Local Government and Local Administration (Differences & Similarities)
The terms local government and local administration are sometimes used interchangeably, but they mean different things. A local government is a government at the local level established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas.
A local government is required to undertake the social, economic and political development of the area under its jurisdiction or control. This implies that local governments are meant to serve local interests. In this sense, a local government is different from a local administration.
Local administration is the governing of a local area by local agents who are appointed by, and responsible to, the central (state) government.
In a local government, it is the people themselves who elect the councilors that administer the council on their behalf. On the other hand, there is local administration where the people who run the affairs of the local areas are appointed by the state government and these agents of the central government implement the political objectives of the central government rather than those of the local people.
In other words, such state officials are accountable to the central government rather than the local people.
Historically, the local government system in Nigeria, and indeed in the former British colonial territories began as local administration. The Native Authorities which operated mainly in Northern Nigeria performed only a few of the functions which are associated with local governments.
Their main interest was the administration of justice through the native courts rather than the provision of social services to enhance the welfare of the people. Real authority at the local level was in the hands of civil servants (unelected officials) who were known variously as Residents or District Officers.
In the inter-war years, the native authorities (local councils) in Nigeria comprised mainly chiefs (Emir, Oba, Alafin, Obi) as sole authorities with or without advisory councils. They were highly effective in the collection of taxes, administration of justice and the maintenance of law and order. They were less interested in economic development, which would benefit the people.
During the early period of military rule in Nigeria (that is, from 1966 to 1976), local administration was also the vogue. The military governors of the various states simply posted top civil servants to the local councils to administer the areas on their behalf. Thus, local administration can be seen as the intervention of the state government in local affairs in order to provide, the amenities that would enhance the living conditions of the local people.
In short, the poor performance of local councils in Nigeria can partly be traced to their historical emergence as they were from the beginning not established to serve local interests.