Features of 1976 Local Government Reform in Nigeria

The 1976 local government reform in Nigeria was the most fundamental reform in the local government history in Nigeria.  As a result of the inadequacies of the local government system, which various states had prior to 1976, the federal military government undertook a nationwide reform of the local government system in Nigeria.

This was the first time in the history of Nigeria when the federal government was involved in the reform of local government.

Local government in Nigeria experienced various reforms right from the colonial period up to her independence in 1960. From independence in 1960, the local government system in Nigeria continued to evolve as various reforms continued to be introduced in the system.

The reform was considered necessary due to the fact that the local government system introduced during colonial era was still unable to promote grassroots development, the local government system during colonial era lacked fund and adequate personnel, and it was characterized by corruption and lacked progress.

Furthermore, local government structures and functions remained varied across states and regions. Before the 1976 local government reform, local government remained the creation of states and regions and as such their operations were usually a reflection of the basic peculiarities of the divergent localities.

It is in the continued search for a functional local government system that will effectively play major roles in the development of the rural areas in Nigeria that brought about the 1976 local government reform in Nigeria.

Basically, the 1976 local government reform was introduced during the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo.

It is this reform that gave the local government in Nigeria its present structure and functions as a distinct tier of government within the Nigeria federal structure.

The main features of the 1976 local government reform in Nigeria

  • The reform created large sized local government area throughout the federation based on certain minimum population requirements. This results in uniform local government areas.
  • The federal government for the first time was involved in the funding of local governments statutory percentage share of federation accounts and states revenue.
  • The local government was made third tier of government of the federation. This means that it was not a mere council or administrative attachment to the state government. It was a government at its own level with all the powers of a government and authority.
  • There was democratization of local governments throughout Nigeria. The members of local government councils were elected.
  • The traditional rulers had no significant role in local government throughout the federation.
  • The reform introduced full time chairman of local government and supervisory councilors (portfolio councilors).
  • Councilors were paid fixed enhanced monthly allowances instead of sitting allowances.
  • The reform was instrumental to the historic entrenchment into the constitution of the structure, functions and democratization of local government.
  • Local governments were assigned a wide range of functions.
  • Systematic training programme for local government staffs.
  • Another features of the 1976 local government reform in Nigeria, is that the reform stopped recognizing traditional rulers as members of the local government council and they were not allowed to participate in partisan politics.
  • The reform established certain committees like, work, education, health, finance and general purpose committee.
  • The reform introduced the allocation of revenue to the local government from the federation account.
  • The reform introduced the establishment of local government service board to improve local government personnel management.

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