Advances in Applied Sociology
2013. Vol.3, No.5, 207-214
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 207
The Scope and Future of Local Government Autonomy in Nigeria
F. A. Olasupo
Department of Local Government Stud i es, Faculty of Administration, Obafemi Awolowo University,
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Received July 4th, 2013; revised August 4th, 2013; accepted August 11th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 F. A. Olasupo. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
The crisis of Local Government autonomy in Nigeria is a recurrent issue. How much autonomy this third
tier of government possesses is unclear and uncertain to the extent that it engenders the problem of meas-
urement. In other words, what are the defining characteristics of Local Government autonomy? How can
it be evaluated and measured?
Keywords: Local Government; Autonomy; Revenue; Federation Account; Deductions
Across these three epochs—colonial, independent and post
independent—variants of Local Government in Nigeria exer-
cised some degrees of autonomy. These enabled them to em-
bark on some developmental projects, however rudimentary
these might be. But it was 1976 Local Government Reform that
categorically expressed the fact that “Local Government should
do precisely what the word government implied”. That is gov-
erning at the grass-roots or local level (Federal Republic of
Nigeria, 1976).
Implied in this statement, there is the substantial degree of
autonomy which the Local Governments are to enjoy under the
newly reformed Local Government system.
Deil S. Wright identifies five parameters by which local
autonomy and indeed democratic participation can be measured
in any Local Government system. These are a) political tradi-
tion, b) finance, c) geographic distance, d) local political initia-
tive and leadership, and e) electoral realities (Wright, 1995).
But the sixth one in the case of Nigeria where the constitution
recognizes Local Government as a third tier of government is
separateness. How has the decentralization process impacted on
these? In short, this paper aims to study the local government
autonomy in Nigeria.
Analysis of Concepts
Generally, three concepts attract our attention here—Sover-
eignty, Autonomy, Local Government, and Local Government
Section 14 subsection 2A of the 1999 constitution says
“Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom the
government derives its authority and power” (Fawehinmi,
2001). If “Local Government should therefore do precisely
what the word government implies i.e. governance at the grass-
root or local level” it presupposes that government at the local
level should be sovereign at that level. This is because sover-
eignty at the local level should belong to the local people from
whom the government at the local level should derive its au-
thority and power.
However, this contradicts the prevailing situation in Nigeria
where State/Provincial governments, in certain circumstances
appoint Local Chief Executives. Such appointed or nominated
Local Chief Executives come under different appellations such
as “Sole Administrator”, “Council Manager System”, “Care-
taker Committee”, and “Electoral College or Cabinet System”
(Olasupo, 2001).
Autonomy, according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictio-
nary, is control over one’s own affairs; independence. The Dic-
ti onary illustrated the meaning thus: a campaign for greater auto-
nomy. Branch managers have full autonomy in their own areas.
Local Government
Federal Military Government, in 1976 Nationwide Local
Government Reform, recognized “Local Government as the
third tier of governmental activity in the nation”. Providing a
working definition for Local Government System in Nigeria, it
defined it thus “Local Government should do precisely what the
word government implies i.e., governing at the grass-roots or
local level” (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1976).
Local Government Autonomy
Olowu says Local Government should have some degree of
sovereignty or what some people call autonomy. Local Gov-
ernment autonomy could therefore be defined as the ability of
the Local Government to take some political, economic and
social decisions without recourse to any of the two superstruc-
tures—State and Federal Governments.
Elements of Local Government Autonomy
As identified by Wright, there are seven elements in Local
Government’s autonomy: Separateness, Government, Taxation,
Political tradition, Local Political Initiative and Leadership,
Geographic distance and Electoral Realities. Lack of any of
these, diminishes the autonomy of Local government because
each has different contents that enhances or diminishes local
This is one of the elements of local government on which
decentralization process has significantly impacted. It has to do
with Local Government as governmental entity separate from
the two other superior levels of government—State and Federal
Governments. And this is recognized by the constitution. It
should therefore have its own sovereignty, autonomy or free-
dom. Federations all over the world can be categorized into
two—young and old. The young ones comprises of India, Bra-
zil Indonesia, Argentina, Mexico, Russia and China. Old fed-
erations on the other hand include former West Germany but
now Germany due to the unification between her and former
East Germany, United States of America, Canada, Australia,
Switzerland and Bosnia, formerly known as Yugoslavia.
Nigeria should belong to the young federations but it can
hardly be categorized here because of its radical deviation from
one of the basic principles of Federalism. In ideal federal sys-
tem, Local Government affairs are placed under Provincial or
State government. The power to create and abolish Local Gov-
ernment resides with them (Provincial or State government).
But the opposite is the case with Nigeria federalism. The affairs
of Local Government in Nigeria (e.g. creation, abolition and
finance) are placed under concurrent list. In Nigeria, States or
Provincial governments are empowered by the constitution to
create Local Government but approval must be given by the
Federal Government. As a matter of facts all the 774 Local
Governments in Nigeria have their names enshrined in the con-
stitution. To create or abolish Local Government therefore re-
quires impute of both the National and Provincial Assem-
blies—a cumbersome and difficult process. This cumbersome-
ness places limitation on the local autonomy. Femi Orebe cap-
tured it more accurately when he said:
“Nigeria is the only federation in the whole world where the
federal government decides how, where and when a local gov-
ernment council must run. In all civilized countries and in all
democratic countries, it is the state and or provincial or regional
government that legislate on local government” (Orebe, 2013)
Federal Government also almost exclusively finances Local
Government in Nigeria. These constitutional confusions seri-
ously and negatively impact on Local Government’s autonomy
in Nigeria. The main cause of these constitutional confusions is
hinged on the fact that Nigeria is about the only federation in
the world with three-tiered federal system; in which Local
Government is a separate entity from the other two levels of
government (Onimode, 2001). The constitution of the country
recognizes this as such.
I976 Local Government Reform categorically stated that
Local Government system in Nigeria is a tier of government. It
is therefore expected “to do precisely what the word govern-
ment implies i.e. governing at the local level”. But it could not.
Things which “government” at the local level in Nigeria does
can be categorized in to three: 1) regulatory role, 2) provision
of social services and 3) legislative functions. The extent to
which these roles are performed without interference from two
other levels of government, measure the genuine Local Gov-
ernment autonomy. But the two superior levels of government
do interfere.
1) Regulatory role that LGs perform include the control of
certain social activities such as vigilante, sales of alcohol, en-
vironmental exercise and night parties etc. Vigilante and Envi-
ronmental exercise are two basic sources of conflicts between
the Local Government and the two other levels of government.
State and Local Governments are not permitted by Federal
governments to have State or Local police. Before independ-
ence, Local governments under Regional governments had
local police. However, at independence, this was abolished
(Olasupo, 2011). Due to this, community people resorted to
communities created and funded vigilante; but they regularly
clash with Federal law enforcement agents. The same for envi-
ronmental exercise which was exclusive preserve of the Local
Government. It was, initially, Local government affair, particu-
lar in during the colonial period and the first Republic. Federal
Military government, under General Buhari/Idiagbon regime in
1983, hijacked this role. But under the current civilian admini-
stration, State governments are in charge; dictating to Local
Governments what to do and not ought to do (Olasupo, 2004).
2) Social services delivery is however the most conflicting
area in which most Local Governments often clash with their
state governments particularly where such services are revenue
yielding type e.g. market administration and refuse disposal.
The constitution is unambiguously clear as to who is responsi-
ble for these duties. But the state governments flout this consti-
tutional provision and thus weaken the freedom of this level of
government, especially in the areas of revenue generation. In
some cases LG’s functions are hijacked completely by the state
3) Legislative functions of LGs as exercised by the council-
ors in the present fourth republic have been turned into weapon
of undue control over the local executives. The impeachment
power of the councilors, propelled by the State Governors, has
been so brazenly used to intimidate the LG Chairmen to the
point where they (Local Government Chairmen) could no
longer freely exercise their constitutional duties. To date, quite
a large number of LG Chairmen have been removed. Kaduna
state started it with the removal of 10 LG Chairmen. Following
Kaduna is Ondo state that has so far removed six LG chairmen:
chief Dupe Ogundiminegba (Ose LG); chief Gilbert Adepoju
(Ondo East LG); chief Adedayo Adesida (Ondo West LG);
chief Siaka Olorunyomi (Odigbo LG); chief Ayeni Olayeye
(Okiti pupa LG); and Dr. Francis Ajih (Ese odo). From Osun
state the impeached chairmen include Mr. Nathaniel Arabambi
(Ayedaade LG); Mr. Adebowale Olaoye (Odo-otin LG). In Oyo
state, the following chairmen among others were removed:
Olujide Solomon Ajao (Ibadan North East LG); Mr. Afolabi
(Kajola LG). Lagos state: Engineer (Otunba) Dele Kuti(Ikorodu
LG), Prince Luqman Ajose, (Lagos Island LG), Yusuf Olasun-
kami, vice-chairman (Amuwo Odofin council) was suspended
from of office. Others from other parts of the country such as
Zamfara, Niger, Kano, Rivers, Enugu,Anambra, Kwara and
Akwa Ibom states who were impeached were: Solomon Kogi,
Aliu Ikara, Aliu Wara, Smaila Gurijian,Mina Cleve Tende,
Sunday Anyanwa, Ben Onyin, Chuks Anah, Etheobi Okpala,
Emmanuel Ebe, Opaknte Jackreese, Me. Yakubu Jesse, Ikara
Bibis, Alhaji Jibrin Sabo Keana.
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Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 209
As a matter of facts, Speakers of Local legislative councils
who refused prodding of the Governors’ to initiate impeach-
ment moves against recreant Local Government Chairmen were
also impeached. Although there are instances of impeachments
due to power struggle between the Executive Chairmen and the
Speakers of Local legislative councils, the frequencies of these
are low compared with State/Provincial induced impeachments.
Local Speakers
Leaders of local legislative councils also have their own ex-
cessive politicking that result in removal of the leadership. At
Nsukka Local Government, in Enugu State, the leader of Leg-
islative Council, Mr. Dominic Ajibo was removed in a funny
way. For a long time, the council could not sit to bring this
about. On few occasions it did, it could not form quorum.
Eventually, when it was time to begin the process of impeach-
ing the leader, the Clerk of the Legislative Council, Mr. Joseph
Ugwuanyi, ran away with the mace thus preventing members of
the council from sitting. On the long run, “the council boss re-
portedly invited the leader (Ajibo) to his office on Monday and
asked him to resign his position in the council (Orji, 2009). The
accusation made against the leader of the Legislative Council
borders on corruption. The councilors in the area want to know
how 2 billion naira accruing to the council from the federal
allocation was spent.
In the case of Akuku local government area, in one fell
swoop, the entire leadership of the council was impeached.
When the Chairman of Akuku-Toru local government area of
Rivers State, Chief John Briggs, was found to be behind the
“masterminding the change in the leadership of the legislative
arm of his council”… and for declaring “six councillorship
seats vacant”, he himself had to be accordingly suspended from
office by the state government.
Only in Lagos state had a local legislative council demon-
strated its independence of the external forces by removing its
leader and reinstating him back as well without the interference
of the State government or any godfather. “The leader of Ifako-
Ijaye Local Gove rnment Legisla tive House in Lagos State, Hon.
Niyi Fadare” was impeached on September 8, 2009 (Okwuofo,
2009). Less than a month thereafter, at a plenary session of the
council held on 29th September 2009 at the chamber, Iju Areas
office, a legislative member, “Hon Babajide Atala, moved the
motion that the House revert to the status quo” (Okwuofo,
2009). The motion was supported by Hon. Sesi Davids, and
Fadare, the pardoned impeached leader of the legislative coun-
cil was reinstated. He thanked his colleagues for their maturity.
Technically therefore, the governmental power of Local Go-
vernment is under erosion; and so is its autonomy. This shows
present LGs as not different from what obtained under local
administration system of the first Republic. Then, Local gov-
ernment power was subjected to the control of Regional gov-
ernment that was the delegating power and authority to the
“Local Government” rather than the constitution under which
the present system of Local Government derives its autonomy.
Please see Figures 1 and 2.
Next in order of importance in determining and measuring
Constitution President
Prime Minister Parliament
Senate House of Rep.
County Council Local
District Council
Governors T. R
Premiers State Legislature
of Assembly
House of Chiefs
Figure 1.
Governments in Nigeria in the first Republic: Systems and Structures. Source: Adapted from Deil S.
Wright in Local Government in Nigeria and United States: Learning from Comparison (Ed)., Ife: Lo-
cal Government Publication series, Department of Local Government Studies, Faculty of Administra-
tion Obafemi Awolowo University. 1995 Pg. 100.
Constitution President
Agencies Senate House of Rep.
Admi n Agencies
State House of Assembly
State Legislature
Admi n Agencies
Local Legislative Council
Local Legislature
Governors T.R
Figure 2.
Constitutional independence of Local government from state and federal government in the second
republic up to date. Source: Adapted from Deil S. Wright in Local Government in Nigeria and United
State Learning from Comparison (Ed)., Ife: Local Government Publication series, Department of
Local Government Studies, Faculty of Administration Obafemi Awolowo Un iver sit y. 1995 Pg. 100.
LG autonomy is tax levying potency. Local Governments have
power to impose tax within their areas of jurisdictions for de-
velopmental purposes but due to gross inadequacy of this
source, search for other financial sources became imperative.
The fact that LG has become a tier of government arose the
need to ensure its fiscal autonomy like other levels of govern-
ment. This thus informed the constitutional inclusion of this tier
of government in the sharing of Federation Account. In addition,
10 percent of states’ internally generated revenue is to be paid
into the coffers of Local Governments (Oyediran, 1997). More
importantly is the increase in the share of LGs revenue from the
Federation Account, first from 10% to 15% in 1991 and then to
twenty percent. Notwithstanding these three deferent sources of
revenue-local, state and federal—financial autonomy of Local
Governments continues to wane.
Ostrom is therefore correct in saying that “when outside
revenue sources are relied upon, fewer incentives to be efficient
are present” (Olasupo, 2001). In the extreme, says Ostrom,
reliance on external sources seriously reduces the autonomy of
Local government as it turns it into administrative sub-unit of a
State or the Federal Government. This thus explains why the
present Local Government system in Nigeria can be regarded as
sub-unit of the States and the Federal Government since the
substantial, if not the entire, revenue of the councils emanates
from both the Federal and State Governments (Olasupo, 2001).
Related to LGs’ heavy reliance on external source of revenue
is the irregular supply of these statutory funds. Local govern-
ments across the country often complained bitterly about diffi-
culties they encounter in securing their allocations. This com-
plaint had since been looked into. The Federal government now
sends allocations to the councils directly but only after series of
deductions, diversions and delays without the knowledge and
consents of the Local Governments concerned. Increasing re-
sponsibilities from both the Federal and State governments to
the Local Governments without increasing corresponding funds
to match, further explains the rationale behind these complaints.
Besides, the other two tiers of governments occasionally, if not
in most cases, dictate to the Local Governments on what project
choice, sitting and funding should be embarked upon. Areas
where Local Governments, in the past, were subtly forced to
spend their allocations by the Federal Military Government
include Directorate of Foods Roads and Rural Infrastructure
(DFRRI); Better Life for Rural Women, (later Family Support
Program) e.t.a. In the preparation for 1994 World cup for in-
stance, each Local Government throughout the country was for-
ced to contribute N=250,000.00 to the world cup donation fund
(Olasupo, 2001). Under the civilian administration of retired
General Olusegun Obasanjo, the incidence of subversions of
Local governments’ revenue appeared to be getting worse.
First, is the issue of the deduction of multi-billion naira by
the presidency from the monthly councils’ federation accounts
to pay primary school teachers (Olasupo, 2001). Second is the
deduction from the source from Local Government Federal
allocations to purchase jeeps, not for the Local governments but
police divisions in all the councils of the federation. This action
of the Association of Local Government in Nigeria (ALGON)
and that of the Federal government was interpreted as robbing
Peter to pay Paul. Shortly after this, there was the contempla-
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
tion, again, for another round of deduction from Local Gov-
ernments statutory revenue for the procurement of a new set of
jeeps for the Local Government Chairmen throughout the coun-
try (Olasupo, 2001). It is ironic however that ALGON, with the
set objectives of protecting the interests of the councils, could
turn out to aid and abet unconstitutional acts against it (Olasupo,
2001). Thirdly, the Federal government under the civilian dis-
pensation made deductions from Local Governments’ federally
and monthly allocated revenue to maintain external debt ser-
vicing (Olasupo, 2001). These are responsibilities which are
absolutely federal government’s but were transferred to Local
Government (Olasupo, 2001).
In each of these cases, the Local Government Chairmen, in
some states of the federation, had picked up the gauntlet. In
Lagos state, for instance, the Chairman of Mushin Local gov-
ernment council had withdrawn his membership of ALGON
(Olasupo, 2001). In Ogun state, it took the intervention of the
state Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, before the restive Local
government Chairmen could allow the jeeps to be distributed to
Divisional police officers in the state (Olasupo, 2001). The sce-
nario in Ekiti state is a perfect example of how elite collaborate
to subvert and undermine institutions and the people in general.
The Local Government council Chairmen in Ekiti state sought
and got the support of the Governor to deny the Divisional
police officers the use of the Prado jeeps. Rather, the Governor
was prevailed upon to provide the police with vans as alterna-
tive, while the jeeps were distributed among themselves (Chair-
men) (Olasupo, 2001).
However, there were some brave Council Chairmen and
State Governors who challenged the corrupt and unconstitu-
tional attitudes of the Federal government and their collabora-
tors. Some states had taken far-reaching steps by seeking re-
dress in the court of law. In Oyo State, eleven Local Govern-
ment Chairmen in Ibadan took Federal government to court
over deductions of primary school teachers’ salaries and al-
lowances from their monthly allocations. And in Ondo state,
similar number of Local Government Chairmen had besieged
Akure high court to obtain injunction against federal govern-
ment’s deductions of their monthly allocations. In both cases,
the courts had granted the prayers of the Local Government
Chairmen by ordering the presidency from further deductions
pending the determination of the cases (Olasupo, 2001).
Federal Government is not however alone in this unconstitu-
tional act. State Governments are collaborators of the federal
government on the venture of subverting the financial auton-
omy of the Local governments. Suffice to mention these few
1) The donation of N=760,000.00 by the Military Governor of
Oyo state to the Nigerian society of Engineers on behalf of
Local Governments in not only Oyo State, as Erero observed,
but also in Ondo and Ogun states respectively without consult-
ing the Local governments. Divide the number of Local Gov-
ernments in these states with the amount donated, each local
government in these areas must have contributed not less than
N=10,000.00 (Olasupo, 2001).
2) Towards building parties’ secretariats in Local Govern-
ments headquarters, in the days of General Babangida’s admi-
nistration, Kwara State Government ordered each Local Gov-
ernment to contribute N=400,000.00 each, totaling N=5.6 mil-
3) A colossal amount of N=32.2 million was said to have been
extracted from the Local Government, through monthly levies
in Borno state by Lt. Col. Maina (Olasupo, 2001).
4) This month alone (December 10, 2000) a total of N135
million was deducted from not less than six Local government
councils in Delta State. The breakdown was as follow: Warri
South L.G (N32.58 million); Ika South L.G. (N21.92 million);
Ughelli North L.G. (N28.03 million); Sapele L.G. (N20.14
million); Ethiope L.G. (N17.61million); and Oshimili South
L.G. (N14.56 million) (Olasupo, 2001).
Local Government councils are equally not blameless of un-
dermining their financial resources. In volumes of petitions by
individuals to the Senate committee on State and Local Gov-
ernment matters, which reviewed the performance of the 774
Local government councils in the country, not less than 80
council Chairmen had been referred to the police for theft of
councils’ funds. Other gross financial improprieties, for which
they were arrested, ranged from contract inflation, diversion of
council fund to acceptance of kickbacks on contracts awarded
by them since the inception of the current Fourth Republic that
began on May 29, 1999 (Olasupo, 2001). The Fourth Republic
Local government system is thus characterized by fluctuations,
delays, diversions, deductions and embezzlements of Local
governments’ statutory allocations. All these led to significant
loss in the autonomy of Local Government system throughout
the country.
Political Tradition
Political tradition of the people is another important factor
that impact either negatively or positively on the autonomy of
the Local Government. Where the tradition is such that allows
for mass participation in political process and governance at the
local level, the arena of local autonomy widens; because de-
mocratic culture ensures checks and balances and ultimately
stability in governance.
However, Nigeria has under gone three different types of po-
litical traditions that have tended to slow-down her democratic
culture. These traditions are colonialism, civilian administration
and the military.
Until 1945, the educated elite were completely excluded
from local governance, leaving the traditional rulers, most of
whom were barely literate, to dominate the affairs of Local
Government. When the educated elite were later incorporated
into local governance, they were subordinated to the traditional
rulers who had always been the presidents of Local Govern-
ment councils (Olasupo, 2001). In the 46 years of Local Gov-
ernment development under colonial power therefore the auto-
nomy of Local Government, if there was any at all, was abso-
lutely subordinated to the regional government.
Military Regime
For more than 32 years that the military was in power out of
53 years of Nigeria independence, one of its land-mark contri-
butions to the autonomy of Local Government was the 1976
Local Government reform that severed the traditional rulers
from Local Government. Hitherto, the traditional rulers had
always constituted a source of challenge to the authority and
legitimacy of Local Government (Olasupo, 2001). Arising from
this severance, a separate council known as traditional council
or emirate council was created for the traditional rulers. It
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 211
should be conceded however that the separation of this council
from the Local Government was not total. One, major impor-
tant traditional rulers, especially in the Northern States, con-
tinue to wield considerable influence on local administration.
Two, the traditional councils were placed above the Local
Governments even when the (traditional or emirate councils)
functions were merely advisory and deliberative (Olasupo,
2001). Thirdly, the traditional or emirate councils that were
placed above the Local Governments were to be maintained
with financial contributions from Local Governments. But
rather than the States to determine this as stipulated by the 1976
Local Government reform, Federal government took it up upon
herself and mandated every Local Government to make 5% of
their federal allocations available for the maintenance of the
traditional rulers in their respective areas of Jurisdiction (Ola-
supo, 2001). This is strange and asymmetrical to place tradi-
tional or emirate council over and above the Local Government
councils; given the fact that the LGs not only maintain the tra-
ditional councils but also, in Alex terms, are the sole statutory
organ of development at the local level. It is unconstitutional
and disgusting to robe Peter to pay Paul, and make Paul master
over Peter.
The emergence of the military and its negative impact on not
just Local Government but also State governments and other
governmental institutions had the following as it corollaries:
“increased centralization and nationalization of political author-
ity, ascendancy of centripetal forces, greater concentration of
national wealth at the national level, greater leadership initia-
tives by federal government, and more dependency of the states
and Local Governments on the federal government. It was fur-
ther characterized with various Local Government and civil
service reforms leading to the recognition of Local Government
as a third tier of government” (Nwosu, 1986). This “new” fed-
eralism as against the “old” (1954-1966), instituted various
forms of management committees for managing Local Gov-
ernment affairs at the local level. Although there were periods
when elections were held, such periods were always at the eves
of military disengagement for ushering in of democratic gov-
ernance. But once they (the military) were back on political
scene, they preferred any other method of managing local af-
fairs except electoral process (Nwosu, 1986). Please see Table
Civilian Regime
The civilian eras of 1979-1983, in the second republic and,
the current fourth republic, have presented amazing spectacle of
pseudo-democracy at the local level. A profound example of
sham democracy at the local level in Nigeria between 1979 and
1983 was the replacement of elected councils that assume of-
fice under military rule with unelected management committees
appointed by the civilian Governors for the entire duration of
the Second Republic (Gboyega, 1996). Although there was con-
stitutional impediment to conducting Local Government elec-
tion during this period the State governments could have seized
the advantage of State Electoral Commissions under their con-
trol if they were not benefiting from the absence of elected
councils (Ayoade, 1995).
The second important example is the controversy going on
presently as to which level of government between the Federal
and the State has power to create and determine the tenure of
Local Government councils. At a meeting of all Attorney-
Table 1.
The statistics of local government management system between 1976-
Dates Nomination/
Appointment o r
Indirect ElectionCaretaker Sole
Admin Elected
Chairman Zero
1999 to Date
Source: Ife Central Local Government.
General’s of the states and that of the federal government, it
was unanimously agreed that the powers to create and deter-
mine the tenure of Local Governments belonged to the State
Governments but the Senate ruled otherwise. The Senate posi-
tion was that the business of creating Local Government is
between the community seeking such council, the State House
of Assembly and the National Assembly. In short, according to
the Senate, section 8, subsection 3 of the 1999 constitution laid
down the procedure to be followed in carrying out such exer-
cise which most States have not complied with (Tijani, 1998).
The deduction that can be made from this is that several years
of military rule have militarized civilian administrations to the
extent that in acts and utterances the civilian administrators
behave like their military counterparts. In all therefore, coloni-
alism, military and the civilian epochs have impacted greatly
(and mostly negatively) on LG’s autonomy.
Local Political Initiative and Leadership
Local political initiative and leadership, as a measurement of
LG’s autonomy, is another important factor in the measurement
of Local Government autonomy. This has to do with the ability
of the Chief executive of the Local Government as an individ-
ual and the Local Government as an institution to freely initiate
and execute policies. The initiative and the leadership power of
the Local Government Chairmen could be measured under
democratic and military dispensations. Starting from 1976 and
until 1987, LG Chairmen throughout the country were elected
by Electoral College systems comprising the Councilors of
whom they were parts. The drama of electing the Chairmen by
the councils involved the State Governors and there were two
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
ways by which this was done. One, the council could select
three candidates from its own memberships list in order of pre-
ference. From the list, the State government would nominate
the Chairman. Secondly, the council could elect a Chairman
from its own membership but such election would be subjected
to ratification by the State Governor (Olasupo, 2001).
The Supervisory Councilors were similarly elected by the
councils and thus ascended to their positions through direct
selection or mandate of other Councilors just like the Chairmen
(Olasupo, 2001). The upshots of these ways of constituting the
Local Government executives were, one, weak mayors as they
could not be too assertive. This was more so given the 1987
reforms that designated the Secretaries to the Local Govern-
ments as the Chief Executive (officers) of the Local Govern-
ments. Secondly, since the Supervisory Councilors were simi-
larly elected by the councils, like the Chairmen, the latter’s
coordinating powers were not too great and had to depend, in
Alex terms, “a great deal on their (LG chairmen) skills, the
force of their personalities and the voluntary cooperation of the
Supervisory Councilors”. Thirdly, the consenting authorities of
the Military Governors turned out to be strangulating hold on
the Local Government Chairmen since their final appointments
were made by the Governors. By 1987 however, these weak-
nesses in the executive authorities of the Chairmen were re-
versed and enhanced by giving them the power to appoint their
Supervisory Councilors and to dismiss them when necessary.
More importantly, the 1988 application of the Civil Service
Reform to LG service stated categorically that the Chairmen
were the Chief Executives and Accounting Officers of the Lo-
cal Governments (Olasupo, 2001).
As the Accounting officers, the spending powers of the
Chairmen were severely curtailed as individuals and as institu-
tions by the same reform that designated them the Chief Execu-
tives and the Accounting Officers. Besides, contracts above
certain amounts could not be awarded by the three categories of
Local Governments: urban, semi-urban and rural LG’s. Ap-
proval must be taking from the designated State Commissioner
or official in the Military Governors’ offices, or the States’
Executive Councils as the case may be (Gboyega, 1995). This
loop hole was however seized upon by the State governments to
force LGs to make central purchases which further reinforced
the erosion of LGs autonomies; regardless of the introduction
of the presidential system to the Local Government level and
the power to pass the LGs budgets (Gboyega, 1995). The au-
thority to pass the budget locally was intended to render, in
Alex terms, “obsolete and in-operative the financial control
which the States use to have to sanction the award of contracts
beyond a certain value”.
Geographic Distance
Geographic distance as a factor in Local Government auto-
nomy has to do with the situation where there are hundreds of
kilometers between the Local Governments headquarters and
the neighboring towns and villages that constitute the Local
Governments. This is more so where there is ineffective com-
munication system. Most LGs in the North are in this situation.
For instance, up to 1980, Kachia LG in Kaduna state was the
largest in Nigeria. It stretches from the periphery of Kaduna
state to the boundary with Suleja in Niger state. Ditto Jema’a
LG (Mumeh, 2001). But both LGs have now been broken down
into smaller Local Government. Further efforts made to solve
the problem of geographic distance were the recommendation
of Dasuki Committee report that a population of between
25,000 and 50,000 within a Local Government should qualify
for a Development Area Office (Federal Republic of Nigeria,
1988). Where the problem of geographic distance is not prop-
erly addressed it could lead to lack of quick and effective deci-
sion making and implementation which could concomitantly
impact on Local Government autonomy.
Electoral Realiti e s
Finally, electoral realities are the last but not the least con-
tributors to Local Government autonomy. “Electoral realities”
refer to the fact that direct election by popular vote gives lo-
cally elected officials a substantial degree of influence and, at
times, even significant control over their supposed “superior” at
the State and National levels (Cover, 2001). The political man-
date so directly received from the whole electorate was a con-
scious emulation of that at the State and Federal levels. As the
President of the country has the entire country as it constituency
and the State Governors have their respective states as their
constituencies, so do the Local Government Chairmen should
have their entire Local Governments as their constituencies.
This was therefore a significant departure from the old order
where the primary constituencies of the Chairmen were their
various wards. By this arrangement however, LG Chairmen
have acquired Executive authorities required of Chief Execu-
tive at the local level in line with the spirits of 1976 Reforms,
the 1979 Constitution and the Dasuki Report of 1984 (Gboyega,
The realization that Local Governments are corporate or
statutory bodies emboldens some LGs to take legal actions
against the States and the Federal Government to protect their
constitutional rights. First, on the issue of LGs functions which
the State governments have always encroached, especially re-
fuse disposal, most LGs have taken them to court and court
decisions have always favored them. Calabar Local Govern-
ment is a good example here (Olasupo, 1995). When Federal
Government was flouting the principle of Revenue Allocation,
eleven LGs from Oyo State and another eighteen LGs from
Ondo state respectively took the Federal Government to court
and won their cases though the Federal Government continues
to disregard court rulings (Olasupo, 2001). As a collectivity, all
Local Government Chairmen in Nigeria through their Associa-
tion of Local Governments in Nigeria (ALGON) sued the State
Governments for undue interference in their autonomy (Ola-
supo, 2001). Thus, severally and collectively, Local Govern-
ments have been exploiting democratic environment, however
meager, to assert their independence from the other two tiers of
government; a situation that was not possible under the military
regime. Indeed when the military regimes, especially that of
Babangida, was, in Kola Olufemi’s terms, toying with the
autonomy and vitality of Local Governments by balkanizing,
interfering and dismissing elected Local Government Chairmen,
attempt was ma de by Dr. Emmanuel Orji of Enugu LG to seek
legal redress (Olufemi, 2000). Although he was militarily
blocked from doing so; the point was made.
Observation and Conclusion
The autonomy of Local Government councils in Nigeria was
expressly stated by the 1976 land mark Local Government re-
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 213
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
form; entrenched subsequently by the 1979 Constitution and by
the Dasuki Report of 1984. Other Local Government reforms
are 1987 (vesting the authority to conduct Local Government
election in the National Electoral Commission); 1988 (the ex-
tension of Civil Service Reforms to the Local Government
Service); 1989 Constitution; the 1990 (empowering the Chair-
men to appoint the Secretaries at their pleasure); the 1991 re-
form that introduced separation of powers to Local Government;
and reinforcing the autonomy of Local Government (Federal
Republic of Nigeria, 1985). But through cumbersome proce-
dures or avoidable bureaucracies, the Military and Civilian
Governors, the Presidents and commanders-in-Chiefs, under-
mined this autonomy. These varieties of undermines were given
voice and recognition by the 1999 Constitution that not only
wiped off the autonomy of Local Governments but also laid the
basis for the series of confusions—creation and tenure of
LGs—which Local Governments in the country were facing to-
day. To free the Local Government autonomy from the cum-
bersome bureaucracies and constitutional impediments, there is
a need to re-e xamine the state of the Local Government system
under the current proposition that there should be a national
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