Local Government Autonomy | Types & Characteristics

Local government autonomy means that a local government should exist as an independent entity in the sense of being able to exercise its own will in the conduct of its affairs.

It also implies that the local governments posses the power to take decision within the limits of the law that established it without being dictated to or influenced by external authorities like the state or the federal government. In Nigeria context, local government autonomy implies that the local government as a federating unit should not exist as an appendage of either the state or federal government. This means that local government autonomy is realized in a situation where governments are not constitutionally bound to accept directives from another tier of government.

Types of Local Government Autonomy

  • Initiative and Immunity Autonomy: this type of autonomy gives the local government power and freedom to initiate actions, develop programmes and policies and as well protect local government from control ad supervision from higher tiers of government like the state government. The only form of control on the local government in this situation of immunity and initiative autonomy is the local population from who its legitimacy is derived.
  • Initiative and No Immunity Autonomy: the situation of initiative and no immunity autonomy implies that local government have the right and freedom to decide their own agenda, functions and actions but, have their actions closely supervised, scrutinized and reviewed by a higher tier of government like the state or central government. This implies limited autonomy as their actions can be constrained, in the process of such supervision by higher authorities or tier of government.
  • No initiative and Immunity Autonomy: no initiative and immunity autonomy situation implies that local government cannot choose what to do on their own and as well subject to strict control and monitoring by higher tiers of government. In this context, local government does not have initiative but only execute tasks and functions assigned to them by higher order of government, and in such ways as prescribed or instructed. The implication of this type of autonomy is that local governments are mere representatives of the interest of higher tiers of government and are only responsive to local concerns regarding appropriate forms of implementation of development programmes or projects as may be initiated by higher order of government.
  • No Initiative, No Immunity Autonomy: in this situation of no initiative and no immunity autonomy, all the agenda and actions of the local government are set by higher tiers and with the higher tiers of government monitoring. This implies total absence of autonomy as local governments in such scenario are actually mere administrative apparatus of higher tiers of government like the state or central government. In this case, authority and responsibility for local actions are highly centralized. From the foregoing discussion, the type one autonomy (initiative and immunity autonomy) implies full autonomy for local government while the type two autonomy (initiative and no autonomy)  and type three autonomy (no initiative and autonomy) are partial forms of local government autonomy. The type four autonomy, (no initiative, no immunity) implies a situation of total lack of autonomy for local governments.


  • Ability to make its own laws, rules and regulation;
  • Ability to formulate, execute and evaluate its own plans.
  • The right to recruit; promotes, develop and discipline its own staffs.
  • According to Odenigwe, local government is “a system of local administration under which local communities and towns are organized to maintain law and order, provide some limited range of social services and public amenities and encourage the cooperation and participation of the inhabitants in joint endeavor towards the improvement of their living.
  • It provides the community with formal organization framework which enables them to conduct their affairs effectively and regulate the actions of their members for the general public.
  • Finally, the local government must be legitimized by a higher government, state or central for effective administration at the grassroots. The focus is on the grassroots of the nation.