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OBSERVATION: Interference In Local Government Administration

OBSERVATION: Interference In Local Government Administration
  • PublishedJuly 4, 2021



LOCAL Government (LG) administration in Nigeria dates back to pre-colonial period. It is a system of government of the grassroots people through their chiefs which has undergone re-evaluation over time to suit its essence. Interference in LG began in 1916 when the British Colonial Master instituted a Native Authority Ordinance to establish the legal framework of Indirect Rule in Nigeria. This interference was however resisted especially in the Eastern and Western Nigeria because its components were undemocratic and at variance with the traditional system of local administration already in existence. This protest resulted to 1950 Ordinance, which injected some democratic oxygen into the system of LG.

Again, in 1976, there were reforms in LG administration targeted by the military regime to prevent the traditional rulers from setting up a separate Council of Chiefs, with advisory roles consistent with harmonised condition of service of the LG personnel and the personnel of the State and Federal Governments. The reforms were essentially designed to spread government programmes to the grassroots by the military regime as part of its activities to handing over power to the civilian government. In 1988, there was another LG reform. The primary target, this time around, was to professionalise LG services with streamlined functions with LG Service Commission as monitoring agency.

By 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic, Nigeria operates a Federal Republic of 36 states with the Federal Capital Territory and 774 Local Governments. In essence, LG is the Third Tier of the government. Each LG is divided into Wards across the State with each Ward electing a single member to its LG Parliament. It is at the LG level that democracy is much visible. This informs why Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, clearly provides that, “The system of Local Government by democratically elected Local Government Councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the Government of every State shall, subject to Section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence.” The Section 8 caveat has 6 subsections. All has to do with ongoing discussion at the National Assembly on new States and Boundary adjustment, referendum. Once any of these conditions is not prevailing, election into LG is a compulsion.

Various reforms on LG from 1916 till 1999 Constitution are targeted to develop a virile LG administration but the actions of most Governors in the States between then and now leave much to be desired.

Some people have argued that by the virtue of Section 162(6) of the 1999 Constitution, where each State shall maintain “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid allocation to the Local Government of the State from the Federation Account and from the government of the State, abuses are imminent from the governors. Hence, deliberate delay in organising Local Government elections and putting a handpicked caretaker committee who cannot challenge illegal deductions of LG funds by the Governors which have stalled development at grassroots.

This is exact scenario playing out in Osun.Being fully conscious of the fact that the tenure of all political office holders in Local Government Councils will expire by 5th February, 2021, on Tuesday, 19th May, 2020, Governor Gboyega Oyetola sent names of nominees for the Board of the State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly for screening and clearance. Having gotten the Assembly clearance, on the 10th of June, 2020, Mr. Governor inaugurated the Commission. Interestingly, apart from the fact that Mr. Governor directed all the political office holders at the councils to vacate their offices and hand over to the most senior council personnel through a statement from the Secretary to the State Government, Wole Oyebamiji, on 5th February, 2021, he has taken no further steps to conducting the council elections as demanded by the 1999 Constitution despite the fact that the State Electoral Commission is in place and prepared to conduct the election. For a whole year (10th June, 2020 – 2nd July, 2021) of inauguration of the commission, its staff, Chairperson and members are being paid salaries and allowances without conduct of election.

Some Civil Society Organisations have rejected the State’s claim of paucity of fund for not conducting council elections and have threatened mass protests in the state and legal action if the Governor contemplates a caretaker committee, using the State Assembly as rubberstamp for illegality instead of the elections known to law. No State in South-West is enmeshed with this constitutional and political aberration. In Ondo and Ekiti states, the LGs are being run by democratically elected Chairpersons and Councillors. Ogun State has slated its LG elections to 24th July, 2021. Seyi Makinde-led PDP Oyo State has had its own LG elections in 22 May, 2021.Lagos LG elections will hold 0n July 24, 2021 as the tenure of the 20 LG Chairmen and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) ends in July 25, 2021. These are practical demonstrations of what the constitution says – no excuses; no vacuum! If a caretaker Governor is unthinkable at the expiration of a gubernatorial tenure in any state, same should apply to the LG but for the lawlessness at that level.

Further investigations have revealed that the paucity of fund claim by the state is a pretty lame excuse. The real problem is that under the watch of Oyetola, his party – APC – is in serious crisis and doubts its capacity to win any free and fair election in the state. The party is polarised between Oyetola’s Ileri-Oluwa followers and the progressives within the party who are being harassed and persecuted for their struggle towards rebuilding and save the party from unrelenting drift to conservatism.

Contrary to either ignorance or mischief that LG has no major responsibilities, 1999 Constitution empowers it with the following: construction and maintenance of roads, streets, drains and other public highways, park and open spaces; provision and maintenance of public transportation and refuse disposal; assessment of privately own houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the State House of Assembly; control and regulation of outdoor advertising, movement and keeping of pets of all descriptions, shops and kiosks, restaurants and other places for sales of food to the public, and laundries; naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses; establishment, maintenance of markets, motor parks and public conveniences; licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows. State governments have hijacked most of these responsibilities from the LGs. As such, they could not satisfactorily perform these statutory functions because the Governors recklessly abuse their funds domiciled at the States Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA). This should be one of the parts to be expunged from the 1999 Constitution as it kills development at the grassroots and encourages light-fingered governors to institute caretakers, as against duly elected administrators, so as to have unhindered access to the LGs funds.


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