A local government is the administrative body for a small area, typically a community and exists as the lowest tier of government in a federal state. Local governments act within powers delegated to them by the constitution or directives of the higher levels of government which are the state’s government and the federal government.
In federal states, Local government is generally referred to as the third (or sometimes fourth) tier of government, whereas in unitary states, the local government occupies the second or third tier of government and are usually given greater powers than the higher tiers of governments.
Local government is the level of government that is nearest to civil society. It serves as an interface between society and the state. In fact, this is where democracy begins. If ideals of democracy are not well-founded at the local level, it will be absent in bigger communities.
Nigeria runs a federal system of government and is divided into 36 states. Each of these states is divided into local government areas. In total, Nigeria has 774 local government areas (L.G.As). These local government areas are managed by a local government council that has a chairman who is the Chief Executive of the LGA and other elected members who are referred to as Councillors.
Each of the areas is further subdivided into wards with a minimum of ten and a maximum of fifteen for each area. Councilors are gotten from these wards
Functions of Local Governments in Nigeria
The functions of Local Governments are clearly spelt out in the Nigerian Constitution and include:
- Collection of taxes and fees from organizations and companies
- Establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial grounds, and homes for the destitute or sick.
- Licensing of bicycles, trucks (other than mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheelbarrows, and carts.
- Ensuring order and maintenance of public facilities in public places such as markets and motor parks. They also ensure tax and fee payments and maintenance of good sanitation and law and order.
- Provision of amenities such as roads, streets, drains, public conveniences, and other public highways
- Construction and maintenance of public transports, roads, streets, drains and other public highways, parks, and open spaces;
- Evaluation of residential properties via naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses for the purpose of levying taxes,
- Town planning roles to ensure that people situate their houses in the right locations and away from prospective dangerous places such as under high tension power lines, drainage ways, flood-prone areas, some of this areas need a seawall repair, etc.
- Administration of primary health centres such as maternity clinics, dispensaries leprosy clinics are the responsibilities of the local government.
- Responsible for refuse disposal
- Births, deaths and marriage registrations
- Water supply to communities via drilling of boreholes and water pumping and processing stations and setting up water networks to areas under their administration
- In the agricultural sector, local government can provide agricultural incentives such as tractors for hire, subsidized fertilizer, essential chemicals and enlightenment to grassroots farmers on modern agricultural trends.
- The local government helps to maintain law and order through vigilante groups, civil defence corps and other members of the task force that compliment the police
- Ensure proper functioning of educational systems, medical sector, agricultural sector, and other crucial aspects.
- Construction and maintenance of the primary school, buildings and the welfare of pupils through free or minimally subsidized education.
- Control and regulation of outdoor advertising, movement and keeping of pets of all descriptions, shops and kiosks, restaurants and other places for sale of food to the public, and laundries
- Responsible for the environmental sanitation through monthly sanitation to provide a healthy environment for living and business
- Local government is responsible for promoting afforestation in local communities through the planting of trees, maintenance of gardens, and the prohibition of illegal felling of trees.
- Inspection of food items and products sold in the market to ensure the safety of the public. Such food items include meat sold in abattoirs; ensuring such goes through clean processes so as to avoid food poisoning.
- Collection of rates on radio and television licenses
- Public enlightenment and dissemination of Information in cases of epidemic or disease outbreak, events such as immunization programmes. Since the local government is close to the grassroots, such crucial information will get to them on time.
- Establishing and maintaining a functioning library and reading room accessible to the general public housing services: The local government is responsible for providing affordable housing for rent and ownership for the public
- Control of traffic: The local government is responsible for traffic warnings that will ensure proper traffic management and safety for road users
- Fire service: It is the responsibility of the local government authorities to ensure a functional fire service department to attend to the urgent needs o the public in case of a fire emergency
- The local government is to promote the Arts and culture of the locality
- Establishment of a customary court to handle disputes in the community
- Control of environmental pollution by ensuring good waste management systems
- It is important to note that a local government only performs roles that are disbursed to it by the state or federal government
Challenges confronting Local Government Administration
Undue interference from state government: Many of the functions that are supposed to be handled by the local government authorities are taken over by the state especially those that have to with revenue collection and unfortunately, the dues are not remitted to the local government.
Insufficient financing: This leads to the second point in which local government administrations are broke and often find it difficult to pay workers and to provide basic amenities to their people under them
Poor leadership: Most chairmen of local government councils and councilors are not well qualified to take the position but are appointed based on bias and
Lack of Autonomy: The local government bodies need more independence and freedom so as to carry out their functions properly. Due to external influences and interferences, local governments’ administrations cannot function well the creation of excess local government areas: Government areas are created according to certain criteria such as landmass, population, revenue, and others. But in recent years, local governments have been created based on political biases which lead to redundant administrations.
Corruption: Over the years, local government administrations have not proven to be always accountable and transparent in their dealings. This has affected the relationship between citizens they are meant to be close to and the local government authorities.