2003 Local Government Reforms in Nigeria
The Obasanjo Government inaugurated the Technical Committee on Local Government Reforms on June 25, 2003. The Chairman of the Committee was the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Sanda Umaru Ndayako. Following the death of Alhaji Ndayako on September 1, 2003, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Alhaji Adamu Liman Ciroma, who was a former Secretary to the Federal Government, was made the new Chairman of the Committee.
The committee submitted its report to government in October 2003.
Reasons for the 2003 Local Government Reforms in Nigeria
The reasons for the 2003 Nigeria local government reforms included the following:
Need to overcome Constitutional Problem
There were certain ambiguities and contradictions in the 1999 Constitution of the country which tended to undermine the gains previously achieved in local government reforms. For example, Section 7 (1) of the constitution gives the states power to make laws on the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of local councils.
On the other hand, Section 8 (S and 6) empowers the National Assembly to legislate on new councils before they can be legal.Thus, the decision of the Federal Government in April 2004 to embargo the disbursement of subventions to local government councils in five states (Lagos, Niger, Nasarawa, Katsina and Ebonyi) was based on the argument that the process of creating local governments in those states could not be completed without the approval of the National Assembly.
When the Lagos State Government dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court on the non-release of the local government funds (which had been released to the other four states), the Supreme Court held that the creation of local governments by state governments was incomplete without the National Assembly amending the First Schedule of the Constitution containing the names of local government areas in the country.
However, the court ruled that the Lagos local government funds should be released. The Obasanjo Administration ignored the apex courts ruling, but one of the first actions of the Yar‘Adua’s government was to release the money.
Thus, constitutional provisions which have tended to hinder the control and running of local councils need to be amended. This would appear to be a clear legislative function which should not have been remitted to an ad-hoc committee like the Technical Committee on Local Government Reforms.
Poor Performance of Local Government
Besides the constitutional confusion, local governments were notorious for their poor performance. This problem was aptly highlighted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the inauguration of the committee in June 2003, The President warned that “The rion-performance or gross under-performance of the local governments, the high cost of political contest in Nigeria and fragmentation and continued fragmentation of local government councils, including impractical division of towns and cities into unworkable mini-local governments, have caused the local governments to fail in their expected role as catalysts for the development of the grassroot.”
These were clear statements by the former President about the poor performance of local governments and its assumed causes. Whether one agrees or not with this analysis of the problem of local councils in Nigeria is an entirely different thing. There is, however; little doubt that local governments in Nigeria have not performed to expectation if account is taken of the poor delivery of service at the local level.
Recommendations of the Technical Committee on Local Government Reforms
The foregoing depict the problems and challenges, which the Technical Committee on Local Government Reforms was required to address. It would appear, however, that the committee did not rise up to the expectation of Nigerians.
Its major recommendation was that the parliamentary system of government should replace the presidential system at the local level.
Although a parliamentary system might give the people more control over the elected local council officials, yet it would appear that the committee did not think a parliamentary system would create conflicts between the local governments and the other two levels of government (federal and state) which continued to operate the presidential system.