Structure of Local Government in Nigeria (+ 6 Functions)
The local governments in Nigeria are directly under the control and supervision of state governments. The state governments exercise their authority over the local councils through the Ministry of Local Government which was once abolished and later reinstated.
The Local Government Service Commission is the government agency established to deal with establishment (staff) matters including the appointment, promotions, discipline and dismissal of senior local government career officers.
However, the structure of the local governments in Nigeria has continued to change in line with the reform of the system by the federal and state governments over the years. There is no doubt that the structure of any organisation is a key factor to its effectiveness.
As such, the structure has to be changed from time to time if the organisation is to achieve its objectives in a dynamic environment such as ours.
The structure of local government in Nigeria conforms to the basic guidelines issued by the Federal Government for local government reforms in the country. In particular, the 1976 Local Government Reforms provided for the establishment of a single-tier, multi-purpose local government system.
Although there have been some other reforms of the local government since then (including the 1988 Local Government Reforms), the basic structure of the local government remains largely uniform and unchanged.
As a multi-purpose establishment, the local government has a hierarchical structure. The major institutions and office holders in the local government include the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer etc. Their job description is explained below:
1. Chairman of Council
At the apex of the local government structure is the Chairman. He is the head of the executive branch of the government. The Chairman is also the chief accounting officer of the council although he does not sign cheques and payment vouchers. The chairman is responsible for the regulation and control of the council finances. He also serves as the chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the council.
2. Vice Chairman
The Vice Chairman acts for the chairman in his absence. He is a member of the executive arm of the local government and carries out duties allocated to him by the chairman.
The Secretary to the Local Government is like the Secretary to the Federal Government or Secretary to a State Government at the state level. In the present dispensation, the Secretary is not a career officer. He is appointed by the Chairman. The appointment is political and the Secretary holds the office at the pleasure of the chairman.
The Secretary performs the following functions:
- He serves as the secretary and chief administrative officer of the council. He is also the secretary of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
- He takes charge of the administrative management of the council.
- He acts as the Head of Service of the local government.
- He is a signatory to cheques in the council.
- He performs such other related duties as may be assigned to him by the chairman.
- He coordinates the activities of departments such as Central Administrative Department, Finance, Health and Environmental Services, Works and Housing, Education and Agriculture, Rural and Social Department.
4. The Treasurer
The Treasurer is the Chief Financial adviser of the local government and, in this capacity, performs the following functions:
- He is a signatory to local government cheques and vouchers.
- He is responsible for all receipts and payments in the local government.
- He ensures that the accounting system as laid down in the financial regulations is complied with by all the departments of the local government.
- He has administrative control for the Finance Department of the local government.
- He prepares and publishes monthly and annual financial statements of the local government.
The Treasurer reports to the Secretary to the Local Government in the discharge of his duties arid re sponsibilities.
The supervisors are appointed by the Chairman from among the elected councilors. They serve as heads of departments of Health, Education, Agriculture, Finance and Economic Planning and Works. They are closely and intimately involved in the management of their respective departments by performing the following functions:
- They provide political leadership in their respective departments.
- Supervisors give directives to executive heads of local government departments on general policy issues only.
- They serve as members of the Finance and General Purposes Committee, which in effect means the cabinet of the local government.
- These officials carry out such other functions as the Chairman of the council may assign to them from time to time.
- Supervisors serve as chairmen of relevant committees in their respective departments.
6. Clerk Of The Local Government
Like the Treasurer, the Clerk of the Local Government reports to the Secretary to the Local Government. The Clerk is the head of the Personnel Management Department of the Local Government. He provides secretarial services to the local government council and keeps a proper record of the proceedings of council meetings.
7. Legislative Council
Besides the executive arm of the local government, which is described above, each local government has a legislative council. The legislative arm of local authorities comprises elected councilors who elect one of their own as the Leader of the House.
The legislative council performs several functions including the following:
- Making of bye-laws for the local government;
- Approval of council’s budget,
- Approval of senior political appointments such as Supervisors,
- Discipline including impeachment of council’s political leaders such as the Chairman and Vice Chairman.
- Finance and General Purposes Committee
The principal committee of a local government is the Finance and General Purposes Committee. The Chairman of the council is the head of the committee. All the Supervisors are also members of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
The committee is responsible for the regulation and control of council’s finances, capital projects and contracts. It serves as a tenders board for the council as various contracts are awarded through the committee.
Functions of Local Government in Nigeria
The local government in Nigeria have similar powers and functions. The functions of the local governments include the following:
1. Maintenance of Law and Order
The traditional function of a local government in Nigeria is the maintenance of law and order within its area of jurisdiction. This dated back to the pre-colonial era when the basic function of government was to provide a conducive environment for economic and business activities. At that time, the local government (or the Native Authority as it was then called) had its own police, courts and prisons.
Today these functions have become central responsibilities though local governments still play significant roles in maintenance of law and order at the local level. The Chairman of a local government is, for example, the chief security officer of the council area.
2. Provision of Basic Services
The local government helps to deliver services at the grassroot level. Same of the basic services a local government is required to provide for the people for which its performance can be assessed are:
- markets and motor parks;
- sanitary inspection, refuse and night soil disposal;
- control of vermin;
- slaughter houses and slaughter slabs;
- public conveniences;
- burial grounds;
- registration of births, deaths and marriages;
- provision of community and local recreation entres;
- parks, gardens, and open places;
- grazing grounds;
- licensing , supervision and regulation of bakeries;
- licensing, regulation and control of the sale of liquor;
- licensing and regulation of bicycles; hand carts, etc;
- control of keeping of animals;
- control of boarding advertisements, use of loud-speakers in or near public places and drumming;
- naming of roads and streets and numbering of plots or buildings;
- control and collection of revenue from forestry outside the forestry estate of gazetted forest reserves;
- collection of vehicle parking charges and
- collection of property and other rates, community taxes and other designated revenue sources.
The local government also handles primary school education and primary health care. In addition, it provides certain services in conjunction with the state government e.g. abattoir, meat inspection, fire services and information and public enlightenment.
3. Mobilisation of the People
The federal and state governments often make use of local government to mobilize the people in support of certain government policies and programmes such as immunization, census and election.
Sometimes the people are mobilized for self-help projects, like construction of markets, health centres and schools. No government can, on its own, provide all the needs of its people.
4. Link between the People and Government
Local governments serves as the link between the local people and the central/ state government. By so doing, the local government communicates government policies to the people and relay the feelings of the people to higher levels of government.
Some state governments in the Northern Nigeria, for example, use the local government to educate the people about the need to send their children to school.
5. Implementation of Government Policies
Certain government policies and programmes cannot be effectively implemented without the active cooperation and support of local governments. For example, the local government is an important instrument for the implementation of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme and the primary health pare programme of the Federal Government.
6. Election of Public Office Holders
Sometimes, the local government performs electoral functions such as the election of political office holders. For example, the local government areas Served as the Electoral College for the election of some members of the Constituent Assemblies in 1977 and 1988 respectively.