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The neglected local government

By Nwuko Obinna Alexander
04 February 2022   |   3:36 am
Sir: Local Government in Nigeria is regarded as the closest political establishment to the people. In reality, the local government is more known only as an organ of the government than actually practising their administrative constitutional rights and responsibilities.

(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Sir: Local Government in Nigeria is regarded as the closest political establishment to the people. In reality, the local government is more known only as an organ of the government than actually practising their administrative constitutional rights and responsibilities. Considered as a third tier of the government, local governments have never really served the interest of the people. The outright lack of autonomy and encroachment of the state government in its affairs and administration has dwindled its relevance or power to influence anything at the local level.

The Nigeria 1999 Constitution in its Fourth Schedule outlined the numerous functions of the local government in Nigeria. In no particular order, it includes the construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lighting, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughterhouses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences. The negligence of the local government towards its function as prescribed by the Constitution has branded it unpopular among the people.

The ineptitude of the local government has resulted in intrusions by the state government in appointing families and friends as Caretaker Committee, which always replaces the democratic process. The appointment of the Caretaker Committee to replace representative democracy in local government is both illegal and unconstitutional and breaches the provisions of Section 7(i) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The unconstitutional act is still prevalent in local government and states in the federation and nothing is done about it, on some occasions the people don’t even care.

The undemocratic nature of the local government has left a torn on popular regard on the Nigerian local government system. The electoral turnout for elections for local officials is very low compared to gubernatorial or federal elections in Nigeria. The people see the local government as a money scheme that no longer serves the interest of the people and loses its credibility as the government closest to the people. While the Supreme Court, through Governor, Ekiti State and ORS v. Prince Sanmi Olubunmo and ORS (2016) ruled in favour of the local government council which nullify the right of the state government to stamp on the elective process or dissolve the council, the affair of the local government is still a laughing stock to the state irrespective of the clear judicial precedent.

The people will never fully appreciate the dividend of a democracy without a functioning and democratically elected local government council that is independent and autonomous of other tiers of governments. The local government officials will also need to strengthen their position as the government closest to the people by representing their interests and carrying out their administrative functions adequately and effectively, thereby bringing development to the doorstep of Nigerians.

Nwuko Obinna Alexander.