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Monday, September 21, 2015

Local Government Systems in Nigeria, Structures, Functions and Challenges

Seye Olofin
Local Government Systems in Nigeria, Structures, Functions and Challenges



The idea and practice of localizing government is a universal and age-old phenomenon. In Nigeria, before the emergence of the contemporary state

system, governance
In all originality was locally or community based, with the emergence of state system, local government still find a place in the Scheme of

things.
The need of localizing governance in the modern day setting is on the need to bring governance closer to the people. This even as its functions

and relevance sometimes overlap with those of other levels of government, it’s still seen as a way of making governance more efficient and

effective in a democratic systems of Governance.
Structures and Functions of Local Government in Nigeria:
Under the 1999 constitution, Nigeria has a single tier system of local government. One other significant provision on local government in the

constitution is the clear creation of room for separation of powers.
The Executive Arm of Local Government
The Executive Arm of local government consists of the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Supervisors and Secretary.
The Chairman is the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the local government. His designation as the Accounting Officer however excludes

signing of cheques and vouchers, though he has to authorize all payment. He performs numerous functions. Some of this functions include:

observing and complying fully with the checks and balances spelt out in the existing guidelines and financial Regulations governing receipts; he

ensures accountability as he can be held accountable while in office and even after the expiration of his tenure and he is to face periodic

checks in order to ensure full adherence to all relevant laws on finance. He is to render monthly statements of income and expenditures and

annual reports to the local government council for consideration and debate; he is also to render quarterly returns of the actual income and

expenditure of the local government to the state government for further necessary action. Beyond these, the chairman also directs the affairs of

the local government; he allocates responsibilities to the vice chairman, supervisors and the secretary to the local government; he conducts the

meeting of the executive committee of the local government – vice-chairman, supervisors and the secretary – at least once a week.

Furthermore, he maintains liaison with the legislative arm of the local government; he countersigns the Annual Performance Evaluation Report of

the Heads of the local government departments. He has to address the local government council at least once a year. During this address, he has

to give an account of his achievements and the problems or challenges he has encountered in the year. He is to also present his annual budget to

the local government council at the beginning of the year for consideration and approval. In exercising his powers and discharging his
Administrative and financial functions, he has to consult with the vice-chairman, supervisors and secretary.

 The Executive Committee of the Local Government
The Executive Committee of the local government consists of the chairman, a vice-chairman elected with him, the supervisory councilors appointed

by the chairman and a secretary also appointed by the chairman
Upon assumption of office, the chairman presides over the meetings of the committee. The committee meets at least once a week. It considers

memoranda from the departments and any Head of Departments may be summoned by the committee to make clarification on any matter relating to its

memorandum or any issue under the consideration of the committee.

Vice-Chairman
The vice-chairman in the administration of the local government is assigned the responsibility of administering department of the local

government. He acts for the
chairman in his absence.

 The Secretary to the Local Government
The secretary is an appointee of the chairman. In his capacity as the secretary to the local government, he performs the following functions:

Secretary of the meetings of the Executive Committee of the local government and keeping the records of the meetings; coordination of the

activities of the departments of the local government; liaising on behalf of the chairman, with the local government council through the Leader

of the Council; liaising with the appropriate officers of the state government on state local relations and carrying out other duties that may be

designed to him from time to time.

 Supervisors
These are political appointees of the local government. Upon appointment, they are assigned a department each for supervision. More specifically,

their functions include:
serving as political heads of their respective departments; serving as members of the Executive Committee of the local government; giving

directives to the professional heads of their respective departments on general policy issues; assisting the chairman to supervise the execution

of local government projects within their respective departments and carrying out such other duties or functions as the chairman may assign from

time to time.
In running the affairs of the local government, the Executive arm is assisted by other key support staff. These are heads of the departments in

the local government.
They are all equal in status. Chief among them are the Head of the Personnel Management (Director of Administration) and the Local Government

Treasurer (Director of Finance).






The Legislative Arm of Local Government

The Legislative arm of the local government consists of the Leader, the Deputy Leader and Councilors. All the councilors are elected and the

leader and the deputy leaders are chosen among the councilors.
The local government council is saddled with the following functions:

● Debating, approving or amending the annual budget of the local government council subject to the chairman’s veto which may be set aside by

two-third majority of the members of the local government council;

● Vetting and monitoring the implementation of projects and programs in the annual budget of the local government;
● Examining and debating the monthly statements of income and expenditure rendered to it by the chairman of the local government;
● Advising, consulting and liaising with the chairman of the local government.

The law passed by local Government is called bye-laws. After the passage of a bye-law by the council, the chairman must assent to it for it to

have force of law.

Functions of Local Government in Nigeria

The functions of local government in the country are contained in the 1999 constitution, according to fourth schedule of the constitution; the

following are the functions of Local Government; Collection of rates, radio and television licenses; Establishment and maintenance of cemeteries,

burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm, Licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel

barrows
And cart, Establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor packs and public conveniences;

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, Naming of roads and streets and numbering of
Houses, Provision and maintenance of public conveniences sewage and refuse disposal, Registration of all births, deaths and marriages, 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, Control and regulation Out-door advertising and hoarding, Movement and keeping of pests of all description,

Shops and kiosks, Restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale of food to the public; Laundries and Licensing regulation and control of the

sale of liquor.
Some other functions include, participation of council in government of a state in
Respect of the following matters,
The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education, development of agriculture and natural resources, other than the

exploitation of minerals, provision and maintenance of health services and such other functions as may be conferred on a local government council

by The House of Assembly of the state.



Challenges.

The local governments in the country have been found to perform below expectations because of the following factors:

One of the problems and challenges facing local government administration in Nigeria today is unceasing growth in the rate of corruption. Indeed,

corruption and abuse of office by local government administrators have assumed gargantuan proportion. It is perpetrated by both local government

bureaucrats and political office-holders.
These categories of local government administrators are neck deep in inflation of contracts, outright embezzlement of council funds, taking

kickback on contracts; and non execution of contracts among other corrupt practices.

Second and related to this is the growing perception among local citizens that local governments are indeed citadels of sharing national cake.

For example, it is now
Public knowledge that local government chairmen are not supposed to account for security vote. Thus there is the eagerness among the poor rural

folk to share from this so-called free money, whereas, if properly applied and judiciously spent, the vote is supposed to be used by the local

government chairmen to pursue their protective functions.

Third, in another related development, there is the growing practice among the state governments to divert local government funds through state-

local government joint account. This is possible because local government allocations from the federation account are disbursed through the state

governments. Most state governments have taken this advantage to divert part of the allocation to other otiose projects thereby robbing the local

governments of the capacity to perform their functions and live up to the expectations of the people.

Fourth, there is also the growing problem of overstaffing and redundancy in the local government bureaucracies all over the country.

Another constraining factor is over population of some local governments. Over the years, the population of some local governments has grown

beyond the management capacity of their leaders. In such local governments, the needs of the people are hardly met. Some local governments that

ought to have been split into many local governments could not be split because of constitutional hurdle which has made creation of more local

governments in the country almost impossible. Specifically, the reluctance of the Federal authority to grant the constitutionally required

imprimatur to creation of more local governments by states desirous of more local governments has remained a serious albatross for creation of

more local governments in the country.

Also, the use of caretaker committee usually constituted by some state governments instead of elected local government officials has also

hindered the performance of local governments in the country. With caretaker committee in place, it becomes easy for State governments to

manipulate local authorities to the advantage of the state government and even for the personal gains of state political leaders. More

specifically,
With caretaker committee in place, transparency and accountability are further held in abeyance.
Finally, there is also the tendency by the local populace not to pay their taxes, rate and levies. It is assumed among other reasons by some

people that, local governments are rich and have little or no need for internally generated revenue. For fear of losing the political control of

the local government, every political party in power often shy away from enforcing tax and levy rules rigorously, thus the low financial standing

of many local governments in the country which has in turn adversely affected their service delivery capability.

For local government to be able to effectively assume its catalytic position in national
Development comes strive for good governance; the following recommendations may be helpful.

First, there is the need to as a matter of urgency entrench new ethical orientation in the local citizenry as to the essence of local government.

This should be aimed at letting the citizens know that local governments are not contrived to engage in “cash sharing”, but to discharge their

constitutional functions to the citizenry in effective and efficient manner.

Second, instead of direct sharing or transfer of cash, local government should embark on programmes that can empower local citizenry.

Third, the controlling state governments should show good example in transparency and accountability to local political leaders. This will

minimize corruption at local level.

From the foregoing, it is safe to conclude that local government has come a long way in the country. However, it is observable that most of the

local governments in the country are hardly effective and efficient. Indeed there is still loud yearning for good governance at the local

government level. Whichever the case, it appears that good governance at local level can only be guaranteed via attitudinal change on the part of

local politicians and even the local people and not necessarily through unceasing or endless structural changes we call reforms.

Olofin Oluseye.

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