Intergovernmental Relations in Local Government

Intergovernmental relations can be defined as the complex pattern of interactions, co-operation and inter-dependence between two or more levels of governments. Intergovernmental relations is widely associated and most popular with federal system like Nigeria, USA, Canada, and Australia.

In modern unitary systems, there are patterns of interaction and interdependence between the central and local governments.

Intergovernmental relations involve legal, functional administrative and financial interactions between the federal and state government. Our discussion here will be restricted to local government relations with the state and federal government.

Local government autonomy refers to the freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make bye laws and policies and discharge its functions as provided by law without interference from the higher governments.

Local government autonomy involves three important components, namely: administrative autonomy, political autonomy and financial autonomy.

Administrative autonomy means the freedom to recruit, promote, discipline and control its staff and manage local affairs within the limits of law and regulations.

Political autonomy is the power to make bye laws and policies on the functions allocated to the authority,

Financial autonomy is the freedom to impose local taxation, generate revenue within its assigned sources, allocate its financial and material resources, determine and authorize its annual budget without external interference.

Local government autonomy in theory and practice is never absolute. Like the doctrine of separation of powers which is limited by checks and balances, local government autonomy is limited by local government relations with higher government.

This pattern of relationship varies from nation to nation and from time to time.

Prior to the 1976 local government reform, local government was exclusive subject of the Regional/State governments. Local governments were created by Regional/State laws and instruments.

Since local government was a creation of the state government, it had powers to dissolve, reorganize, alter its instruments, abolish or dispense with them or deal with them as deemed fit.

Legally, local governments were considered as extensions of the Regional/State government.

During the first republic, each region had a ministry of local government headed by a minister of cabinet rank, who served as a link between, as well as an instrument of control by the regional government.

The Ministry, on behalf of the Regional Government supervised the activities of local government, approved the bye laws before they came into effect, and annual estimates before they were implemented.

The Ministry monitored the implementation of their major projects. The divisional officers and their staffs who were regional officers were stationed at the local areas as representatives of the regional government, whose duties were to exercise detailed and close on-the-spot control supervision, give advice and guidance to local governments.

The inspectorate Unit of the Ministry inspected the activities in the local government. They have power to attend council and committee meetings for the purpose of providing technical advice and guidance to council officials and councilors.

They have access to their documents and accounts records. The field officials of various ministries stationed in the local government areas provided technical advice, assistance and control over technical services of the Local Government Departments of Works, Education and Health.

The Ministry of Local Government controlled the appointments, promotion and discipline of Local Government Staffs with the advice of the Local Government Services Board and provided staff regulations and training.

The regional government provided funds to local governments in form of block grants which constituted about 60% of their annual revenue, specific and matching grants.

Local government could only get grants through the approval of the Regional Government. The internal revenue sources of the local governments were those ones granted by the regional government which had the power to take over any or some of them.

Then regional government was responsible for the conduct of the local government elections which was done by the Regional Electoral Officers using the Electorate regulations made by the Regional Government.

Finally, as a means of financial control, the regional government carries out annual audit of local government and also possesses the power to punish officials and councilors that mismanaged or misappropriated local government finances.

It could also set up a commission of inquiry into the activities of any local government which could result in the surcharge of officials and councilors or the dissolution of the council.

Legislative – Executive – Administrative Relations:

State government are vested with the powers to “enact through the State House of Assembly a law providing for the structure, composition, revenue, expenditure and other financial matters, staff meeting and other relevant matters for the local government in the state” subject to the provisions of the constitution.

The law should provide for the participation of every local government within the state in the economic planning and development of the local government area.

The National and State Assemblies are empowered by the constitution to legislate on the creation of new local government areas and the adjustment of boundaries.

In administrative relations, the Ministry of Local Government, as an Agency of the State Government before it abolition in 1988, exercised stringent controls on all the activities of local government.

All the bye- laws of the local government are approved by the Ministry of local government before they came into force.

Bicycle plates, revenue receipt books, birth, death and marriage certificates were provided centrally by the Ministry. The annual Estimates of the Local Governments were subject to approval by the Ministry before they were implemented.

The Ministry must approve major contracts of the local government before they were awarded. The Ministry exercised very powerful control of the local government through its Inspectorate Division, which provided inspectors that visited local government regularly to inspect the operations in order to ensure that officials and councilors complied with laws and regulations.

The inspectors scrutinized financial records and accounts, minutes of meetings and offered advice to the officials. They had the power to attend council and committee meetings to observe proceedings and offer advice.

The state government auditors carried out annual audit of local government accounts and their reports were usually submitted to the commissioner for scrutiny. The state government provided local government with financial memorandum which guided their financial management.

Financial Relations:

The 1976 local government reform introduced the statutory revenue allocations from the Federal Accounts and 10% from the total internal state revenue. In addition, the federal and state government gives specific matching grants to local government to carry out some developmental project.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the National Assembly to determine the revenue allocation formula based on the recommendation of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

Functional Relations:

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 provides for two sets of local government functions: executive and concurrent.

The concurrent functions include primary education, health services and agricultural extension services, industrial and commercial services.

In these concurrent functions, the local government provides them in conjunction with State and Federal Government.

The Federal/State government provides the financial resources, in part or whole, while the local government provides local managerial resources, local political control, supervision and community support.

Judicial Relations:

During the First Republic, local government had their court where they prosecute people who floated their bye-laws. These were Customary and Sharia Courts, but it’s no longer the same today.

Today only Federal and State Governments have courts, both Customary and Sharia Courts are now State owned. Local governments use State court to prosecute defaulters of their bye-laws.

The Federal or State government is vested with powers to stop an ongoing action of the local government through the writ or prohibition.

State or Federal Court can declare any act or bye-law of a local government null and void, if such actions or bye law exceeds the powers of the local government.

The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal, which are Federal Government Agencies, are established to serve as watchdog over the Public officers in the Federation, including local government officers.

Citizens whose individual right is encroached upon, can take the local government to the Public Complaints Commission for appropriate redress.

Regrettably the code of conduct bureau and tribunal and the Public Complaints Commission in Nigeria are quite ineffective and do not achieve the intended objectives.

Electoral Relations:

The 1979 constitution provided for State Electoral Commission. The commission was State Agency which was established to conduct local government elections.

However, the body did not conduct any election before military intervention in 1983. The National Electoral Commission, a federal agency was established and charged with the responsibility for the conduct of both national and local elections.

The National Electoral Commission conducted the 1987 and 1990 local government elections.

Staff Matters Relations:

Local government relates with state and federal government on staff matters. The local government service commission is responsible for the appointment, transfer, promotion, discipline and training of local government staffs.

The federal government also provides staff training funds and programmes for training of local government staffs. It created three centres – University of Nigeria Nsukka, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria – for the purpose of providing appropriate training for the staff.

The Federal Government provides an approved Scheme of Service for the Local Government, which govern the local government services. It also provided the Pension Scheme and Fund, which are enjoyed by the qualified staffs.

The Governor of a State holds regular talks and consultations with Chairmen of local governments on vital issues of security and general development of the State. He also visits local government areas where he and his officers interact with local government officers.

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