The role of local government in rural development: a study of warri north local government area of delta state.

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The major concern of this research work is to assess the role of Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State in rural development of its constituent communities. In achieving this, the research work relies on descriptive approach and structured questionnaire and interview for data collection. A simple size of one hundred and fifty (150) respondents was used for the study. Our findings revealed that the council has not performed well in developing the rural areas over the years. Various recommendations were made based on the findings among such are, increase in revenue allocation by both Federal and State governments, serious commitment be made by such staff toward internally generated revenue and the use of direct labour (council engineers) in carrying out projects in place of contractors. Improvement of infrastructure by the councils is also recommended.



1.1 Introduction

The expediency for the creation of local government anywhere in the world stems from the need to facilitate development at the grassroots. The importance of local government is a function of its ability to generate sense of belongingness, safety and satisfaction among its populace. All forms of government, regimes or political systems have so far ensured the attainment of this goal. Such strategy for ensuring national administrative development and political efficacy is found in the concept and practice of local government. Whatever is the mode of government, local government has been essentially regarded as the path to, and guarantor of, national integration, administration and development.

In Nigeria’s socio-political context, with multiplicity of culture, diversity of languages and differentiated needs and means, the importance of such an organization in fostering the needed national consciousness, unity and relative uniformity as well as preservation of peculiar diversities cannot be over-emphasized. Central to the creation of local government, however, is its ability to facilitate an avenue through which government and the people intermix, relate and more quickly than any other means resolve or dissolve issues that may have heated the system. Local government has been perceived as a panacea for the diverse problems of the diverse people with diverse culture.

As important as this tier of government has been, there seems to be some impediments that have been infringing on its performance and functions in recent times. These impediments range from political but undue interference of the higher levels of government i.e. federal and state governments, bribery and corruption to embezzlement and gross inadequacy of well-trained and qualified personnel to mention a few.

According to Nnoli (1981:36) and Rodney (1972:11), all people have shown a capacity for independently increasing their ability to live more satisfactory life than before. This is then a progressive process that has no end.

A local government is semi-autonomous territorial unit created by the constitution or general laws of a state to undertake certain functions within specified or limited geographical area. According to Agbakoba (2004:3), a local government is a political and administrative unit that is empowered by law to administer a specified locality. It involves philosophical commitment to the idea of community participation in government at grassroots level.

There is general assumption among scholars and practitioners, that local government are not only established as representative organ but also as a channel through which goods and services are delivered to the people within the framework of laws establishing them.

In fact, democracy itself originated and developed along the line of local government initiatives. This is why the executive, legislative and judicial arms of these governments are elected or appointed as the case may be. In Nigeria, local government is created to bring government closer to the people. The definition of local government by the Nigerian Federal Government leaves one with no iota of doubt that it is largely both theoretically sound and service oriented to the people. It talks of representative councils with substantial control over local affairs, for the provision of services and implementation of projects in their areas, to complement the activities of both the State and Federal governments. The definition also amply recognizes the need for local government autonomy as the substantial control of local governments is aimed at staff, institutional and financial matters, among others (Nigeria, 1976). In addition to the above, the Nigerian Federal Government is one of the few governments in the world perhaps in addition to Brazil (Erero, 1998) that have elevated LGs to a third tier of government. By so doing, the State governments do not exercise absolute controls over local governments.

Therefore, the work seeks to contribute in illuminating the actual status of Warri North local government as regard community or rural development which it purports to be raison d’etre of its existence. The empirical analysis will show whether creation of local government is really for the sake of ensuring grassroots development or mere political compensation for the government loyalists. It is in this light that we chose to study the topic.

Specifically, the paper carefully, critically and objectively examines operational definitions, local government, and development and opinion of the people expressed through the print media about the impact of the Warri North local government council in their areas. And of course, germane recommendations which emanate from the study are provided for the improvement of local government in the development of the localities/communities.

1.2 Statement of Problem

The need to catalyze balanced development, maximize citizens’ participation, and arouse government response necessitates the creation of the local government. The local government serves as a form of political and administrative structure facilitating decentralization, national integration, efficiency in governance, and a sense of belonging at the grassroots. The local government is a unit of administration all over the world (Agagu, 2004).

Local government has been the root of development in terms of dealings with the people which democracy is centred upon. Hence, local government is visibly seen as co-agent of rural development and as partners in progress with both states and federal governments in rural developments.

To this end, this study sets out to investigate the impact of local government on rural/grass root development with emphasis on Warri North Local Government of Delta State. Knowing the roles the government needs to play in development of any society and the obvious inability of the national and state governments in the task of rural areas, Local government has been created essentially to compliment the efforts of the states and national government in the task of rural development. Nevertheless, abject poverty and underdevelopment remains a common feature in these rural communities.

Thus, in pursuance of the central problem in this research a number of questions have been raised (posed) for this research purpose. They are:

i)        Has Warri North local government Area contributed substantially to rural development?

ii)       Does Inadequacy of Skilled Workers (like qualified engineers of all types, medical doctors etc) affect the ability Warri North local government council in carrying out rural development programme?

iii)     Does inadequate financing of the local government by the state and federal government affect the ability of Warri North local government council to contribute to rural development?

1.3 Objectives of Study

The broad objective of this study is to assess the performance of Warri North local government council in the area of rural development.The specific objectives of the study are as follows.

1.      To ascertain whether Warri North local government has contributed substantially to rural development.

2.      To find out if inadequacy of skilled workers (like qualified engineers all types, medical doctors, etc) affect the ability of Warri North local government council in carrying out rural development programme.

3.      To verify whether inadequate financing by both state and federal governments hinders the council in carrying out developmental programmes.

1.5      Significance of the Study

This study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the

study provides a theoretical framework for the understanding of the role of local government in rural development in Nigeria. Therefore considering the pivotal role of local government in development in general, such information will be of immense help for policy formulation on the development of grassroots. The result of the study will equally be of help to other researchers who may want to research on such topic or related topics on development in the academia in the future.

On the practical significance, the study will draw attention of, and enlighten both the stakeholders and those who implement policies on rural development in Nigeria who may not really understand the central role of rural development on the crucial and inescapable role of local government system. As a result, the rural dwellers will endeavour to participate full in grassroots democratization and development, while those who implement policy on development in Nigeria will become dedicated to policy formulation, recommendations and implementation.

1.6       Operational Definition of Concept

Grassroots/Rural development: The term grassroots development as used in this study refers to the act or process of developing and empowering the well-being of the vast majority of the rural dwellers through the provision of basic social and economic infrastructures. Hence, it is a development from below. According to Todaro (1985) grassroots development is an advancement that makes life more meaningful in all its entirety. Whether political, economic, socio-cultural and infrastructural.

Rural Dwellers

Rural dwellers are the people living in the remote areas of a country and lack basic infrastructure like good road network, pipe borne water, electricity, good health facility etc. The term refers to the ordinary people who are far from political decision making process at the centre. These groups includes small scale farmers, tenants, etc who seek livelihood in the rural areas.

Democracy/local government

The term democracy “literally signifies” the rule of the people: the term democracy as it is used in the study synchronizes with Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy. Gauba (1981:421) quoting Lincoln and it reads: Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people. It implies that ultimate authority of government is vested in the common people so that the public policy is made to conform to the will of the people and to serve the interests of the people.

From the foregoing, one can rightly say that democracy is all about “peoples” participation in government–and local government. Therefore, Democracy and local government are inseparable and are synonymous.

1.7      Literature Review

1.7.1 Local Government and Rural Development

Communal effort has not been a recent phenomenon. It dates back to the time of primitive communalism when people searched for their living communally. In the early state of man, he always sought ways of conquering nature. Bryne (1983:55) argues that the concept of community development is not new, that rather it is an old ideology. The reality in Bentham’s assertion that community development is a man in the society can be sustained by the fact that communities throughout history constructed and maintained their roads, bridges, square, sunk their well for good drinking water supply, and constructed their markets, village churches and village halls by community efforts.

Lawal, (2008:56) community development is not new in Nigeria, that what is actually new nowadays in community development are techniques and methods through which new pattern of leadership emerges from the rank and file.

Dare, (1989:38) in his own contribution argues that though local government is a veritable vehicle for community development, most local government have not made appreciate impact in this direction. He attributes the problem to the myriad of functions allocated to local government without commensurate financial backing.

Ogunna (1980:44) attributed the low performance of local government to the following factors; inadequate revenue, low executive capacity, poor and inadequate working materials, incompetence and ineptitude of existing staff and excessive control by the state government which result in delays and red-tapism. The solution, he suggested, lies in the review of the local government system particularly in areas of financial relationship with the state government and personnel. This control of local government was made clear in the implementation, guideline on the application of the civil service. Reform in the local government service.

Okunade, (1988:).expressing his own idea, state that the spread of counties has provided the awareness among rural dwellers, and has provided the existence for a concept of the process of community development and of project which have been set in motion since the United National Organization development its concepts since thirty years ago.  Community development draw greater inspiration from the desire for a change and in the ability of man to learn and charge through the voluntary method, (that is, free from coercion) and through the participation of individuals and groups in the development process for the achievement of some definite goals.

According to Sehinde, (2008:9) community development is:

A process of education by which people of all ages and interest in the community, learn to share their thoughts, their ideas, the participation, their joys and their sorrows and in a large measures to mould and shape the communal destiny for themselves. It is a process of self discovery by the while the people of a community learn to identify and solve their community problems.

A firm grasp at their beliefs and value system will throw light on what the community accepts as good and bad, as right or wrong. In turn, changes achieved by community effort can influence the beliefs and value system of a community. It is necessary to stimulate the self-help spirit of the people by mobilizing them for communal efforts, which should be sustained with the assistance of the government. Blue Print for rural development, argues that for effective implementation of strategies for community development the town and community unions, age grades, etc should be linked with government. This idea he said is to involve the community people fully through their union, age grades and other similar policies that are designed to improve their economic, social, political and cultural development. He stated that this would enable them to make positive contributions to both rural and national development. The community union and age grade in every community have usually served as point of articulation and fully aware of the needs of the people. However, if they are fully integrated into the planning stage of development project, a lot will be achieved.

Writing on rural development in Nigeria, Mabogunje, (1992:191) in his book “leading issues in Nigerian Rural Development” accused successive Nigerian government at being previous regimes, rather than developing the rural areas. He content that this is the general pattern all over the third world countries. Mabogunje, remarked that many strategies such as “authoritarian hand out” from the administration which prescribed the facilities suitable for the rural areas and two, the so-called development from below have been tried in the past, in the attempt to solve rural poverty in Nigeria. These strategies have however not proved successful; he looks at rural development problem such as lack of co-ordinated community development programmes, manpower problems of infrastructure, problem of relevant rural education. He suggest solutions to these problems, which include clear understanding of the concept community development, an integrated development programmes, provision of infrastructure, relevance at rural education to the peculiar need and aspiration of the rural areas.

Local government and rural development in Nigeria, Olowo, et al., and (1991) describes government approach to rural development as a more sham. According to him, government has succeeded in imposing development programme on the rural masses, such programme he argues, only benefited a few rich and powerful urban elite. He calls for a model of rural development, which involves the genuine participation of the rural people. Such he continues will be relatively independent of centralized urban-oriented bureaucratic machines.

Nwaka, (1999:33-36) on his part argued that government imposition of rural development programme on the communities have been Cog in the wheal of rural development. As he put it, government have often set community development; priorities without the participation of the target or relevant communities. He suggests that since government, communities are the engines of growth; government should play down its excessive control in betting out development goals and priorities for local communities.

Nnoli, (1980) sees self-help, as a strategy for rural development as a form of exploitation because, according to him, for the rural people it is viewed as the task resort to their survival due to government neglect. According to him, the community development process arises from the crying need of the rural population for social welfare services, unwillingness of the rural class to provide these amenities, the exploitation of the ruling class of the competition among communities for those social artefacts which are deemed to reflect social progress, and the exploitation by the ruling class at the tendency by Nigerians to invest more time, energy and resources and those tasks approved by their communities than those sanctioned by the national collectively via-the-state.

Okoli, (2000) in his book contends that the British colonialists in Nigeria hatched community development ideology in order to under develop the people through his negative manipulation strategy. He regrets that his strategy has continued to be employed by indigenous rulers in the post-colonial state. He further contends that this strategy predicated upon the colonial policy of economic exploitation of the local area in an instrument used to sustain the self-interest of the ruling classes while the rural communities suffer under poor, hash and stagnated conditions.

Aborisade (1988) in his book highlighted the various development programmes designed by successive governments in Nigeria, which aimed at developing the rural communities. He gives an example of River Basin and Rural Development Authorities established in 1975 to promote rural development. He laments that in practice the scheme bloated bureaucracies feeding on mega million naira contracts for irrigation and other agricultural projects while the rural areas for which they are meant seemed to have recorded deeper in debilitating poverty.

Finally, from the extensive review of literature, it is obvious that scholars like Akpan, (1982), Olisa (1992) and Olowu (1988) regretted that rural development activities and programmes of the past decades of national independence have not transformed the country’s rural areas in the modern, well supplied contended that prosperous population envisaged are the beginning of national sovereignty. They concluded that in terms at the number of programmes identification pursued, rural development in Nigeria has made little transformatary impact. They cite basic social services, public utilities and essential infrastructure as still being woefully inadequate in almost all corners of the country.

1.7.2 Inadequate Finance and Rural Development

One of the perennial problems which has not only defied all past attempts at permanent solution, but also has a tendency for evoking high emotions on the part of all concerned (each time it is brought forth for discussion or analysis) is the issue of equitable revenue allocation in Nigeria. It is an issue which has been politicised by successive administrations in Nigeria both Military and civilian regimes. Indeed, in virtually all country in which the constitution shares power between the central and regional or state governments and, for each level to be “within a sphere co-ordinate and independent” (Wheare 1963:93) enough resources need be allocated to each tier to justify their existence.

Perhaps, more important at this juncture is a consideration of the adequacy of the total revenue profile of LGs, from all sources, for their operations. In the works of Ikelegbe, (2005) and Aghayere, (2008) they are of the view that local governments obtain adequate revenue for their operations. However, as Ikelegbe (2005:54), for example, puts it, there is ‘tremendous strengthening of local government funding, structuring, autonomy and democratization. Adequate finance is an indispensible tool for local government administration and the execution of project for which it was not up

According to Orewa (1968:225) the raison d’être of local authority is to collect it revenue efficiently and to use such revenue to prove many social service as possible for its tax payers while at the same time maintaining a reasonable amount reserve tide it over any period of financial stringency. Hence the ability of local authorities to generate revenue to manage it properly. Blau and Scout as a cited by Mukoro, (2001:1) in their local government have noted that they do not exist but in communities and societies and have roots in large social system.

Following from the foregoing, the basic environment of a local in Nigeria with regard to revenue generation can be identified based on the provision at chapter (vi)

(c) of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which deals with public revenue and the fourth schedule there provides functions of a local government council section 162 (of chapter (vi) such section 3,5,6,7 and 8) provide that “Any amount standing to the credit of the federation account and shall be distributed among the federal and state government council in such state on such terms and in manner as may be presided by the National Assembly.

According to Okoli (1998:125), despite the elaborate provision made in both decree No. 36 of 1998 and 1999 constitution for the financial autonomy of the local government doubt still remains as to the financial relationships among the three tier of government for one thing the direct funding of the local government which has been jettisoned by the ambiguities in the provision of 1999 constitution as far as finance of the local government are concerned.

The financial crisis of most local government in developing counties is worsened by the fact that they are located in the rural areas. As a result of rural poverty, they are unable to generate enough internal revenue. They, therefore, rely mainly on statutory allocation from the federal government which is usually inadequate for any meaningful development activity. As aptly stated in the local government Yearbook (1998:18).

Adedeji (2000:96) asserts that the success or failure and the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of local government depends on the financial resources available to the individuals local authorities and the way the resources are utilized indeed the problem associated with inadequacy of finding continue to remain quite high among factors most frequently of local government to effectively perform their statutorily developed function.

Akpan, (1965:126) argued that the bottom line in judging the effectiveness of local government is the amount of funds at their disposal. He notes that “the success of a local authority is often measured in terms of its ability to provide services to the public. These services cost money”, which the local government do not have sufficiency.

Ogbonnia (2004:34) say’s that other sources of local government revenue depend on the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the council. He further explains that, there are several ways the council can generate funds but the major problems lies in the ability of the chairman to look inwards to create means of generating funds for the council.

The inadequacies of operational and capital funds constitute a set-back on local government implementation of regular services and investment programmes. Consequently, most local government can only pay workers salaries and take care of recruitment expenditure. In the case of Nigeria, the financial crisis in the local government has been worsened by the failure of the Federal Government to recognize the new local government created by some states. The state governors new use part of statutory allocations meant for the newly created ones, which in Enugu referred to as development centres (Ezeani, 2004).

1.7.3 Paucity of Skilled Manpower and Rural Development

When we are talking about manpower, we are referring to human resources. Manpower to often taken as the most important resources of an organization because other resources are harnessed to meet the need to men. This problem has been a major constraints to the effectiveness and efficiency of local government in Nigeria vis-à-vis Warri North local government.

Adewumi (198), Nkala (1985), Onah (1995) and Nkala (1985), noted that at the inception of democratic local government system in the former Eastern region of Nigeria in 1950, early recruits into the local government service were mainly “Sons of the soil”. Orewa and Adewumi (1983) rightly stated that recruitment based on patronage, have created problems of redundancy in local governments where stern measures like termination of appointment and suspension of staff are rarely contemplated.

There is no doubt that the effectiveness of any organization to a large extent depend on the calibre of its staff. The local government does not have enough graduates employed in its services. The people who work in the local government are employed based on favouritism and not on merit. Most of the staffs or the council don’t know what is expected of them as local government staff. Most of them did not go beyond primary school, and therefore cannot perform well. They don’t even know the function of the department they found themselves let alone the work they expected to perform, and this contributes in affecting the rural development.

Staff training and development is another important aspect that has been neglected in local councils. According to Blum and Mayor (1976), effective training programmes can result in increased production, reduced labour turnover, and greater employee satisfaction.

The people who work in the community development department because of lack of skills for the nature of their job use wrong approach or measure in appealing to the communities to contribute and take part in community development.

According to Onah (1995:114), the inability to provide management training in areas of operations other than finance and general administration such as engineers, architects, accountant, doctors, nurses, agriculture extension workers etc continues to militate against effective performance in most local governments in Nigeria.

In an effort to address this quandary of manpower in terms of (skilled manpower like Engineers and Doctors and Administrators) in local government system in Nigeria, the federal military government in 1979 introduced three university-based Department of Public Administration and local government: University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ille-Ife Ezeani (2004:183-184).

This paper intends to study local government as an instrument of rural development and see if there has been any significant change in terms of the effect in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.

1.8 Theoretical Framework

The theory which informs our discussion of local government and rural development, a study of Warri North local government council is the general systems

theory. The scholar most associated with this theory is Easton (1965) “sees the political system as a set of interrelated and reciprocally regulated patterns of actions and orientation, pattern that cluster together in equilibrium and that have certain needs of maintenance and survival. It is a phenomenon of whatever type, including physical, biological, social, political, etc., which is an organized whole with identifiable, interrelated structures delineating it from the environment (supra system) in which it is located and with which it interacts, processing the inputs from it into outputs for it.

The general systems theory seeks to argue that every system, including political system, has subsystems which make up the entire system. They are assigned functions and provided with enabling empowerment, including resources, appropriate authority, etc. to enable them discharge their responsibilities optimally. Where this is the case, there is said to be homeostasis (stability) in the political system. On the other hand, instability reigns in the political system where the contrary is the case and the subsystems and entire system are also unable to function optimally.

Input and output analysis of a political system is very important. A political system is said to obtain its inputs (demands, supports, liberty or autonomy, cooperation, criticisms, resources, information, direct labour, etc.) from the environment. These inputs are what the subsystems employ to discharge their responsibilities, so that the political system can send out its outputs into the environment and obtain further inputs for its operations.

Applying this theory of the systems analysis to the local government system, the local government system in the country constitutes the sub-system. They must be well handled in terms of being fed with adequate inputs, so that they can contribute appropriately to the optimality of the whole (country) political system, as well as its homeostasis. If the reverse is the case, that is, if the local government system do not have the required inputs to operate on.

According Apter (1963:15) the political system has two elements viz input (made up of demand support) and output (made up of authoritative decisions). By input, he meant those factors which emanated from the environment and go into decision making. They are those demands that come out from the society. Outputs are results that emanates from the demand and support made at the level of input.

Warri North local government council is a system which carries out these functions by receiving inputs from the people and converting it into output. The citizens are involved in such demands above. This demand on the system is in inform of appeal to the council authority to provide some basic infrastructure like good road network, pipe borne water, health facilities, ultra modern markets etc. Support on the other hand could be people’s participation in decision making process or voting in community development project as well as financial support, in form of tax, rates paid by the people including grant from Delta State and Federal Government of Nigeria. Though, this means they provide raw material on which the system acts, so as to produce output. This in turn will influence the environment of the system and consequently generate continued demand which in turn creates a feed back and the whole process continues on a cyclical pattern.

1.9 Hypothesis

In the light of the research question and of related literature, the following hypothesis will be tested:

H1:   Warri  North  local  council  has  not  contributed  substantially  to  rural development in the local government area.

H2:   The inadequacy of skilled workers (like qualified engineers all types, medical doctors, etc) affects the ability of Warri North local government council in carrying out rural development programmes.

H3:   Inadequate funding by both the Delta State and the Federal Governments hinders  Warri  North  Local  Government  council’s  ability  to  carrying  out developmental programmes.

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