Being the third tier of government, the local government was created to give the citizens a sense of belonging through developments from grassroots level governance.
However, it is said that local government areas in Nigeria have failed to actualise these goals due to different sociopolitical factors. In this article, we would give an insight into the problems responsible for the underperformance of local government areas in Nigeria.
While the constitution has undergone several reviews over the years, it has failed to address pertinent issues that hinder the local government’s development. These issues include the qualification of chairpersons and councillors, operation of local government service commission, employees qualification, direct funding, etc.
Nigeria’s constitution does not make a clear distinction between the powers and boundaries of both state and federal governments regarding local governments’ creation and operation. This has led to a continuous encroachment on how the local government functions.
Also, the use of State Joint Local Government Account as entrenched in the constitution has made the quest for financial autonomy in local government seem impossible; the joint constitutional account implies that the state still has much influence on LGAs in terms of finance.
Much of the funds of LGAs come from the Statutory Monthly Allocation from the Federal Government and grants from the state government, subject to politics. This inadequacy of funds hinders development projects at local government levels and results in a lack of local government administrators’ performance.
According to the constitution, local governments are empowered to impose levies on private establishments at the grassroots level for revenue generation. They are saddled with providing good primary health care and education for the people.
Unfortunately, the state governments have taken over these responsibilities, especially those that have to do with revenue collection, while the state governments failed to make an adequate remittance. This undue Interference has kept local governments in a perpetual state of brokenness and inability to pay workers’ salaries and meet other grassroots demands.
Even though corruption is a major cause of misery in Nigeria’s democracy from top to bottom, it is believed to be intense at the local government level.
Funds meant for payment of salaries are being siphoned with a large number of ghost workers. Project budgets are being inflated with a growing tradition of favouring some parts of the council over others in developmental projects. Combined with this, state governments also strive to put their cronies in power during local government elections to assert control over them, thereby shelving the populace’s general deciding right aside.
Without a doubt, many local government chairpersons and councillors are not qualified to hold such an office. Most of them only got there through their political godfathers’ favours or blessings who use such political positions to reward their loyalty and service.
With this repulsive tradition, many local government chairpersons lack the knowledge of what it takes to run their office. They spend most times in their respective states’ capitals, which isn’t their base of operation.
There have been reports that local governments often employ many workers than their budgets and allocations can handle. This is through indiscriminate employment of individuals to please party godfathers and court their favours while resulting in an inability to pay workers when due.
Many cronies are employed without due qualification for respective roles, and many workers are often dilly-dallying at work with perpetual lateness, which reduces work efficiency at local governments.
With the problems mentioned above, you will agree that the Nigerian Constitution needs a thorough review with special provisions to distinguish between the constitutional powers and functions of all tiers of government to avoid undue encroachment by one on the other.
Adequate measures and criteria should be provided on the local government creation process, qualifications, tenures and operation of the Local Government Service Commission.
The local government should be autonomous for an effective administration. Simultaneously, the State Joint Local Government Account should be reviewed and properly monitored to avoid state governments’ heresies; we advise that LGAs should have their independent account.
Other constitutional and legal provisions should be made to enable the local government to achieve self-sufficiency and reduced reliance on different government tiers for funds. Workers’ employment should be restricted to merit alone, while adequate human resources development activities should be carried out to further train them.
The only hope for grassroots development is an organized and efficient local government; hence, having a working local government administration is of utmost importance and should not be taken lightly.