Okowa: Expanding The Frontiers Of Democracy Via The Local Government System

SCRIPTS BY MONDAY UWAGWU
IT remains practically unclear as to how the local
government system became a part of the system of
public administration and governance in the country.
Reason? There are two major reasons for this: Our
poor record keeping culture as a people, and the fact
that, until 1914, what is now Nigeria actually comprised
many independent nation -states and empires that had
their traditional approaches to public administration
and governance. In fact, until the 1914 merger of what
are the constituent parts of Nigeria by Frederick Lord
Lugard, all of the different nation- states and empires/
emirates had different political/administrative structures
that delivered services to the ordinary people
from the public mains.
However, shortly before and after political independence
in 1960, the local government system experienced
some consolidation such that, in effect, it became
the third and last tier of public administration and
governance in the country.
Over time, this scenario has remained, though, as
evident, the profile of the local government system in
the country-particularly with regard to number-has
been a constant factor in the regular changes at that
tier of public administration. This is because, during
the exercise for the creation of states-and this had
been a regular feature of the politics of the country,
SCRIPTS BY MONDAY UWAGWU especially during the military era-local government areas
were also created as an ancillary of such undertakings. Of
course, this trend of exponential increase in the number
of the local government areas in the country after each
exercise of state creation, is the chief reason that, from a
meagre number in the period immediately preceding and
after independence, the tally of local government areas in
Nigeria has risen to a mountainous high of 774, and would
have kept the pace of steady upward movement, but for
the application of the stringent provisions of the 1999
Constitution of the Federal Republic (as amended) with
regard to that undertaking.
In spite of the fact of the restraining import of the 1999
Constitution on the creation of states and local government
areas, the necessity to meet the political desires of some
political interests and to further expand government’s
presence southwards to further give a greater sense of
belonging to the grassroot has made some governments-
Lagos State, for instance-to create development councils/
committees to meet the peculiar development aspirations
of the people of the impacted local communities.
By their nature, local governments are geographically
proximate to the people of the grassroot, hence they are
fondly tagged the grassroot government.
Aside of their geographic proximity, they also share
some element of emotional and social relationship with
the local people of the areas inherent in them for reason
of their regular interaction at that level. This arises mainly
from the efforts of the local government to find enduring
solutions to the development and other challenges facing
the local communities that constitute their legitimate
areas of geographic, administrative and political influence/
jurisdiction.
Besides all of the above, local governments are generally
regarded as the primary building blocks for aspiring
political leaders and administrators. This is because, as
is clearly evident, it is usually the first stepping stone
for politicians and administrators with an eye on political
and other responsibilities at higher level or tiers
of public leadership-the state and federal levels- as in
the case of Nigeria. In this regard, the local government
system acts as an effective breeding or training ground
for this group of people.
Like other tiers of government in Nigeria, the local
government system has responsibilities as assigned to
it in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of
the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These responsibilities/
functions are itemised in the follow- up pages of this
write up.
The effective discharge of these responsibilities by the
local governments augments the development efforts
of the two other tiers-the state and federal governments-
in the provision of services to Nigerians from
the public sector.
Okowa: Expanding The Frontiers
Of Democracy Via The Local
Government System Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.