By Henry Agbeso
Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, who was described by Dante, the Latin poet, as the “master of those who know”, had suggested that “definition of terms (names ) is the beginning of any discussion” rendered in Latin as “initio disputandi est definitio nominis”. In line with the above glaring veracity, I COMRADE HENRY AGBESO ,he writer intends to give explication of key terms used in this address. Before such an exercise in linguistic analysis, however, permit the writer to declare that this writeup intends, secondarily, to indicate the extent to which the United Nations Millennium Development Goals have been attained at the Local Government level of administration in Nigeria, the Niger Delta and our States in particular. However, the paper focuses more and primarily on the responsibility of the local government towards the attainment of these self-same goals.
We thus wish to explicate the concept of Local Government and to give a cursory insight into what the goals to be achieved are all about. Let us say here, that after the explication of terms, we shall go on to address the historicity, structure, finance and function of Local Government. We shall then connect Local Government to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, mindful of what they ought to do. If there are problems that can militate against the Local Governments in their attempt to practically address these goals, we shall discuss them, and thereafter make some recommendations. To the explication of terms now we turn.
Local Government: What it is:
The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the 1976 Local Government Reforms, explained Local Government as follows:
“Local Government is Government at Local level exercised through representative councils established by Law to exercise specific power within defined areas” (Government print: 1976).
The United Nations Office for Public Administration explained Local Government as:
“A political division of a nation (in a Federal or State system) which is constituted by Law and has substantial control of Local affairs including the power to impose taxes to exact labour for prescribed purposes.
W. A. Robson, in the Encyclopedia of the Social Services, defines Local Government as involving:
“The conception of a territorial, non-sovereign community possessing the legal right and the necessary organ to regulate its own affairs.
This, in turn, presupposes the existence of a Local authority with the power to act independently of external control as well as the participation of the local community in the administration of its affairs”.
The Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition( 1978), volume 17, defines Local Government as: “a political subdivision of national government or in the case of Federal Systems, a subdivision of regional Government”.
The New Columbia Encyclopedia (4th Ed.), defines it as the: “sub-political administration of the smallest sub-divisions of a country’s territory and population. Ugwu (2002) defines Local Government as “the lowest unit of administration to whose laws and regulations communities who live in a defined geographical area and with a common social and political ties are subject.
Though these definitions may tend to vary, yet they expose features characteristic of Local Government, among which are that:
i. Local Government is government at the local level;
ii. It has its autonomous existence and endowed with a legal status;
iii. Specific powers are reserved for it;
iv. It can impose taxes and incur expenses;
v. it exists within a defined territory;
vi. It is seen as a distinct tier of Government;
vii. It must provide authority over a given population;
viii. It must provide avenues for the promotion of the welfare of the members of the community;
ix. It comprises elected members, such as chairmen and councilors.
Having listened so far to the definitions given above, at least , each one of us are present can say something about what Local Government is, at least , the fact that it is the government closest to us at the grass root level. And, as a matter of fact, may we now draw your attention to the origin of the word “Local “. “Local” as a term is derived from Latin “Locus”, which means “place”. This understanding of the etymological meaning of “Local” as “place” can further assist us in understanding Local Government as the government of our immediate “place”, be it our town, group of villages or group of clans. Your local government thus means the government of your place.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNDER THE 1999 CONSTITUTION OF NIGERIA
THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE
Basically, the structure of the presidential system of Local Government at the grass root level consists of the legislature and the executive, the judiciary being absent.
THE EXECUTIVE ARM
This consists of the chairman, vice chairman, supervisors and secretary of council. The chairman of the Local Government council is the chief executive and accounting officer of the council. The secretary of council, and the supervisory councillors are appointed by the chairman of council.
THE LEGISLATIVE ARM
The Legislative arm of the Local Government council is composed of the leader of the council and other councillors. The functions performed by the legislative arm are defined by law but essentially include:
a. Debating approving and amending the annual budget of the Local Government;
b. Vetting and monitoring the implementation of projects and programmes in the annual budget of the Local Government;
c. Examining and debating the monthly statement of income and expenditure rendered to it by the Chairman of the Local Government;
d. Advising, consulting and liaising with the Chairman of council;
e. And performing such other functions that may be assigned to it from time to time by an edict or law of the state in which it is situated.
There may be other theoretical Structurization of the Local Government. These can be categorized into the
where the Chairman, Secretary, Supervisory councillors and Heads of Department are involved;
The Financial Structure
where the treasurer and Auditor General of the Local Government are involved;
The Committee Structure
where there are several committees such as:
i. The Financial and general purpose Committee
ii. Police and Community relations Committee
iii. Education Committee
iv. Works and Housing Committee
v. Health and Environmental services Committee
vi. Agriculture, Rural and Social Services Committee
vii. Financial and Economic planning Committee;
The Personnel Structure, headed by the head of Personnel.
The Personnel Department is responsible for the Personnel of all Local Government which acts in liaison with the Local Government Services Commission, which is charged with responsibilities of staff discipline, welfare and training in the Local Government.
Due to the concomitant democratic resonance of modern Local Government system, the political structure of the local government tends to overshadow other structures and thus remains pivotally significant.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE
In his analysis of the society, Karl Marx was apt to submit that there are basically two principal structures in the society, the first being the substructure and the second being the superstructure. The first, sub-structure refers to the economic system, while the second, the super-structure refers to the political system. The thinker went on to aver that the sub-structure controls the super-structure. Put in other words, the economy of any given society dictates the political structure of that society. The U.S.A. is the most vibrant economy in the whole world. Owing to this singular fact, the U.S.A. has almost the best systems in terms of its polity, defense, education, etc.
Here, we intend to say that the finance of the Local Government can dictate the pace of the administration of the Local Government. Surely, “the success or failure of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of any Local Government largely depend on financial resources available to the individual Local Authorities and the way these resources are utilized”(Adedeji:1969:96).
FUNCTIONS OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The Local Government system by democratically elected Local Government Councils is guaranteed under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, section 7. Based on this section 7, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides for the functions of a Local Government Council under its Fourth Schedule. This schedule tends to derive mainly from the Basic and Constitutional Transition Provisions(Decree 15 of 1987). Thus, functions of Local Governments are categorised into
i. The Exclusive list; and
ii. The Concurrent list.
The exclusive list of functions are those functions that are solely performed by Local Governments, while the concurrent list of functions are those that the Local Government performs in collaboration with State and federal Governments. The State and/or Federal Government can also perform these functions on behalf of local Governments until Local Governments are in a position to perform such functions.
According to the Fourth Schedule 1 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution,
The main functions of a Local Government Council are as follows:
a. The Consideration and the making of recommendations to a State commission on economic planning 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 commission or body;
(b). Collection of rates, radio and television licenses;
(c). Establishment and maintenance of cemetries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm;
(d). Licensing of bicycles, trucks(other then mechanically propelled trucks), canoes, wheel barrows and carts;
(e). Establishment, maintenance of and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences;
(f). Construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State;
(g). Naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses;
(h). Provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal;
(i). Registration of all births, deaths and marriages;
(j). Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State; and
(k). Control and regulation of:
(i). Out–door advertising and hoarding;
(ii). Movement and keeping of pets of all description,
(iii). Shops and kiosks,
(iv). Restaurants, bakeries and other places for sale
(v). laundries, and
(vi). Licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor
Under section 2 of the Fourth Schedule, the functions of a Local Government Council shall include participation of such council in the Government of a 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 others functions as may be conferred on a Local Government Council by the House of Assembly of the State.
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE FUNCTIONS
As earlier indicated above, the executive arm of the Local Government is constituted by the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman elected with him, the secretary and Supervisors appointed by the Chairman. The specific functions of these key officers specified in the Handbook on Local Government (1999) are as follows:
(a). The Chairman
The Chairman, as the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer, shall perform the following functions:
(i). He shall observe and comply fully with the checks and balances spelt out in the existing guidelines and financial regulations governing receipts, and disbursement of public funds and other assets entrusted to his care and shall be liable for any breach thereof;
(ii). His accountability shall not cease by virtue of his leaving office and he may be called upon, at any time, even after leaving office, to account for his tenure as chairman.
(iii). The Chairman as chief Executive and Accounting Officer shall face periodic checks in order to ensure full adherence to the finance (control and management), And to this end:
(a). All instructions relating to expenditure of public funds by the Accounting Officers shall be in writing;
(b). All accounting officers shall be responsible to account to the public accounts committee for all monies voted for each department and shall be peculiarly liable.
(c). The Chairman as Chief Executive and Accounting officer shall render monthly statement of income and expenditure and annual reports to the Local Government Council for it to consider and debate in order to ensure accountability and enforce the performance ethics. The format and content of the annual report shall place emphasis on performance and concrete achievements of the Local Government targets and output during the relevant year;
(d). The Local Government chairman shall render quarterly returns of the actual income and expenditure of the Local Government to the State Government for onward transmission to the office of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a copy to the Central Bank of Nigeria;
(e). The Chairman as Accounting Officer shall be bound by the provisions of any other rules, regulations, guidelines, edicts and laws governing the roles and functions of a Chief Executive and accounting Officer;
(f). The Chairman shall ensure the strict observance of the spending limits by all concerned;
(g). All reference to the secretary as accounting Officer in the financial Regulations and any other rules, regulations, guidelines, edicts or laws shall be construed as reference to the chairman;
(h). The Chairman shall direct the officers of the Local Government and shall allocate responsibilities to the Vice-Chairman Secretary and Supervisors at least once every week;
(i). The chairman shall hold meetings with the members of the Executive Committee of the Local Government, i.e., Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Supervisors at least once every week;
(j). He shall maintain liaison with the Local Government Legislature and the leader of the legislature in the interest of the Local Government;
(k). He shall countersign the annual performance evaluation report of the heads of department of the Local Government which shall be initiated by the secretary to local Government.
(b). The Vice-Chairman
The Vice-Chairman, who shall be elected with the Chairman of Local Government, shall be assigned responsibilities for the administration of a department of the Local Government.
1. He shall act for the Chairman in his absence;
2. The Vice-Chairman may be called upon at anytime, even after leaving office, to account for his tenure as Vice-Chairman.
(c). The Secretary to the Local Government
The Secretary to the Local Government shall be appointed by the Chairman and shall hold his office at the pleasure of the Chairman. He shall:
1. Serve as the secretary of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Local Government and keep the records thereof;
2. Coordinate the activities of the departments of the Local Government;
3. Liase, on behalf of the Chairman, with the Local Government Council through the leader of the Council;
4. Liase with the secretary to the State Government and other necessary State functionaries on State-Local Government relations; and
5. Perform such other duties as may be assigned to him, from time to time, by the Chairman.
The Supervisors shall be appointed by the Chairman of the Local Government in consultation with the Local Government Council. Each Supervisor shall hold his appointment at the pleasure of the Local Government Chairman who appointed him or her and the supervisor’s tenure shall automatically remain the discretion of the Chairman.
The functions of the supervisory councillors as the political heads are as follows:
(a). Political heads of their respective departments;
(b). Member of the finance and general purpose Committee which in effect is the cabinet to the Local Government,
(c ). Giving directives to executive heads of Local Government departments on general policy issues only, but not on the internal management of the department;
(d). Assisting the Chairman to supervise the execution of Local Government projects within their respective departments;
(e). Chairman of relevant committee i.e. their respective departments (such as Education, Works, health, etc;
(f). Carrying out such other functions as Chairman or council may assign to them from time to time.
The Functions of the Legislature in the Local Government
The Legislature comprises the leader of the council, the deputy leader and councilors. The legislative powers vested in the Local Government Council are exercised by the bye-laws passed by its legislature and assented to by the chairman.
The functions of the legislature in the Local Government include:
(i.) Law making
The Legislature makes bye-laws. The list of matters on which a Local Government Council is expressly empowered to enact bye-laws are contained in section 1 (a), (b) of the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution for the exclusive list. The concurrent list of matters on which both a Local Government Council and the State Assembly have powers to legislate on are on section 2 (a) (b) of the fourth schedule.
2. Making Resolutions and Approval.
The council exercises its powers through resolutions and approval in relation to individual or specific cases.
(a). A resolution to remove the chairman or leader of the council by a two third majority. This function is distinct from the authority to make bye-laws, which have wide applicability in the area (Ojong:2002:75).
(b). The power to approve by a simple majority of the members of the council the nomination of the Chairman of the Local Government, for the appointment of the Vice-Chairman of the Local Government in case of vacancy by reason of death, resignation or removal.
(c ). The power to approve the nomination of any one appointed by the Chairman of the Local Government as Supervisor. (Ugwu: 2000:18, Issues in Local Government and Urban Administration)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE ATTAINMENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS.
Generally in Nigeria, progress towards reaching the goals (MDGS) has been very slow. However , in some states like Edo state and local governments in the federation, some attempts have been initiated towards the attainment of some of these goals. Such areas includes Goals 2-Universal primary education-where in some states, for example, Akwa Ibom State, education is made ‘free and compulsory’ from the primary level to secondary level.
Goals 4,5,6, all concern the health sector, which again falls under the concurrent list of functions of the local government. Some states, in collaboration with their local governments have made prenatal care free for pregnant women. There are also provisions for free medical care for the elderly, especially those aged 70 and above in some states, assisted by their local governments.
Ladies and gentlemen, may it be noted here that we cannot give a good report of what local governments in our country have done so far towards the attainment of the MDGs. We rather intend to make recommendations in respect of what they can do and what they should do. It is here admitted that we have not done much due to some factors militating against our efforts. Permit us here to highlight some of these factors before we make the recommendation thereof.
PROBLEMS AND CONSTRAINTS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE.
Ojong (2002:112) highlights some factors that inhibit the performance of local government generally. This paper extrapolate these factors they are similar to the factors that hinder the performance of local government in attaining the millennium development goals (MDGs). These problems, interalia, include:
1. Poor financial base and limited revenue
2. Limited autonomy, where, although constitutionally recognized, the federal and state governments dominate over the local government through the state government offices of local government affairs, the ministry of local government, and the local government service commission.
3. Leadership problem: this arises where the quality of leadership at both political levels is low.
4. Lack of basic social amenities such as power supply (electricity), transport and telecommunication facilities.
5. Unqualified, inexperienced and unskilled staff
6. Corruption and misappropriation of funds.
7. Lack of accountability
Accountability entails compliance –that is, being held to account,
Transparency- that is, giving an account,
Responsiveness- taking account and demonstrating that you have considered inputs.
8. Lack of local plans and weak programming capacity
9. Instability arising from interferences from the higher tiers of government, who distort their (local government) powers, structure, leadership, finances and reduce their capacity to act on their own , thereby making them solely dependent.
In view of these plethora of problems, says Professor Adebayo Adedeji (2000: people centered Democracy in Nigeria), “local Governments have failed in three specific areas”:
a. Non-delivery of needed services
b. Lack of accountability ;and
c. Inadequate models of good governance
These blames on the higher tiers of government by no means at all exonerate local governments from utilizing the means at their disposal to attain the goals set out before them.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Latin maxim “QUIDQUID INITIUM HABET FINEM HABET” means “WHATEVER HAS A BEGINNING HAS AN END”. This writeup is in its concluding stage. Here we shall make our conclusions and make recommendations.
We make bold to say that local governments in Nigeria have failed to deliver the needed services partly due to the problems emanating from their realms. In view of the millennium development goals, most local governments are yet to initiate any actions towards their actualization. Some may have started some actions without knowing that they are working in line with the millennium development goals (MGDS), partly due to their lack of exposure to the existence of these goals. This day, we are happy that those goals have been highlighted and expounded in this medium . Let this address be the mirror for Local Government Personnel, Chairman, Councilors, Supervisors to examine themselves. Honourable Chairmen, Councilors, Supervisors, what have you done for your people in your local Government , wards, towns, Clans and villages in the areas of poverty and hunger , in primary education, in promoting gender equality and women empowerment, in the areas of health and in combating the scourge of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Have you provided safe water for your people to drink? Have you fed the hungry children and orphans walking down the streets ?
We shall recommend only those ideals and goals that can easily be attained by our Local Governments, taking into consideration their limited financial resources,Esan south east as a case study
1. Establish city-to-city and Inter-Local Governments Exchanges to share Millennium Development Goals themes such as maternal health, primary education , shelter for the poor, combating HIV-AIDS, Sanitation, safe drinking water, feeding the hungry.
2. Educate the Local Populace through the media as well as regular meetings of the Local and Village assembles.
3. Mobilise and empower the rural women and youth in self-generating and small-scale development projects. Through this they can afford to feed themselves and their families.
4. Take the Universal Basic Education Projects as the pathway towards reduction of illiteracy and improvement of professionalism.
5. Embark on water provision for all the villages in your Local Government.
6. Ensure that all children are in school during school hours.
7. Collaborate with Non-Governmental Organizations within their areas of Concern, since most of these NGOs partner with the United Nations and international organizations in the march towards the attainment of the MDGs.
8. Ensure to establish, at least, an orphanage in your Local Government where the fatherless and the motherless, especially those orphaned by the scourge of HIV/AIDS can be catered for. These orphans should be properly fed and sent to school through the patronage of your Local Government.
These agenda, an eight-point agenda, are reasonably attainable within our means. We know we can attain these and surely we will. Can we attain these goals? Yes! We can. In ESAN SOUTH EAST I can bet with my life that we will achieve it..May God bless the entire Edo State and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.