroaching on some of the functions of the Local Government.

Creation of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) as noted under Section 162 (6) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Each State shall maintain a Special Account to be called “State Joint Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State” has made the search for financial autonomy almost impossible as the Local Government depend on the other tiers for funds.

2. Legality

Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution provides that: “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”.

This law strips the local government off all powers and places those powers on the state government but this is in sharp contrast to the state and Federal level which are well provided for. If this was well streamlined, we will not have the many “Caretaker Chairmen” who are appointed by the various State governments.

3. Inadequate Finance

The local Government depends heavily on Statutory Monthly Allocation from the Federal Government and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from the State Government as provided for under Section 162(6) of the 1999 Constitution which states that “Each State shall maintain a Special Account to be called “State Joint Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State”. Unfortunately for the Local Governments, they do not get what is due to them from the State Government as most of the funds meant for them are embezzled or diverted or as happened in Delta State where the Local Government Chairmen were made to sign papers agreeing that they have received funds from the state Government which was not so thereby hindering the work of the local governments.

4. Undue Interference from the State Government

 According to the Fourth Schedule in the 1999 Nigerian constitution, the functions of the Local Government Council include:

(a) The consideration and the making of recommendations to a State commission on economic planning or any similar body on;

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(i) the economic development of the State, particularly in so far as the areas of authority of the council and of the State are affected, and

(ii) proposals made by the said commission or body;

(b) collection of rates, radio and television licences;

(c) establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm;

(d) licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows and carts;

(e) establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences;

(f) construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State;

(g) naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses;

(h) provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal;

(i) registration of all births, deaths and marriages;

(j) assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State; and

(k) control and regulation of –

(i)  out-door advertising and hoarding,

(ii) movement and keeping of pets of all description,

(iii) shops and kiosks,

(iv) restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale of food to the public,

(v)  laundries, and

(vi) licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor.

  1. The functions of a local government council shall include participation of such council in the Government of a State as respects the following matters –

(a) the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education;

(b) the development of agriculture and natural resources, other than the exploitation of materials

(c) the provision and maintenance of health services; and

(d) such other functions as may be conferred on a local government council by the House of Assembly of the State.

Unfortunately, the State Governments has taken over some of the functions of the Local Governments especially those that have to do with revenue collection and fail to remit the funds to them. This has resulted in the local governments being perpetually broke and always finding it difficult to pay their workers and carry out basic projects like providing social amenities.

5. Corruption

This is the bane of the Nigerian democracy from the top to the bottom. However, some schools of thought believe that the Local Government is the most corrupt of all three tiers. In the last local government elections, most of the seats were won by the political parties in power in the respective states. This is unheard of in a true democracy as the State Governors successfully put their cronies in power and the rights of the general populace to decide was totally shelved aside.

Monies meant for payment of the salaries of the employees are siphoned and a lot of ghost workers are in the payrolls, financial figures for projects are inflated and most of the Chairmen rule with an autocratic and parochial attitude and tend to favour some parts of the council over others.

6. Poor Leadership

Most of the Local Government Chairmen and Councillors are not qualified for the positions they occupy. Most of them get into these positions either by appointment or blessings of their political godfathers to reward them for their loyalty and service.

Most of them do not know what it takes to run their offices and have little or no communication with their governing councils and spend most of their time in their respective State capitals as opposed to their base of operation.

7. Lack of Autonomy

Autonomy simply means freedom from external control or influence. In the 1999 Constitution, little or no power rests on the hands of the Local Government hence leading to incessant interference from the other tiers of government.

The State Government literally controls the Local Government Commission and hence has the powers to manipulate the running of the local governments.

8. Creation of too Many Local Government Areas

As stated above, there are 774 local government areas in Nigeria which is quite a number. Some criteria needed for the creation of Local Governments include: population, land mass, Internally Generated Revenue, location and others. But over the years, Local Governments have been created to score cheap political points amidst complaints of marginalization by others thereby ignoring the previously stated criteria. This has resulted in lots of conflicts among the 36 states of the federation with some feeling cheated.

9. Overpopulated Workforce

Research has shown that there are so many workers employed by the Local Governments more than their budgets or statutory allocation can handle.

There has been indiscriminate employment of persons to please political godfathers and curry favours from the powers that be hence the constant inability of the Local Government to pay its workers as at when due. This is even without taking into consideration the alarming rise of ghost workers.

10. Unqualified And Undedicated Workers

The Local Government has the highest number of unqualified personnel in its payroll. A lot of cronies are inserted as workers even without having the required qualifications to fulfill their respective roles, the workers can often been seen lazing about and coming late to work which drastically reduces the efficiency of the Local Government.

Solutions to the Problems of Local Government in Nigeria

The Nigerian Constitution should be diligently reviewed with distinct clarifications made to distinguish between the powers and functions of all three tiers of government so that one does not encroach on the other.

Measures should be put in place to ensure that the tenure, qualifications, local government creations processes, operations of the Local Government Service Commission, amongst others.

The act governing the SJLGA should be properly reviewed and strictly monitored. Local Governments need to be autonomous to be able to function with maximum capacity.

The laws governing the creation of Local Government Areas should be followed strictly and any unnecessary agitation for more creations must be made to go through the proper channels and not for the purpose of pleasing anybody.

Proper provisions should be made to enable the Local Governments to be self-sufficient without relying constantly on the other two tiers for funds.

The State Governments should be made to remit all the funds due to the Local Government and desist from encroaching on the functions of the Local Governments and its operations.

All tiers of government should be made accountable for the distribution of finances and the percentage due to the Local Governments should be increased so that projects can be carried out and salaries paid as at when due.

Nigerian politicians should learn that integrity, due diligence, accountability, service, are qualities that they ought to possess to lead the people to the “promised land”.

All forms of corruption, selfishness, embezzlement, discrimination should be removed from their vocabulary. Nigerians should be given their rights to vote for suitably qualified candidates instead of having greedy and unskilled politicians imposed on them. The era of election manipulation whereby one party wins all the seats should be consigned to the past.

The workforce of the Local Government should be reduced because the number is simply staggering and uncalled for.

Most of the workers are idle and not really needed but are there as favours to political allies. Regular tests should be given to the employees to gauge their competence and qualification for the role they occupy.

The workers should be properly disciplined for late coming and shirking off their responsibilities and strict sanctions placed on them.

There is still hope for the common man if the Local Governments can be organized and run with maximum efficiency. Let’s make our Local Governments great again as the hope of the grassroots.

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Valentine Ogaga

Valentine is a content developer at InfoGuide Nigeria. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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