Whither Local Govt Administration?

With the strike action embarked upon by members of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) now in the second month, some fundamental political questions revolving around the declining impact of local government administration amidst deteriorating financial capacity and independence are beginning to come up to the centre stage of public debate.
The local government as a political tier and development agency for popular political participation is constitutionally vested with responsibilities around primary healthcare, environmental sanitation, agricultural service extension, management and maintenance of markets and parks, promotion of adult education and liaison with traditional institutions for the sustenance of peace and security.
The post-independence local government system in Nigeria has, however, been marked by virtual erosion of independence both in the military era where there is no clear cut ratio of proper distribution of powers and resources amongst the federal, state and the local government. The military operated a system akin to a unitary system with a grossly reduced power of both the States and the local government.
With sixteen years of uninterrupted democracy, the lots of the local government system in Nigeria has not shown signs of improvement in the positive direction. With foisted leadership, joint account with the state, weakened capacity for revenue generation and leadership that is answerable not to the people of the grassroots there has been a virtual erosion of independence for the third tier of government said to have been conceived to bring development closest to the people.
The worrisome reality staring Nigerians on the face is that the 25 local government areas in Delta State as part of the 774 council areas in the country are finding it near impossible to pay salaries to their workers. A number of the councils have not paid their employees full salaries since December 2014. No credible explanation has been given as to why the situation is the way it is. The weak financial base is blamed on the dwindling revenue from oil which translates to reduced allocation from the federation account.
We consider it an unhealthy development in the polity for the local government system in the state to be shut down for close to two months now without a valid explanation to members of the public on efforts being made to return that critical tier of government to operational normalcy and developmental relevance.
It is indeed curious that efforts at local government reforms to improve impact and functionality right from the Udoji civil service reforms of the 70s have failed to yield the desired result. The travails of the local government system in Nigeria is largely political. Whereas Section 7 of the 1979 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees a democratically elected leadership for the local government, experience has shown overwhelming influence of the officials of states across the country on the tone, character and direction of leadership at the local government areas across the country. The interest of the people of the grassroots often end up being subordinated to the whims and caprices of the leadership of the other tiers.
The time is indeed ripe for the National Assembly to come up with an Act that should legislate the local council system in Nigeria back to developmental and administrative relevance through considerable autonomy. The alternative to that is to legislate the third tier of government completely out of existence.
That will in some ways be defining the system instead of what currently exists where the local government system is being funded from the crumbs that seldom fall from the tables of the other tiers of governance.