The 1976 local government reforms granted greater autonomy, power and functions to local government, but they still have a long way to go towards the satisfactory performance of their function in many areas. The extent to which a local government successfully carries out its function is dependent on number of factors and these includes
Environment: The environment of a local government plays a crucial role in determining its performance. Local government council operates within two basic environments- rural and urban.
Urban environment often has favorable influence on the performance of local governments while the reverse is the case with the rural. This positive influence is due to the fact that environment influences to a large extent, the revenue generation potential of a local government.
Urban local government has access to a lot of domestic and industrial property and market and other occupational activities which they can tax. These are often not available to rural local government. Urban local government performs better because of more funds available at their disposal.
Narrow revenue base: The inability to generate enough revenue internally is one of the major factors that militate against the effective performance of local governments. Local government has become increasingly dependent on statutory allocation for their revenue.
In addition to the established internal revenue sources such as rate, licenses, fees etc. A local government that hopes to have a high service delivery capability must exploit other new sources of revenue. They should engage more seriously on commercial activities such as transportation, buying and selling in bulk and intensive animal rearing.
Shortage of skilled manpower: Local governments still lack the needed officials especially at the middle and senior level in their key operational and financial departments. It is a common knowledge that the effectiveness of any organization depends to large extent, on the caliber of staffs.
Local government service commission which is charged with assisting local government in recruiting senior personnel should be more alert to its responsibilities. As much as possible, recruitment into the local government should be based on merit.
Instability: Nigeria as a state is characterized by instability, and local government being part of the system is not unaffected. The frequent changes of government at the federal level; as a matter of necessity, culminate in change of the local government administration.
A very debilitating effect of those changes is the discontinuity it generate both among the functionaries and in the functions performed. Often when a new chief executive assumes office, he initiates new programmes rather than ensuring the completion of the existing ones. This is often done in order to create a leeway for him to appropriate or misappropriate funds.
However, whatever the reason, this exploit the widespread existence of unfinished and abandoned project in our local government areas.
Bribery and corruption: The local government appears to be the citadel of corrupt officials; chief executives of local government often bribe their way to that position. Having attained that height, they surround themselves with their own men and then perpetuate their corrupt practice which takes the form of inflated contracts, kick backs, illegal authorization and withdrawal of public funds and even misappropriation of physical assets in local government’s stores to themselves.
The issue of bribery and corruption is not, however limited to the chief executives. Experience has shown that local government staffs generally exploit government funds for personal enrichment. They ask for gratification for carrying out their official functions and embezzle government funds whenever possible. All these helps to run down available resources meant for capital development of the local government.
Prudent management of funds: Accessibility to adequate fund is the sine qua nun to the successful performance of function by local government centre on service delivery and participation in local development. These are activities that can only be successfully performed with substantial amount of funds.
We have already mentioned the importance of abroad revenue and favorable environment to revenue generation. It is pertinent to point out the fact that the issue of funds, as local government is concerned is not only that of generation but effective utilization or management.
If a large amount of revenue is generated and then misappropriated by a handful of local government officials, the impact will not be felt. It is in realization of this fact that the federal government prepared the model financial memoranda (FM) for local government.
In conclusion, a number of factors affect the outcome of local government effort in fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities.
It is therefore our opinion that if these inability factors can be minimized, if not totally eradicated, local government in Nigeria will go a long way toward the satisfactory performance of their functions.
- Features of 1976 local government reform in Nigeria
- Sources of revenue for local government
- Intergovernmental Relations in Local government
- Local government autonomy