MEMORANDUM FOR AMENDMENT OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION TO PROPERLY MAKE THE CREATION AND ADMINISTRATION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM IN NIGERIA A STATE GOVERNMENT MATTER
- Early History of Local Government System in Nigeria
Between 1937 and 1952 the Northern and Southern Nigeria operated what was known as Native Authority (NA) which has its own courts and police to administer at the grassroots level. While this system changed in the Western and Eastern parts of Nigeria in the early 50s, it continued in the Northern part until after independence.
A summary of the practice in the four regions then was as follows:
1.1 The Lagos, Midwestern and Western States
There was a close similarity between the Local Government arrangements in the Lagos, Midwestern and Western States as the areas of these States except the city of Lagos were all formerly part of the Western Region of Nigeria. The common Local Government law provided for a three-tiered structure comprising Divisional, District and Local Councils although, in practice, only a one-tier system was found in most parts of these States and, in other areas, there were never more than two-tiers of Local Government.
Lagos City Council was in a special category being governed by a separate enactment, the Lagos Local Government Act 1959. Outside Lagos, the intention of the Local Government law was that a Divisional Council should be superior to a Local Council. In fact, the Divisional Council was the rating authority for Local Councils in its area of jurisdiction while the District Council was really not under the Divisional Council, only less in status, but was also a rating authority.
A further development in Lagos State in 1971 saw the scrapping of the three-tiered structure and gave way to an All-purpose District Councils structure for all the council areas as a result of the recommendations of Ogunnaike Report on The Tribunal of Inquiry into Re-organisation of Local Government Councils in Lagos State which the State Government accepted.
1.2 The East-Central, Rivers and South Eastern States
These three States were what constituted the then Eastern Nigeria and had a common form of Local Government.
In the rural districts, there was a two-tiered structure comprising County Councils and Local Councils. The largest urban centres had Municipal Councils, and other urban centres were administered by Urban County Councils. These two types of urban local authority were regarded as being the same level of local administration as the County Council. However, the non-urban County Councils had supervisory powers over Local Councils within their area of jurisdiction.
1.3 The Benue-Plateau, Kano, Kwara, North Central, North Eastern and North Western States
The six States whose areas formed what used to be known as the Northern Region of Nigeria retained many common features in their systems of local government. Formerly, all local governments were designated Native Authority (NA), but this title was retained at that time in North Western and North Eastern States. Kano and Kwara had constituted “Local Government Authorities”; Benue-Plateau had set up “Local Administrations’ and North Central had also set up ‘Local Authorities.”
In the former Northern Region, a three-tiered and, sometimes, four-tiered structure of local government was in operation consisting of the Native Authority, District Council, and Village or Village Group Councils.
2 1976 Local Government Reform
The scenario above was what could be called the system of Local Government administration in Nigeria before 1976.
In 1976, the Military Administration decided on a single local government system for Nigeria on the basis of Dasuki’s Report. It approved that the designation of a local government unit of operation should be: “Local Government Council” and went ahead to decree the number for each State of the Federation. It also saw to it that elections were held into the new council areas in December, 1976 and they all took off in January, 1977.
3 1979 and 1983 (The Civilian Era)
The 1979 Constitution vested the creation of Local Government Councils in the State Government. Many of the 19 States then created new local government areas. (Lagos State was created into 23 LGAs). But when the Military took over on December 31, 1983, it reverted the number of local government councils in the country to its pre-1979 number. (Accordingly, Lagos State was reverted to 8 LGAs).
- !984 to Date
Between 1984 and now, all the changes in number of local government areas in Nigeria were made by the Military by Decree. Up till 1996, additional local government areas were created without the input of the Nigerian people: only the successive Military Administrations conceptualized and decided on the various increases.
In 1995/96, the Abacha Regime set up a high powered committee on creation of new local government areas. The committee worked hard for over a year and submitted a report with recommendations. But in the usual manner of that time, the report was jettisoned and the Government announced a 30% increase across the board of existing local government areas in each State of the Federation to further worsen the existing injustice in the distribution among States. For example, Lagos with almost the same population as Kano moved from 15 to 20 while Kano moved from 34 to 44, creating further inequity out of the existing inequality. (Emphasis is mine).
The 1996 review gave Nigeria a total of 774 local government council areas (6 of which were created for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja). Since 1976, no civilian administration has successfully created additional local government areas in Nigeria.
- The Way Forward (Recommendations)
We all know that local government system is a sine qua non to the development of the grassroot in our various communities. But to remind us and bring the matter close to our chest, I quote below an excerpt from Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s contribution to the debate on the second reading of a Local Government Bill in 1952 in the Western House of Assembly:
“The importance of local government in any political set-up cannot be over-emphasised. It is the foundation on which the massive and magnificent superstructure of State, Region or Central Government, is erected. It is the training ground in political awareness and civic responsibility for a much larger number of public-spirited citizens than can ever have room to operate on the Regional or National levels. Its day-to-day doings directly affect those who live within its jurisdiction, for better or for worse. Indeed, it is the most effective agency by means of which Regional or State Government ministers to the basic needs, welfare and general well-being of the citizens.” End of quote.
It has therefore become imperative for us to take the bull by the horn by terminating the iniquity created by inequitable distribution of local government areas in Nigeria (see Annexure) and erecting through amendment of the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution a more equitable local government superstructure that will enable us “to minister to the needs, welfare and general well-being of our citizens”.
I propose the following actions on the sections of the 1999 Constitution listed hereunder as my recommendation to right the wrong of over four decades in Nigeria in the matter of Local Government Administration:
In summary, my recommendation is that Local Government creation, structure, finance and administration should be made exclusive function of the State Governments. I also suggest that Sections 7 and 162 can be further strengthened to accommodate stiff sanctions in order to ensure compliance by the Governors of laws enacted by the State Houses of Assembly relating to sharing of allocations.
29th October, 2012