Local Government Administration and Development in Bayelsa State

ABSTRACT

This work “Local Government Administration and Development in Bayelsa State, 1999-2012” is aimed at examining the contributions of the third tier of government to the development of the state within our period. As is well known, the importance of Local Government as a third tier of government cannot be overemphasized as it brings government closer to the people of the grassroot. Local Government constitutes an essential or fundamental driver in national development. The discussion on local government has been increasingly important over the years owing to the roles local governments are expected to play in the promotion of grassroot development. Hence, the extent to which local governments have operated as agents of development in Bayelsa State is at the heart of this study and indeed the primary concern of this study. To this end therefore, the study examines the extent to which resources available to local governments in the state are applied to meet the developmental needs of the people. The study also examines the challenges and prospects of local governments in stimulating development in the state. Primary and secondary sources of data are utilized in this study. Apart from interviews conducted, there is reliance on existing literature in books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and even the internet sources. This study adopts the Culture-Contact Theory of Social Change. This is because Local Government Administration as it exists today is as a result of Nigeria’s contact with the British. The study is historical, descriptive and analytical.

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

Several reasons are advanced for the creation of Local Governments but the compelling reason is rural development. This was stressed by Adebayo Adedeji in his inaugural lecture at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria when he stated inter-alia, “of the three tiers of government, Federal, State and Local, the Local Government provides the greatest scope for grass-root development, because it touches lives of the people most intimately.” This is to say that local governments enable the people to participate in the services and development activities in the communities.

The Federal Government of Nigeria in 1976 organized the local government system to make it development-oriented. In that 1976 Local Government Reforms, the government declared that the local government reforms had the objectives of improving lives in the rural areas through effective revenue mobilization and getting more people involved in decisions affecting them.2 The reform guidelines, as incorporated into the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, attributed many functions to Local Government Councils. Equally, the 1976 Local Government Reforms was aimed at entrusting political responsibility to where it is most beneficial with the hope that the reforms would ensure the principle of participatory democracy and political responsibility at the grassroots. Therefore, local governments exists primcipally to perform developmental functions.

It suffices it to say that local government administration in Nigeria can rightly be traced back to the indigenous administrative system that existed prior to British colonial rule. This was followed by the Native Authority system which was introduced to better serve the interest of the colonizers. The point, therefore, is that the Native Authority system both in conception and practice was not initially oriented towards democratic political processes at the local level nor oriented towards rural development; rather, it was a repressive, exploitative and penetrative instrument of Indirect Rule. As Collins aptly puts it, “it was an agent of tax collection, law and order administration.” The consequences of these were to prove disastrous for the rural dwellers as successive governments have since been ambivalent on the issue of making local government in practice a third tier of government.

At the time of independence in 1960, local government was basically a regional responsibility of the Northern, Eastern and Western Regional Governments. The various Regional Governments operated unidentical forms of local administration. For example, between the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1971 the three former eastern states abandoned local government because it was felt that the British model was no longer suitable for the development needs of the people.7 The situation was not any better in the northern and western regions. Thus, during the early military era (1967-1976), the local government system remained more or less a deconcentrated extension of the states, with the local governments performing residual roles for their military overlords at the state level.

In the later military era (1976-1979), effort was made to transform the basic roles of local government as exemplified in the 1976 Local Government Reforms. The reforms established local governments as a third tier of government with its own identity and sources of revenue. The need for devolution of power instead of delegation of functions to local governments was underscored in the reform. The objective was to entrust political responsibility to where it was most crucial and beneficial, that is, to the people and to enshrine the principle of responsibility in the Constitution for every Nigerian. The significance of this development laid in the fact that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a national rather than a regional/state approach was adopted towards local government. To further improve on the 1976 local government reform and entrench local democracy, the Dasuki Panel was set up in 1984 to review the local government system. The Panel made far reaching and wide ranging people-oriented recommendations for a virile local government system. Unfortunately, the Panel’s recommendations as well as the Government White Paper on them were eventually not implemented. The Report, however, succeeded in recommending an effective system of democratic governance at the local level.

Since then, successive governments in Nigeria at both the federal and state levels, have instituted one form of reform or the other in the Local Government System. However, in recent times, its performance in the developmental functions, be it in urban or rural areas has been questioned. Therefore, as we consider the importance of local government administration to development in Bayelsa State, given the existing realities, the need arises to question the fulfillment of this task by local governments in the state.

The historical background to the creation of Bayelsa State can only be properly understood against the background of separatist agitations in Rivers State. As Alapiki12 argues, the struggle for the creation of Rivers State was not undertaken by a single group or movement.The year 1941 witnessed the birth of the Ijaw Peoples League with the avowed purpose of separating the Rivers territory from Owerri Province. The creation of Rivers province in 1947 comprising Port Harcourt, Ahoada, Brass, Ogoni and Degema (PABOD), was sequel to a petition sent to the Governor-in-Council of the Eastern Province by Rivers people. This was sequel to the idea of a separatist state. This consciousness led to the birth of the Council of Rivers Chiefs in 1953. The life and activities of the Council of Chiefs was short lived as in 1954, the Rivers State Congress emerged as a political party replacing the Council of Rivers Chiefs.

In subsequent years, the movement witnessed a change in nomenclature. The Rivers State Congress was later renamed Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference. The seriousness and commitment of the movement to the Rivers cause struck a responsive chord in July 1956 when at a rally the conference voted en mass and overwhelmingly for a separate Rivers State. The proposed Rivers State was to comprise the Rivers Province, Western Ijaw in the Western Region, as well as Opobo, Andoni and Ndoki in the Eastern Region. However, the People have to wait till 1967 when the Federal Military Government under General Yakubu Gowon (rtd.) instituted the 12 state structure to have Rivers State created.14

The demand for Bayelsa State out of Rivers State echoed the argument for additional constituent units by the Rivers elites who condemned and also showed their displeasure in the distributive injustice in the failure to create states out of Rivers State since its creation in 1967. The initial demand for a state by the Bayelsa people came under the aegis of the Abayelsa State Movement when the defunct Babangida Administration revisited the state creation issue in 1991. In other words, the Bayelsa people decided to merge with the Rivers West Senatorial District of Ahoada Local Government Area to demand for the creation of an Abayelsa State, but this failed. In explaining the failure of the Abayelsa request, Ingiabuna argued that a faction of Ogba, Ndoni, Ekpeye, (all ethnic groups in Ahoada LGA) had protested vehemently against their inclusion in Abayelsa State.

Following an auspicious twist of events, the Bayelsa Movement forwarded a fresh proposal to General Sani Abacha in 1993. Consistent with the transition programme of the Abacha Administration, Bayelsa State was created along with others in 1996. The State as created,constitutes and occupies a greater proportion of the deltaic region of Nigeria. It maintains a southern shoreline along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. On its west frontier, it is bounded by the Niger and Forcados Rivers and also the Bomadi Creek and Ramos Rivers. In the north-east frontier, it is bounded by the Ahoada Local Government Area. In the eastern flank, it is bounded by the old Degema Local Government Area in Rivers State.

Thus, going by the 1991 and 2006 censuses, the population of Bayelsa State is 1,703,358 million.16 Most of Bayelsa is aquatic and hence constitutes a difficult terrain to develop. Yet, it constitutes one of the greatest wealth zones in the world and account for about 43 percent of Nigeria’s oil production. Bayelsa State has eight constitutionally recognized Local Government Areas, twenty four Local Government Areas created by the Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha administration in 1999 and eight Rural Development Authorities created by the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2007. All of these, besides the original eight, are funded by the state government to bring development closer to the people. Thus, how they have fared in playing this developmental role is of great interest to the people.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

Since independence, successive Nigerian governments have emphasized on the need to bring development to rural communities. Due to the concern and interest in the transformation and development of rural communities, government made seemingly bold moves in adopting policy measures that would help bring about the much needed rural development. It thus stands that any situation to the contrary indicates an existing gap between theory and practice. It is, therefore, reasonable that development at the community level should be a priority. It is in this light that development of the rural communities is seen as the potential solid foundation upon which national development can effectively be based.

The strategic importance of local government to rural development necessitated the enactment of the 1976 reforms. Since then, several other reforms have been instituted by successive governments in Nigeria. Yet, local governments in Nigeria appear to be immune to reforms as evident by the stark realities of the rural environment such as lack of rural infrastructure, high rate of rural poverty, unemployment and rural- urban migration. The foregoing has always caused a case for debate on the relevance of local government and its effectiveness in providing development. A section of the society contends that due to high level of corruption, lack of leadership, adequate personnel and finance, the local government system has failed to create development in the rural communities. On the other hand, another view argued that in spite of the problems identified above, the local government system in Bayelsa State has improved the standard of living in the rural communities by providing social amenities such as concrete roads, jetties, rest houses, etc.

Finance has been described as the “sinews of viability” for any organization. The various functions of local government which are expected to be performed exclusively by the local governments requires huge revenue expenditure. In revenue generation and expenditure, local governments in Nigeria are limited by law to certain sources of revenue and prescribed paths of expenditure. Broadly speaking, there are two sources of local government revenue namely, internal and external sources. Internal sources are revenues generated within the local government area, while external sources are revenues accruing to local governments that are not obtained through the fiscal efforts of the local governments, but obtained in accordance with the constitutional provisions of revenue sharing between the three tiers of government. External revenue is derived fron Federal Statutory allocation, 10% of State’s internally generated revenue, etc.

However, it is an observed that local governments in Bayelsa State live in chronic budget deficit as there is hardly money to operate both recurrent and capital projects reason been that the statutory allocation is not enough to fund the budget. Prudent spending is a rare phenomenon in local governments. Very low performance can thus be recorded of recurrent and capital budgets in the local governments and there is hardly any budget fulfilment.

It suffices to reiterate that local governments were structured to be agents of rural development given their proximity to the rural areas. This idea was further propelled by the need to initiate development from below. The extent to which local governments have operated as agents of rural development in Bayelsa State is at the heart of this study and indeed the primary concern of this study. It is against this background that the study investigated and determined the extent to which local government administration in Bayelsa State has contributed to the overall development of Bayelsa State. Some pertinent questions arise out of this:

i. To what extent are Local Government Areas in Bayelsa State really autonomous third tier of government?

ii. What credible roles have Local Governments Councils played in the development of Bayelsa State, especially on the application of resources available to them?

iii. What are the challenges and prospects of Local Governments in Bayelsa State?

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to examine Local Government Administration and development in Bayelsa State. In specific terms, it seeks to achieve the following objectives:

i. Examine the extent to which local governments in Bayelsa State are autonomous third tier of government.

ii. Examine the extent to which resources available to the Local Government Councilswere used for rural development.

iii. Examine the challenges affecting the role of the local governments in stimulating rural development in Bayelsa state.

1.4 Scope of the Study

This study is on Local Government Administration and the Development of Bayelsa State. The time dimension covers the period of 1996 to 2012. This is because Bayelsa State was created in 1996 by General SaniAbachaand the tenure of the last administration (Timipre Silva’s administration) expired in 2012. Thus, this study covers the first sixteen years of Local Government Administration in Bayelsa State. In doing this, cognizance is taken of the military and civilian administrations that administered Bayelsa State during the period. Interestingly, Bayelsa State has been under the watch of three military and three civilian administrations in the period under consideration. These administrations include those of Navy Captain Phillip Ayeni (rtd.), Captain Olubolade (rtd.) and Lt Col. Paul Obi’s (rtd.), while the civilian administrations were those under Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and Chief Timipre Sylva. The policies and programmes of these administrations with regards to Local Government Councils are critically examined to determine the contribution of local governments to the overall development of the state during the period under consideration.

Bayelsa State was created from the old Rivers State on October 1, 1996, by the administration of General Sani Abacha. The demand for the creation Bayelsa State out of Rivers State echoed the argument for additional constituent units by the Rivers elites who condemned and also showed their displeasure in the distributive injustice in the failure to create states out of Rivers State since its creation in 1967. Bayelsa State constitutes and occupies a greater proportion of the deltaic region of Nigeria. She maintains a southern coastline along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. On its west frontier, it is bounded by the Niger and Forcados Rivers and also Bomadi and Ramos Rivers. In the north-west frontier, it is bounded by the Ahoada Local Government Area of Rivers State. In the eastern flank, it is bounded by the old Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State. Going by the 1991 and 2006 census, the population of Bayelsa State is about two million.

1.5 Significance of the Study

Local Government administration constitutes an essential or fundamental driver in national development. For a country to develop, the entire citizenry and resources must be mobilized. Clearly, this cannot be done effectively if the Local Government system is inefficient. To this end, the work is important in many ways. First, it will help to give an insight into the nature and character of Local Government Administration. Thus, it will facilitate an understanding of the principles and practices of the Nigerian Local Government system which has either enhanced its effectiveness or otherwise.

This understanding will assist in providing direction on how future reforms can be made to re-structure and re-organize the system to make it more development-oriented. Equally, local government administrators can also learn from the study and possibly re-direct some of their policies or correct mistakes as the findings from the study will expose the role of Local Government in community development and those factors that have mitigated it.

Furthermore, the study will help to enlighten the people on Local Government administration and help to promote political education and consciousness. It will provide workable options to the resolution of the seeming intractable problem of rural underdevelopment in our area of study. Equally important is the fact that, the work will serve as a reference material to persons interested in managing community development problems and also serve of a source of information for future researchers.

1.6 Research Methodology

This research combines primary and secondary sources of data. Oral information is collected through interviews. In the collection of data, the researcher adopted a method of interviewing more than one informant on an issue, and at different places. The oral evidence collected was compiled and analyzed against the back drop of their authenticity and merit. The interview questions were open-ended and the researcher randomly selected informants within Bayelsa State who are civil servants, chiefs, farmers, traders, fishermen and politicians. Similarly, the researcher interviewed community members on field visits to assess the impact of executed projects by the local governments in their communities. Furthermore, unpublished Dissertations, Theses and Newspapers also served as primary sources of information.

Apart from the foregoing, secondary sources of information which refer to publishedworks are used in the collection of data. Available works in Journals and Books were consulted. In order to obtain these materials, the researcher visitedlibraries such as the Bayelsa State Library, Niger Delta University Library, University of Port-Harcourt Library, Benue State University Library, amongst others. Furthermore, the researcherexplored the internet and also visited the Ministry of Local Government and the Bayelsa State Local Government Service Commission to solicit for the needed information. The researcher further visited the headquarters of some Local Governments in the state to garner information from their records. In a nutshell, this study adopts historical methods in the presentation of facts an in analyzing issues relating to local government administration and development. The import of this historicization lies in the need to deepen the understanding of the colonial objectives for establishing Native Authorities and the development impulses and contradictions that the phenomenon generated. It is equally on the basis of this historicity that the fact of historical interaction between the past and present local government system has been established.

Furthermore, this study adopted a multidisciplinary approach. This is due to the nature of the subject of investigation. Issues relating to local government have been a subject of interest to allied disciplines like political science, sociology, geography and economics. The multidisciplinary approach has been relevant in analyzing conceptual and theoretical issues as well as exploring the various perspectives on local government administration and rural development. The alignment of this study with a multidisciplinary approach further finds justification in the fact that allied disciplines enable historians to refine and make more explicit their procedure of explanation.Thus, the presentation of this study is not only historical and holistic, but descriptive and analytical. This study, therefore, attempts to fill the existing lacuna in historical literature on local government administration and the problems of development in Bayelsa State. Though the study is particularly located within the confines of Bayelsa State, it has implications for the whole of Nigeria especially in facilitating the understanding of the predicaments of the Local Government System given its uniformity.

The study equally adopted theory of Culture-Contact of Social Change which main position or argument is that, when two or more cultures interact, they exchange cultural traits and objects. This exchange after a considerable time lapse, leads to some changes in the institutions, culture, and material way of life of the societies involved. Usually, the culture of the technologically advanced group tend to have more influence on that of the weaker group. The colonial situation was a perfect setting under this process fully evolved as the Europeans imposed their culture on the colonized people. When colonial contact with the British took place, rapid changes were effected in virtually all aspects in these societies, their political institutions inclusive. Hence, the adoption of Culture-Contact as a suitable theory for the explanation of pre-colonial to post-colonial change in Local Government Administration in Bayelsa state.

Similarly, the theory of decentralization which centres on devolving power from the center to local authorities and how the local authorities utilizes the power delegated to them to bring development to the grassroots is also useful to this study. As is well known, the main aim of creating local government is to bring development closer to the people or the grassroot and this study examines the extent to which local governments in Bayelsa state have been agents of development.

1.7 Conclusion

The expediency for the creation of local government stems from the need to facilitate rural development and also to bring government closer to the people. Thus, the philosophy behind the creation of local governments in Nigeria is to spread development and a sense of belonging to rural and grass root people. However, the extent to which local governments in the country have been able to spread development and create a sense of belonging to rural people is one issue that has continued to attract scholarly attention. The problems that have arisen from the functioning of local governments as a third tier government in Nigeria are indeed complex and varied. Therefore, this chapter attempts an examination of historical tools and techniques for explaining the role local governments play in rural development and the challenges they are facing in fulfilling those roles. The major significance of using historical tools of analysis in this work lies in the profound understanding it enables of the contradictions of the Nigerian local government system, especially its performance as an agent of development. Consequently, the chapter discusses the background of the study, statement of the research problem, aim and objectives of the study, scope of the study, significance of the study and research methodology. It equally introduces the reader to the theories used in analysing this work which wil be dicussed in the next chapter.

References

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Unpublished

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17. A. Zuofa, and P.G.O. Odondiri “State Movements” … p.141.

18. A. Zuofa, and P.G.O. Odondiri “State Movements” … p.141.

19. N.A. Ekadi, “Local Government and Rural Development” Unpublished PGD Project, University of Calabar, 2001.

20. E. Ingiabuna, “The Politics of State Creation in Nigeria: A Case Study of the Demand”. Unpublished.

21. B. Malinowski, Methods of Study of Culture-Contact in Africa, (London: Oxford University Press, 1938).