1976 Local Government Reforms | Nigeria

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1976 Local Government Reforms | Nigeria | Reasons & Features

The decision by the federal government to reform the local government system in the country in 1976 did not really come as a surprise. Before then, the local councils had little bearing on the lives of the local people as there was little to write home about their performance.

1976 Local Government Reforms | Nigeria | Reasons & Features
1976 Local Government Reforms | Nigeria | Reasons & Features

There was therefore a great pressure on the reformist Murtala Mohammed military government to implement some reforms that would make the local government viable and effective in service delivery.

Reasons for the 1976 Local Government Reform in Nigeria

The factors that influenced the 1976 Local Government reforms include the following.

  • The instability in the local government system had adverse effects on the political system. Each state government made policies on the structure, functions, staffing and funding of local councils and a change in government often resulted in a change in the structure and operation of councils.
  • The different states had different ideas and philosophies about the nature and function of local governments and, some of these doctrines even tended to conflict with national interest. Some states, for instance, emphasized political participation at the local level. Participation, to them, meant that councils should be filled with party loyalists and supporters whose interests could run counter to those of the people. In some cases, council officials were elected through methods which were undemocratic.
  • There had been a gradual reduction in the powers and functions of states and local governments beginning from 1967 when the federal government took over the police, prisons and courts which had hitherto been in the residual list. As a result, the lower levels of government became mere appendages of the central government and were therefore unable to satisfy the basic needs of the people.
  • The role of traditional rulers in local government administration was always a source of concern in some parts of the federation. In many northern states, for example, the emirs and other traditional rulers were practically the government at the local level while the councils in the southern parts of the country were dominated by party supporters. There waé no way genuine development could take place in local communities under the prevailing condition.
  • Many local councils were too small and weak to deliver basic services to the people. The fragmentation and proliferation of councils always had political motives. For example, there were about 1000 local councils in the Eastern Region alone during the First Republic and most of them were created either to compensate party supporters or to woo areas that did not vote for the ruling party.
  • Most local governments could not provide any service or pay staff salaries, partly because their internally-generated revenue was me small and, partly because of the mismanagement of resources in the local councils. The councils were in the main, not accountable to the local people.
  • The unitary and command structure of the military implied that the local government councils could not be left out of central control.
  • The direct funding of local governments by the Federal government which began in the early 1970s implied that it would be interested in the structure and operation of local councils and how the money was spent.

The 1976 Local Government Reforms were therefore meant to correct some of these defects that hampered the performance of government at the local level. In the words, the reforms were designed to stimulate democratic self government and to encourage initiative and leadership at the local level.

Features of the Nigeria 1976 Local Government Reforms

The broad features of the 1976 Local Government Reforms initiated by the Murtala – Obasanjo military administration which came to power in July 1975 listed below;

  • Introduction of Uniform Local Government System
  • Establishment of a Single-Tier Local Government Structure
  • Definition of Size of Local Government
  • Establishment of Personnel Management Systems
  • Determination of Number of Local Governments
  • Establishment of Standing Committees
  • Election of Council Officials
  • Establishment of Traditional Council
  • Election of Council Chairman by Councilor
  • Creation of Ministry of Local Government
  • Appointment of Supervisory Councillors
  • Enactment of Enabling Laws
  • Tenure of Councils
  • Central Government Funding of Local Government
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