NIGERIAN FEDERALISM AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY
Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Background of the Study
Federalism, according to K.C Wheare, is the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, coordinate and independent. He said that the characteristics of this Federal Principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division of powers and co-ordinate not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions (K.C Wheare, 1953: 10).The practice of federalism in Nigeria is one of the legacies the British colonial masters bequeathed to Nigeria. Local government is born out of federalism because federalism has to do with the division of power between the central and the component units local government is a component in a federal system, it is recognized as a third tier of government which is charged with the responsibility at the grass root. The local government performs certain functions assigned to it by the constitution and the local government is to be autonomous in its own to carry out all its responsibilities without interference from the central government. The local government should do precisely the word government in its own sphere. The evolution of local government in Nigeria has undergone a lot of changes and all these are geared towards making the local government a system that could serve the purpose for its creation. But specifically in 1976, under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime introduced the 1976 local government reform. The reform recognized the local government as the third tier of government in the Nation and it is expected to do precisely what the word local government implies that is, governing at the local level. The reforms also intend to stimulate democratic self government, encourage initiative and leadership potential and entrain the principle of this reform for the local government to be autonomous having the freedom to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference, the local government system in Nigeria still have some constraints that have impeded it’s autonomy. (Okoli, 2005: 107). This research work puts in focus, Ofu local government area in Kogi state. It will investigate the autonomous nature of the local government area and see the level of services that has been delivered in the area. Ofu local government area of Kogi state was created out of Idah local Government Area In May, 1989 in the then Benue state by the Federal Military Administration of Nigeria led by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. It has nine districts. They are; Ugwolawo, Itobe, Igalaogba, Ojokogbe, Aloji, Ejule, Ogbonicha, Igo, Omache and Ofoke. The hand-quarter of the goo-political entity is Ugwolawo, the historical town that provides haven for the only Federal Government College in the Kogi Eastern Senatorial district. Graphically, the local government share boundaries with Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi state to the North while also sharing boundary with Ankpa local government to the south. Ofu local government equally shares boundary with Olamaboro local government area to the South East and also sharing boundary with Ajaokuta local government area to the west. The local government area occupies a landmass of almost 8,747.5 square kilometer and a perimeter of 252.5 kilometers. The 1991 census figure of National population commission puts the population of the people at 112,697. The people are predominantly Farmers. The Land is fertile for large scale production of crops like maize, beans, groundnuts, rice, cassava, melon, guinea corn, Barbara nuts and so on while mangoes, cashew, palm trees, cocoa e.t.c yield in abundance for commercialization. The place is equally endowed with mineral resources like caroline, lime, marble, galena, fieldpars e.t.c lie beneath the earth there in large quantity for exploration. As it is the characteristic that is always endemic of the countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa, cultural activities are of paramount importance to the people of Ofu. Their tourist delights include Uloko Amo Waterfalls at Otokopi, Ugba Koji hills in Itobe, Egane Waterfalls, Of Akete Natural Bridge and Ala Natural funnel.
1.2 Statement of the Problems
Local government Autonomy is meant the Freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own Finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference. Before the 1976 Local Government Reform, Local Governments were under the direct tutelage of the state government which vested with the exclusive powers to make and unmake them. As a result, Local Governments were subjected to excessive controls by their respective state governments. These controls by their respective state governments were carried out through such mediums as approval of bye-laws and major contracts, appointment of certain categories of professional and administrative staff, approval of annual estimates and loan proposals and funding through grants-in-aid. These control measures posed negative consequences as they culminated into delays which in turn frustrated many important policies and programmes in the local government area. In addition, state governments created, modified, dissolved and suspended local government councils at will. The states had the power to abolish their local government system. In fact, local government existed at the mercy of the state.
The autonomy of local government in Africa countries such as Nigeria is more in theory than in practice. As Olowu (1988:71) succinctly puts it:
Most government has opted for the direct control by central government of their local governments through a battery of legal, financial and administrative controls… So called “local government” units of central governments or worse still, exist as parallel institutions to the government’s field administration controlled by both the central and field units.
The heavy dependence of local governments in Nigeria for instance on statutory allocation from the Federal government whittles down the autonomy of the former. It puts local government at the mercy of the federal government. Furthermore, successive Nigerian governments (both federal and state) have interfered in the actual functioning of the local government. For instance, between 1984 and late 1987, local government councils were abolished and the administration of the affairs of the local government were placed entirely on the sole administrator. Again, in 1994, the elected local government council were disbanded by the military government of General Abacha and replaced with caretaker committees (Ezeani, 2004). Also the financial autonomy of local governments has on many occasions been tampered with by the state governments. This is currently the case in Nigeria were some state governments confisiticate federal allocations to the local government and give whatever amount they like to the chairman to run the local government. (Ezeani, 2004:86). Despite these for reaching measures as recommended by the 1976 local government reform thereby making it the bedrock of modern local government system in Nigeria, One can safely assert that the local government still has some constraints that have actually impeded its success. These in the view of Olugbemi (1986) can be summarized as;
– Continued jurisdiction of state government over the most important functions allocated to local government in the guidelines and as stipulated in the fourth schedule of 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
– Continued imposition of various central government, it controls the selection of councilors, in budgeting and budget control, in policy determination including the determination of fiscal policies, in personnel management etc which tend to diminish the value of government in local governments.
Therefore, the study will seek to provide empirical and verifiable answers to these problems based on the following questions.
– Does Federalism guarantee local government autonomy?
– Is Nigeria local government system (Ofu Local Government) autonomous?
– Does the granting of full autonomy to the local government enhance its service delivery?
1.3 Objectives of the study
Every research work encapsulates and embodies diverse objectives to be achieved at the end of the research. Thus, the broad objective of this research work is to assess “the Nigerian Federalism and local government autonomy specifically Ofu local government area of Kogi state. Specifically however, the study attempts to:
– To ascertain if federalism guarantees local government autonomy.
– To investigate if Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) is fully autonomous.
– To explain if full autonomy is given to Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) will enhance its service delivery.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The significance of this study is divided into two viz: Theoretical and practical.
At the theoretical level, it will add to the frontier of knowledge of Nigerian Federalism and local government autonomy. This research will serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic. At the practical level, the study will help our policy makers and those in power to see the negative effect of lack of local government autonomy, and in a way make the leaders see reasons or how effective the government at the grass root (local government) will become if given full autonomy.