Local Government in Nigeria faces series of critical challenges like creating critical social services and how to sustain them. No Nation can boast of excellent performance within the public sector at the grass root if a large percentage of her rural inhabitants are facing uncontrollable abject poverty, needs/wants, socio-economic dilemma and basic social amenities. However in Nigeria, a series of social amenities at the grass root reveals that the third tiers of government are lacking performance in the area of service delivery, and over the years has caused the citizens to lose both faith and trust in local government, the closet tier of government to them. The failure of local government reform as an institution in Nigeria to solve ongoing problems of the people at the grass root further indicates a lack of contentment in the governance and consequently retards the closeness of the people to this grass root government. This research looks at the reasons for the establishment of local government, functions and problems of good governance and accountability. Factors militating against performance of local government reform in Nigeria are articulated; areas of contribution to development are also identified and conclude that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be amended to empower Local Government authorities to provide the much needed goods and services for the people.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The system of local government administration practiced anywhere in the world, is dependent largely on the historical, geographical, sociological, political and economic life of the people. This is no less true of Nigeria with a long history of slavery and colonization as well as civilian and military administrations and these have to a large extent determined the system of local government administration in Nigeria up till today. We intend in this work to look at the various reforms that local government system in Nigeria has witnessed since 1914 (Oyediran O., 1988).
The Native Authority (NA) system was the first colonial system of local government administration whereby indirect rule and exploitation was the order of the day. A unified local government system was established in Northern Nigeria before it was extended to Southern Nigeria with varying degrees of success. This system of local government as found in the Native Authorities did not satisfy the needs and aspirations of the local people, hence there were intense agitations from the local citizens, particularly the educated elites in Southern Nigeria craving for greater participation in their own affairs.
The first reform came as a result of the failure of the colonial local government system to meet the needs and aspirations of the people. Thus, after the Second World War in 1945, the colonial policies on local government changed coupled with the demands for greater participation and this led to the adoption of the representative or liberal democratic system of local government in the 1950s. By this time, self-government in Nigeria had been attained and a federal system of government had been entrenched in the Macpherson Constitution of 1951. Thus, each region practiced different systems of local government. The changes in the south were pervasive while a gradualist approach was adopted in the North. The new reforms soon ran into serious problems, particularly in the south due to many factors. However, owing to lack of funds and personnel, coupled with intense politicking no reforms could be initiated until the military seized power in January 1966 which rudely terminated the First Republic (Adewumi, J.B., 2008).
The third reform started when military leaders assumed power in Nigeria in January 1966 and it lasted from 1966-1975. The reforms were intended to correct the ills of the local government system they inherited. By this time 12 states had been created by the military and the various state governments adopted the system that suited them. It must be stated here that the reforms did not depart markedly from the previous system. The local government system ran by the various state governments, however structured and operated were more like decentralized units of the state governments.
The fourth and very important reform came during the administration of General Murtala Muhammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976. This reform was the most revolutionary in the history of local government reforms in Nigeria. The objectives and functions assigned to the local governments were far reaching. It entrenched a high level of democratic participation and autonomy to the local councils. During the Second Republic, under President Shehu Shagari, the various state governments ran the Local Governments under caretaker arrangements. No Local Government elections were held throughout the period. There was massive proliferation of Local Governments by the states, which were later scrapped because of their unviability by General Mohammadu Buhari when he sized power in 1983. The minor reforms carried out by General Ibrahim Babangida in the 1980s, following the Dasuki and Coker Reports were to correct some of the anomalies associated with the 1976 Reforms. The fundamental basis of the reforms remained essentially that of the 1976 reform.
The fifth reform came in the 1990s during the era of General Ibrahim Babangida who for the first time introduced presidentalism into the local government system in Nigeria. This entailed the abolition of the Ministries of Local Government throughout the country in order to give greater autonomy to the third tier system. This system survived for a while but was suspended when General Sani Abacha assumed power and returned the local governments to parliamentary system.
The sixth and current reform came in the wake of the return to democratic rule in 1999. The 1999 Constitution at Section 7(1) placed the local government councils firmly under the states‟ control. Therefore, the various state governments have adopted the presidential system of administration in their states. This entails the establishment of two arms at the local level i.e. the executive and the legislative arms with their different functions. This system has been on for the past 13 years, but it would appear that like the previous reforms, the new system is due for a thorough review in view of its many inadequacies.
1.2 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
Local government reforms are a welcome development in Nigeria because it tends to evaluate the performance of the local government administration; hence implement new policies to favour the local government in order to achieve socio-economic development. But from all indications, it would appear that the problems with the various reforms have to do more with the operators of the systems and not the system per se. It is to this regard that the researchers desired to carry out an analysis on the challenges and prospects of local government reforms in Nigeria.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study came up with research questions so as to achieve the objectives of the study. The research questions for the study are:
- What is the effect of local government reforms on political stability and national development in Nigeria?
- What is the relationship between government policies and the operators of the systems?
- What are the challenges of local government reforms and national development?
- To what extent does change in political administration affect the rate of reforms in the local governments in Nigeria?
1.4 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main aim of the research work is to examine the challenges and prospect of local government reforms in Nigeria. Other specific objectives of the study are:
- to determine the effect of local government reforms on political stability and national development in Nigeria
- to determine the relationship between government policies and the operators of the systems
- to investigate on the challenges of local government reforms and national development
- to determine the extent to which change in political administration affect the rate of reforms in the local governments in Nigeria
- proffer solution to the above problem
1.5 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
H0: local government reforms does not promote national development in Nigeria
H1: local government reforms promotes national development in Nigeria
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The study on the challenges and prospect of local government reforms in Nigeria will be of immense benefit to the local governments in Nigeria, the state and the federal government as the findings of the study will educate the entire population on the ways to carry out effective reforms in the local government so as to promote socio-economic development. The study will also show the factors affecting local government reforms in Nigeria. The study will serve as a repository of information to other researchers that desire to carry out similar research on the above topic. Finally the study will contribute to the body of existing literature and knowledge in this field of study and provide a basis for further research
1.7 SCOPE OF STUDY
The study on the challenges and prospect of local government reforms in Nigeria will cover on the importance of effective reforms in the local government and socio-economic development from 1999 to 2017
1.8 LIMITATION OF STUDY
The researcher was faced by some constraints in completion of the research work. One of the constraints is fund. Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).Secondlythe researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Local Government: Local government is defined by the United Nations (1959) as a political subdivision of a nation which is constituted by law and has substantial control of local government affairs including the power to impose taxes.
Reform: Olaleye (2001) sees reforms as an attempt to reconstruct administrative structure and revamp operational machinery and techniques capable of improving organizational effectiveness and efficiency
1.10 Research Methodology
Research methodology is one of the most important aspects of any scientific research. The researcher derived relevant materials on the subject under study from two main sources viz: Primary and Secondary methods of data collection:
Secondary Method of Data Collection comprises published and unpublished works on the subject under study. It includes review of works written by scholars, policy makers, books, journals, magazines, newspapers, e.t.c. (Mbachu, 2005:60). These materials were sourced through the Kashim Ibrahim Library (KIL) ABU Zaria, Postgraduate Library of the Department of Political Science, Internets, and Newspapers etc.
, Systematic Sampling Method was also used to alphabetically organize the population in order of wards and selection intervals based on households. The target groups is the adult males and females, the household population figures was used to determine the selection interval of the individual respondent at the ward levels, by dividing it with the sample size of each ward. Street arrangements of houses were used based on systematic intervals both in organized and unorganized settings, after the first household was selected randomly. Below are the household selection intervals.
The table above has shown the systematic selection of respondents via the number of households as arranged alphabetically. The selection interval was derived by dividing the total number of household in each ward by the sample size of each ward. Six research assistants were used to aid the researcher in the administration and retrieval of the questionnaires.
Focus Group Discussions (FGD)
Two categories of focus group discussions were conducted. These are; the local government officials and the residents of the area. Those who were drawn from the local government officials are ten (10) in numbers which cuts across the various departments in the local government.
While, that of the residents/inhabitants, four (4) wards were randomly selected through closed balloting system. Namely: Gabasawa, Kawo, Ungwa-Gaji and Shaaba wards comprising of 12 residents/respondents in each ward.
Interviews were conducted whereby 30 people were interviewed. Amongst those interviewed were the past and present Chairmen of the local government who served up to the period of 2011. The Secretary of the local government, Heads of department in the local government, councilors, traditional authorities, community leaders, women, youths, etc.
All these categories of respondents were purposively selected because of their strategic importance in the local government and as inhabitants of the area; they are influential in decision making process.
Method of Data Analysis
The data were presented in tabular form showing numbers of respondents, frequencies and percentages of responses to questions asked. This was also backed up by our interview and focus group discussions.
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