local government and the challenges of decentralization in nigeria- a study of enugu state local government system-1999-2010

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ABSTRACTThis research work examines the topic: local government and challenges of decentralization in Nigeria using Enugu State Local Government System 1999-2010 as a case. The study contends that effective decentralization is important local governments in a federalist state like Nigeria. The data used in this study was collected from both primary and secondary sources. The primary method/source included the use of a research instrument (the questionnaire) and interview. Some research questions were asked as a guide to the respondents. The questionnaire contained twe4lve structured questions designed in both open and close ended style. In addition, the questionnaire was validated and administered accordingly. Secondary source of data collection on the other hand, included textbooks, journal, government documents and internet materials. The study formulated hypotheses to guide its data analysis using simple percentage, tables and chi-square statistical method for data analysis. The data analysis revealed that; assessment of local government are poor following ineffective decentralization; poor decentralization affects service delivery and make local government and local communities not be properly involve in development programmes; political disposition of political leaders in the federal and state government determines the extent of decentralization in the local government among others. It is based on these findings that the study recommended that federal and state governments should expand the functions of local governments by decentralizing their powers. Also the revenue capacities of local governments should be expanded in order to discharge their primary constitutional responsibilities and to contribute effectively to national development.




Any meaningful attempt at development by any government must engage with citizens and communities to understand their needs, preferences and priorities. It is based on this fact that increasing emphasis is being laid on local government in Nigeria.

Prior to the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, there existed kindred’s, villages, communities and even regions, which later integrated to form Nigeria as a country. This implies that these small units surrendered their powers and resources to the bigger communities now referred to as Nigeria.


At a time, Nigeria, which represents the Federal Government tends to bite the hand that fed her by neglecting the local government which is the foundation of other governments and concentrating efforts and powers at the central and state levels.

However through serious agitations by meaningful citizens and comparative studies by some elitists, the principle of decentralization, was entrenched in the constitutions of many countries including Nigeria.

This principle was first advocated by a French philosopher, a jurist and a writer known as Charles Montesquieu in the year 1791. The main objective of the publications of this writer was to create awareness of the

importance of decentralization of powers and functions from the centre to different tiers of government in order to avoid tyranny and dictatorship in government.

However, in the 1970’s and 1980, a large number of developing countries that are politically, economically and ideological diverse, embarked on decentralizing some development planning and management functions despite the pressure for increasing centralization by some dominant elites. Nigeria is one of the developing countries which decentralizes the government powers among her three tiers of government namely; federal, state and local government. The primary aim of this decentralization is to facilitate the development of local communities by bringing the presence of government at the grassroots level. However, the practice of decentralization does not always reflect the aim of as a federalist state. The power of local government has always been stepped upon by other higher tier of government. Therefore, this study is an attempt to examine local government and challenges of decentralization in Nigeria.

1.1              BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The  joy  of  government  citizen  relationship  consists  in  popular participation, which makes the people feel the real impact of government.This informs decentralization of different other tiers of government which invariably makes people pay allegiance and loyalty to the government.

Unfortunately, this ideal relationship in governance does not manifest clearly in any government that has her powers and functions centralized. In such situation, people are not only restricted from reaching the government but are also denied the impact of governance.

Local government in potentially important component of a single system of government. It is the tier of the government that is very close to local circumstance, have local knowledge of the citizens and can influence activities more effectively and efficiently than national governments.

Local government is even more assessable to the local bodies and can respond easily to their needs, desires and priorities than the national government. People can easily get involved in the activities of government and decision making because the government is physically closer to them.

In spite of these golden advantages to local government over national government, it is discovered that local government is inefficient and unresponsive in providing the services that people want and in the manner people want them. This is mainly because of the way powers and functions to local governments in Nigeria are being exercised with some measures of control coming from the other tiers of government above the local government.

This scenario makes local government’s attainment of full people participatory government a mere wishful thinking the local government thus depends on the benevolence of these upper division of the government for its operation and survival. This depending on other powers above makes the local government a toy in their hands as they use the local government as a means of achieving their own goals. This situation thus denudes the local government of the supposed viability as a government.

Nevertheless, this study intends to examine these external controls as well as other challenges of decentralization in local government with particular emphasis to local governments in Enugu State.


It is argued that the key function of local government is the provision of local public goods matched as closely as possible to local tastes and preferences of the people in a particular area. That not withstanding, the local government has a unique responsibility for stewardship, accountability and enhancement of the well-being of the people in her area of jurisdiction.

Needs and preferences among places and peoples vary. Some issues will affect some communities in different ways than they will affect others and thus there is need for distinctive responses to these diversities in the society. More flexibility and responsiveness at a local level of government will regulate and change behaviour and therefore address social tension and conflicts.

However, all these responsibilities of the local government in Nigeria seem to be a myth as the affairs of the local government are controlled directly from the state. Both the national and state governments fail to recognize the unique value of local government as part of a single system of government.

Planned development requires strong national and grassroots institutions to complement one another. Unfortunately most efforts being made in Nigeria to strengthen the administrative capacity at the local level for effective planned development has concentrated in making the central government stronger than other tiers of government. This results in making the grassroots institution weak and ineffective.

Several plans have been made in Nigeria ranging from colonial periods till date. The first development plan for Nigeria was hatched in London in the year 1898 through a parliamentary committee chaired by Lord

Selborne, the then Parliamentary Secretary of State for the colonies (Olowu, 1981:41). This was followed by a ten-year development plan (1946-1956) and another plan, which ran from 1955-1960 and another, which came in between 1958-1962. The National Development Plan of 1962-1968 was extended to 1970 because of the Nigerian Civil War and this was the first plan that was made under the military rule. The second plan came between 1970-1975, the third 1975-1980 the fourth 1980-1985.


These plans were backed up with very huge amount that about 134 billion Naira have been invested since 1962 to the early 1980s (Anyanwu, 1997:376). In spite of these efforts, Nigeria development plans have hardly, justified the heavy investments made on them with the result that many of the projects were uncompleted and abandoned mid way, development was uneven, there was decline in industrial, construction and agricultural sectors, with the result that food were imported and urban unemployment was on the increase because of rural/urban migration in search of greener pasture.

These short comings of Nigeria’s development plans have been attributed to non-involvement of the masses in plan implementation, the inefficacy of indirect economic controls in a developing economy and lack of necessary information on the people’s resources and the extent of the social costs of planning that they are ready to bear (Aboyade 1968:99-100).

From the above, it is obvious that without any fear of contradiction, one can rightly argue that the frequent failure of development programmes in Nigeria is caused by the poor decentralization of functions or responsibilities to the local governments or grass-root government which is the primary target of any development. It is therefore against this background that the researcher intends to investigate the topic: local government and challenges of decentralization in Nigeria (a case study of Enugu State Local Government System 1999-2010). In essence, this study will proffer answers to dominant questions on local government and challenges of decentralization in Nigeria.


These questions are:

i)                    What are the benefits of decentralization in the local government system in Enugu State and generally in Nigeria?

ii)                  What are the problems encountered in the implementation of decentralization in the Nigeria local government system and particularly in Enugu State Local Government System?

iii)                What are the necessary conditions for effective decentralization in the Nigerian local government system?

iv)                What are the measures to be adopted in improving the decentralization in the Nigeria local government system?

1.3              OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The objectives of this study are grouped into two as follows:

General objective of the study is to evaluate the extent to which decentralization take place in the local government system in Nigeria particularly in Enugu State Local Government System.

Specific objectives of the study are to;

i)                    Identify the benefits of decentralization in the local government system in Nigeria and Enugu State in particular.

ii)                  Identify the problems encountered in the implementation of decentralization in the Nigerian local government system and Enugu State in particular.

iii)                Examine the necessary conditions for effective decentralization in the Nigerian local government.

iv)                Recommend measures for improving decentralization in the Nigerian Local Government System.


Theoretical Significance

The importance of effective decentralization in local government cannot be over emphasized. Local government as a matter of fact is a product of decentralized administration and in a developing country like Nigeria, there is a greater need to strengthen the decentralization in the local government as a means of bringing rapid national development. This study is therefore not only timely but of high significance.

In other words, this study will help to assess the extent of decentralization in the Nigerian local government system. In addition, the study will also unveil the challenges encountered in the implementation of effective decentralization in the local government system in Nigeria.

This study will also assist in providing necessary guide for governments at the national (Federal) and state level towards improving the decentralization in the grass-root government in Nigeria. On the other hand, this study will contribute immensely in improving effective local government administration through its emphasis on involving the government machineries and the people to development task and programmes.

As a matter of fact, this study will contribute immensely to the existing literature on the subject matter of this research.

Empirical Significance:

This study for the researcher will be of immense contribution to academic research with regards to local government and challenges of decentralization in Nigeria. Also, the findings of this study will assist other researchers who may in due course of time wish to investigate on the same topic or similar topics.

Last but not the least, the recommendations that will be made from the findings of this study will assist immensely the federal, state and other practitioners in the governmental system in solving practical problems related to poor decentralization in the local government system.


This study investigates the challenges of decentralization in the local governments with a focus in Enugu State Local Government System From (1999-2010). Therefore, in terms of scope, this study covers the Enugu State Local Government System. Also the study will be conducted in the three senatorial zones (districts) of Enugu State.

Nonetheless, a study of this magnitude cannot be completed successfully without the researcher encountering some constraints or limitations. In view of this, the major limitation was lack of financial support. The research is a self-sponsored study and the researcher cannot adequately fund this study to cover in detail the activities of the local governments in Enugu State to determine the extent of decentralization.

Another limitation to the study was the difficulty encountered by the researcher in sourcing relevant data and information for this study especially the secondary data. The information given to the researcher by local governments was not enough and the researcher seeks other means to supplement it. These other means were through inter-net materials, textbooks, journal, magazines, and through the administration of questionnaire and interview.


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