A Paper Presented by the Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom Branch, Otuekong Franklyn Isong on the Local Study Tour by Participants of the Senior Executive Course 44, 2022 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, with the theme: Strengthening Local Governance in Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities held on Thursday, 19th May, 2022 at the Conference Room, Office of the SSG, Government House, Uyo.

Protocol,

Overview
By virtue of the fact that Nigeria operates a written Constitution, local governance in Nigeria is premised on the framework provided in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) (“the Nigerian Constitution”). The most important provision of the Nigerian Constitution with respect to local governance in Nigeria is Section 7, which guarantees the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils and enjoins the Government of every State of the federation to ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils. Section 7(2)(a) and (b)(i), (ii) and (iii) of the Nigerian Constitution enjoins the person authorised by Law to prescribe the area over which a local government council may exercise authority, to define such areas as clearly as practicable and ensure, to the extent to which it may be reasonably justifiable, that in defining such area regard is paid to the common interest of the community in the area; traditional association of the community, and administrative convenience. Having established elected local government councils as the vehicles for ensuring local governance in Nigeria, the Nigerian Constitution goes on in Section 7(3) to decree that it is the duty of a local government council within the State to participate in economic planning and development of the area through an economic planning board to be established by a Law enacted by the House of Assembly of the State.

Mindful of the fact that local governance is grassroots governance, the Nigerian Constitution in Section 7(6)(a) and (b) enjoins both the National Assembly and the House of Assembly of a State to make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils.

No doubt, opportunities inherent in a properly-articulated local governance model envisaged by the drafters of the Nigerian Constitution are galore, the main of which are listed as functions of a local government council in the Fourth Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution.

In spite of the innumerable benefits of local governance in Nigeria, that level of governance has never performed optimally due to existential threats, particularly the overbearing influence of the higher levels of governance. The need to strengthen local governance in Nigeria is urgent and dire, considering the various developmental challenges besetting the country, chief of which are unemployment, rural-urban migration and insecurity.

Conceptual and Theoretical Perspectives of Local Governance in Akwa Ibom State:

As earlier stated, local governance in Nigeria is a constitutional issue. Being a subset of Nigeria, local governance in Akwa Ibom State is predicated on the Nigerian Constitution. Generally, the conceptual and theoretical perspectives of local governance in Akwa Ibom State hinge on local governance as grassroots governance, that is, governance nearest to the people at the grassroots.

Historical Perspectives and Trends of Local Governance in Akwa Ibom State:

According to Etim Offiong (2006:11), Local government administration in Nigeria may be traced to the British colonial period, particularly between 1849 and 1914. Originally, according to Offiong, the British penetration of Nigeria began as a result of their desire to establish, expand and control commercial activities in the country. As time went on, the British colonialists organised the coastal communities into small administrative units and appointed rulers over those units. Native authorities were later constituted by Lord Lugard under the Indirect Rule system. Offiong recalls that the native authorities transformed into local governments between 1950 and 1954 consequent upon the reforms that were made on the then existing native authorities.

The Eastern Region of Nigeria started the reforms when the Legislative Council of
Nigeria passed into Law Ordinance No. 16 of 1950 titled, “Eastern Region Local
Government Ordinance, 1950”. This was followed by the Western Region and the
Northern Region in 1954. “The enactment of the Eastern Region of Nigeria Ordinance 1950 signalled the first step in the abrogation of the makeshift system of Native Administration with its usual Sole Native Authority Complex”, says Offiong.

The Ordinance provided for the establishment of a modern system of local government by the Constitution of Councils, which members were to be elected by a system of franchise specified as male adult sufferage.

This enactment is the first in the history of Nigeria to make mention of Local Government. All other enactments did not make reference to local government administration. The powers of the Traditional Rulers before this ordinance were limited to the powers granted them by the British colonial masters. Offiong states
that under the 1950 Ordinance, the Local Governments were given the power to
establish treasuries and markets, grant bicycle licence, establish public works, etc.

Offiong (2006:5) opines that local government administration in Nigeria started in the Eastern Nigeria in view of this Ordinance. Under Ordinance 16 of 1950, Ikot Ekpene County Council became the first Local Government set up by the then Eastern Region for trial. The Ikot Ekpene County Council was constituted in March, 1951 with the late Mr. Robert U. Umoinyang as Chairman. When the central government became convinced that the Local Government administration was successful, the system was extended beyond Ikot Ekpene to all the Eastern Region of Nigeria and finally the whole Federation.

Subsequently, the East, West and North continued to make laws regulating local government administration in their respective Regions. With the creation of Akwa Ibom State from the erstwhile Cross River State in 1987, Akwa Ibom State was constituted by ten local governments. Under the extant Nigerian Constitution, Akwa Ibom State has thirty-one local governments, which are listed among the seven hundred and seventy-four local governments and area councils in Nigeria in Parts I and II of the First Schedule to the Nigerian
Constitution.

Frameworks for Local Governance in Akwa Ibom State:

The legal framework for local governance in Akwa Ibom State is the Local Government (Administration) Law of 2017 made by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly pursuant to Section 7 of the Nigerian Constitution. The Law came into force on 29th June, 2017. The Law establishes the thirty-one local government councils, each Council being a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal with the power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and having power to own, hold and dispose of both movable and immovable property. Under the Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, the main functions of the local government councils are as follows:-
(a) The consideration and the making of recommendation to the State Ministry
of Economic Development or any similar body on –
i) the economic development of the State, particularly in so far as the areas of authority of the Council and of the State are affected and
ii) proposals made by the said Ministry or body;
(b) The formation of economic plans and development schemes for the Local
Government Areas;
(c) Collection of rates and issuance of radio and television licenses;
(d) Establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds and homes for
the destitute or infirm;
(e) Licencing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks),
canoes, wheel barrows and carts;
(f) Establishment, maintenance and regulations of slaughter houses, slaughter
slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences;
(g) Construction and maintenance of roads, street lightings, drains, parks, gardens, open spaces or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of the State;
(h) Naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses;
(i) Provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal;
(j) Registration of births, deaths and marriages.
(k) Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the State.
(l) Control and regulation of –
i) out-door advertising and hoarding.
ii) movement and keeping of pets of all descriptions.
iii) shops and kioks.
iv) restaurant, bakeries and other places for sale of food to the public.
v) laundries, and
vi) licensing, regulations and control of the sale of liquor.

Other functions of the Local Government Council stated in the Local Government (Administration) Law include participation in the Government of the State as respects the following matters:
(a) The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education;
(b) The development of agriculture and natural resources, other than the
exploitation of minerals;
(c) The provision and maintenance of health services, and
(d) Such other functions as may be conferred on a Council by the House of
Assembly of the State.

The Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, 2017 establishes the Local Government Legislative Council for each Local Government Area to exercise legislative powers in the Local Government Area. The Law also makes provision in Section 44 for the removal of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Local Government Area donating the over-aching powers for the removal of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Local Government Area to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.

Section 65 of the Law makes provision for the statutory allocation of funds to the Local Government Areas from the federation account and the internally generated revenue of the State, among others. For the conduct of Local Government elections in Akwa Ibom State, the governing law is the Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) Law, 2007 made
pursuant to the Nigerian Constitution.

Stakeholders/Actors in Local Governance in Akwa Ibom State:

Generally, the stakeholders and actors in Local Governance in Akwa Ibom State
are: the Federal Government, the State Government, the Executive and Legislative
Councils of the Local Government Areas, the Traditional Rulers, the men, women,
and youths of the various Local Government Areas.

Issues and Challenges of Local Governance in Akwa Ibom State:

According to International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR): 2319-7064
Impact Factor (2012): 3.358 Volume 3 Issue 7, July 2014, six challenges and problems of Local Governments in Nigeria have been identified as follows:

Corruption, Lack of Autonomy, Leadership problem, Unskilled Workers,
Inadequate and Poor Budgetary Allocation; and Administrative Inefficiency.

1) Corruption:
One of the fundamental problems of contemporary Nigeria is corruption. It has thrived, progressed and flourished unabated. Corruption has been institutionalised to the point of accepting it as a part of our system. Albeit corruption is ubiquitous, it is found all over the world, but the degree of its manifestation varies from system to system (Lawal and Oladunjoye, 2010: 232). Corruption is the greatest bane of local government administration in Nigeria. At the grassroots level, corruption has been canonically accommodated, entertained, and celebrated within the system. In the local government setting, corruption is labelled and euphemistically referred to as “egunje” (a slogan which means “illegal offer” in Nigeria) and a major hindrance to good government. Some of the areas where corruption thrives in local government in Nigeria include the following:
a) Inflation of prices of bought items;
b) Over-estimation of cost of projects;
c) The ghost worker syndrome;
d) Poor financial base and limited revenue;
e) Award of contracts and subsequent abandonment;
f) Payment of huge sums of money to political godfathers;
g) The age-long belief by the officials that people are ignorant, illiterate and
unenlightened; and
h) Lack of accountability.

2) Lack of Autonomy:
Autonomy simply refers to freedom, independence, free from external and remote control. Local Governments in Nigeria, including Akwa Ibom State, are totally dependent. They are managed by the Federal and State governments who dominate local government administration through the State government offices of local government affairs, the ministry of local government, and the local government service commission. These ubiquitous government agencies obstruct the autonomy of local governments in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria.

3) Leadership problem:
In most States in Nigeria, including Akwa Ibom State, the ruling party appoints and blesses the candidates who must run for election at the local government level. Without their blessings, such candidates cannot win an election. The various State governments also appoint caretaker chairmen for the Local Government Council, who are mostly stooges and appendages of the State governor. Even when elections are held, the ruling party in the State and the State government, in particular, rig and manipulate the election process to favour their preferred candidates. It is a clear case of who pays the piper dictates the tune. This again creates inefficiency of administrative performance and diversion of local government functions as well as oriented programmes for the local people.

4) Unskilled Workers:
Local governments in Nigeria are faced with the problem of inadequate skilled workers, such as engineers, accountants, medical doctors, town planners, statisticians, etc. The reason for this unfortunate development is that there is a very
low image of local government in the minds of these professionals. Again, there is lack of job satisfaction that can keep them within the local government system. Most skilled and qualified personnel and professionals prepare to gamble their luck either in private organisations or establish their own firms rather than risk staying at the local governments, where there are no incentives. This has forced local governments to depend on unskilled labour. Thus, there are at the local governments many workers who are diploma and certificate holders but who cannot defend the certificates they hold. These circumstances are a great challenge to local government efficiency. People who do not know their left from their right in what they do can hardly be productive and effective.

5) Inadequate and Poor Budgetary Allocation:
Local governments in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State are known to suffer from inadequate and poor budgetary allocation. This is as a result of deliberate cut-offs of budgetary allocation to the local governments by some State governors either for political reasons or absolute corruption. The siphoning of funds through frivolous activities and fictitious contracts to their party members and friends greatly affect the financial needs of local governments. This is one of the major reasons why local governments in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State usually perform below expectation, thereby making the third tier of government meaningless and lacking the dividends of democracy.

6) Administrative Inefficiency:
Local governments in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State suffer from administrative inefficiency and ineffectiveness resulting from low educational qualifications of staff, poor motivation, autocratic leadership, poor work environment, etc. The management and control of finances is a central factor in the management of local governments. The quality and promptness/effectiveness of local government services depend on the quality and quantity of workers in the system. Politically, politicians deviate from their campaign promises through scheming of ways to remain in office and swell their private bank accounts with public funds from the local governments. They abandon principles of good governance and democratic ideals that are fundamental in promoting administrative efficiency in order to satisfy their selfish desires.

A Comparative Analysis of Global Best Practices in Local Governance Lessons
for Akwa Ibom State:

A comparative overview of local governance system conducted in selected countries by Local Public Sector Initiative and published in September 28, 2015, presents a comparative analysis of local government systems in six countries, including Cambodia (a sectorally deconcentrated system); Mozambique (a territorially deconcentrated system); Kerala, India (a mixed system, where recurrent services are delivered in a deconcentrated manner, while infrastructure development responsibilities are devolved to local governments); the Philippines (a devolved system, with some elements of deconcentration); as well as Tanzania and Indonesia (examples of devolved systems).

The comparative analysis is guided by the Local Governance Institutions Comparative Assessment (LoGICA) Framework developed by Boex and Yilmaz
(2015), which provides a comparative assessment of the five main dimensions of a local governance system, including an analysis of:
(a) the effectiveness of the subnational governance structure and assignment
of functions to the local level;
(b) dynamic and responsive local political systems and leadership;
(c) local control over administration and service delivery;
(d) local fiscal autonomy and local financial management and
(e) local participation and accountability mechanisms.

Lessons for Akwa Ibom State:

Local governance is grassroots governance. It is governance that is nearest to the people in the various communities of Nigeria. If properly administered, local governance can deliver numerous opportunities and benefits to the people at the grassroots in Akwa Ibom State. A properly administered local governance model can check rural-urban migration, serve as a catalyst for development, create jobs and check insecurity. There is thus the need to strengthen local governance in Akwa Ibom State and in Nigeria through the fine-tuning of the frameworks and emulating global best practices in local governance.

Recommendations:
The Nigerian Constitution recognises local government as the third tier of government with assigned responsibilities. The Nigeria Constitution also grants allocations from the federation account to the local governments on monthly basis but these allocations are paid into an account created by the same constitution in Section 162(6) called, the State Joint Local Government Account. The mismanagement of this account by State governments has negatively affected effective service delivery at the local governance thus, the constitution should be amended to abolish the ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ in order to enable local governments have direct access to their federal allocations monthly.

Secondly, Section 197(1)(b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution establishes the State
Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC). Unfortunately, many State governments
have not been allowing their State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to conduct elections as at when due but rather settle for “Caretaker Committees”. Where elections are conducted, the party in control of the State apparatus will always clear the polls in Akwa Ibom State and in Nigeria at large. The SIECs are independent in name and not in practice. The Nigerian Constitution should be amended to delete Section 197(1)(b) ‘State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC)’ and to donate its functions to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). These in my considered opinion, are some of the fundamental constitutional reforms that can go a long way in strengthening local governance in Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria generally.

Conclusion
Worthy of note that an effective and inclusive local governance system provides one of the most important avenues for people — including the poor, women and minorities — to participate in the development of their communities and to
influence the public sector’s decisions that are directly relevant to their lives.

Thank you and God bless!

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