Repositioning Local Government  As The Bedrock Of Service Delivery In Nigeria


Benjamin Ogbebulu


The  present 1999 Nigeria Constitution recognises the local Government as the third tier system of government . However, Nearly all the local governments in Nigeria are either crippled by the force of the state or  wilfully not performing to people’s expectation in the country .one then ask these among many questions ;  What is the role of the local government and what is the role of the  state and how can it improve the frame work within which local government operates in line with the new public-private- partnership of the Federal Government?. Should there then be a regulatory body to work in conjuction with the EFCC to bring about value for money, good service delivery to the people?


Nigerians are aware of the  recent local government Acts which set out a positive direction for the regulation of the local governments in Nigeria, but there is a school of thought who argues that in delivering  the ambitions which the Federal government has set out , it faces significant risks and challenges which need to be addressed if the aspirations of the rural people are to be met through the local government as most rural people are yet to benefit much from the dividends of present democratisation in the country .


For local governments to perform its role as a third  tier system of government in Nigeria in line with the Public-Private-partnership of the People’s Democratic Party Policy of the government, a key priority would be to sharpen and clarify the transparency and accountability of the current system particularly explicitly :


-         Clarifying the respective roles of the  state and local government , including what local government is best placed to do

-         Streamlining the performance Management framework with a clearer local focus

-         Allowing local government in the country to improve its own governance, and

-         Improving the transparency and accountability of the funding system for the local , state and Federal Government .



The local Government Acts needs to be revisited and reviewed to accommodate the local people and the Senate  should come up with a White paper recommendation towards a system which provides greater local flexibility and choice, particularly through the proposals to set targets for the state governments through the Private-Public-Partnership policy of the Federal Government with the reality that the Federal Government alone cannot solve the myriad social –economic problems facing the nation.


In order to ensure flexibility is protected overtime, The Federal and State governments will need to achieve a shift in attitudes and behaviour towards the local government and ensure:


-         soft controls in the forms of conditional funding , guidance and Federal , state government pronouncements do not take the place of targets of Federal government – moreover , state governments should make a firm commitment not to reduce local government funding if the local government is to meet the local needs and aspirations in this new government .

-         Funding flexibility is preserved and joint working with other partners is made easier

-         Local government’s convening role is more recognised and supported by the state and Federal governments

-         Local government is recognised and rewarded for improving allocative efficiency –delivering the right priorities for local rural people –as well as for driving forward managerial efficiency by educated councillors and all the 774 local government chairmen in the country.

-         Local governments sense of ambition and powerfulness on behalf of local rural

People is encouraged by both the state and Federal governments as well as from within the sector.

-         arrangement for working at the level of the functional economy { across authority boundaries} should be flexible and based on what works in the local area.



Local governments through the funding from the federation accounts direct to local governments should empower all the 774 local governments in Nigeria to address a range of different social needs such as  adult social care for local rural elderly men & women, {pensioners} ,, domestic waste and disposal to protect the environment .


Also, councils should provide health & maternity care centres for pregnant women , play centres for  men  . Local governments  should be adequately funded to provide green parks & recreation centres for the local people , provision of libraries with up to date textbooks and be allowed to constitutionally,  set up co-operatives banks to give loans to local people with free interests rates to farmers , craftsmen & women, petty traders and to those who wishes to start their small  local business. Reputable banks should have their branches in all the local governments in the country  to ease business transactions for the local people.






In the current system , responsibility for both local public services and the way in which they are funded is complex and confusing. The fundamental problems leads to confusion and mistrust in the working relationships between the states and the local government since it creates incentives for the state and local government to blame the other for failings and to claim credit for success themselves, rather than focusing on providing contribution they can to the well-being of Nigerian people . There is therefore an urgent need to improve accountability throughout our three tier system of federal, state and local government, and to create incentives so that each tier of government has every reason to improve their own contribution to the well-being of the people  and to support others in doing so as well. This requires  improvement across a range of issues;


-         selection and greater clarity about the respective roles of state and local government-this means being clearer about where state and local government can each add most value , as well as maintaining the commitment to pursue cost effective and efficient set of priorities , leaving real space for local choice.

-         Ensuring the regulatory laws as obtained in the constitution is focused on the right issues and priorities to be taken forward , while minimising burdens across the sectors.

-         Improving the framework for local governance in order to promote effective local leadership of both councillors and local chairmen to engage them and be informed on local needs which help to manage public expectations and ease service pressures; and

-         Seeking to clarify how local services are funded to provide greater transparency over what local services cost, and how decisions on spending and resources have been made.





A key challenge for government at all levels is that political and popular ambitions of public services are arguably greater than ever before.  Nigerian people demand high quality, responsive and increasingly tailored services while majority of Nigerians would not think it is acceptable for standards of service to vary between different parts of the country. While this writer will not attempt in this medium debate the appropriate size of each  state nor the appropriate level of total investment if any in public services as different political parties will always need to make judgements about these political questions. However, there is a critical need to manage public expectations of public services against what local people are expecting from their local governments and state against what people are willing to pay for , otherwise  most people will  believe that the trust and satisfaction in the system as a whole will suffer. This is a challenge for all the three tier of governments in Nigeria.


Majority of Nigerians including this writer are of the opinion that local government is best placed to engage with local communities in Nigeria to understand their needs, priorities and preferences in order to make well-informed choices about how resources should be spent in the best interest of local people in Nigeria. Councils are also best placed to manage the difficult trade-offs which inevitably have to be made when making choices about local service. Explaining these choices to the public is crucial to achieving well-being and local satisfaction. But, when accountability is blurred, clear explanation becomes difficult, as local people may be uncertain as to who is responsible in addressing their local social problems . Blurred accountability can also leads to local services providers being pulled in different directions , making it very difficult to develop a clear set of shared priorities to which they can develop joint solutions.


Local governments in Nigeria exists to provide political - social –economic services to local people and help both the state and nation to develop, the working relationship between the state and local governments should reflects these and allows the local rural people to enjoys the dividends of democracy in the country. The working relationships between the Federal, state and local government should be transparent, accountable and complement each other for  the benefit of the people they serve. To ensure probity and accountability, there should be branches  of EFCC in all the 774 local governments and 36 states of the federation , as the fear of EFCC is the beginning of good governance.


Benjamin Ogbebulu is a public affair analyst. An administrator and advocator of good governance. He is an alumni of Abadina College, UI, Ibadan and London Metropolitan University, London, England. He belongs to many organisations in the UK.