NIGERIAN FEDERALISM AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY
Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Background of the Study
Federalism, according to K.C Wheare, is the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. He said that the characteristics of this Federal Principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division of powers and co-ordinate not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions (K.C Wheare, 1953: 10).The practice of federalism in Nigeria is one of the legacies the British colonial masters bequeathed to Nigeria. Local government is born out of federalism because federalism has to do with the division of power between the central and the component units local government is a component in a federal system, it is recognized as a third tier of government which is charged with the responsibility at the grass root. The local government performs certain functions assigned to it by the constitution and the local government is to be autonomous in its own to
carry out all its responsibilities without interference from the central government. The local government should do precisely the word government in its own sphere. The evolution of local government in Nigeria has undergone a lot of changes and all these are geared towards making the local government a system that could serve the purpose for its creation. But specifically in 1976, under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime introduced the 1976 local government reform. The reform recognized the local government as the third tier of government in the Nation and it is expected to do precisely what the word local government implies that is, governing at the local level. The reforms also intend to stimulate democratic self government, encourage initiative and leadership potential and entrain the principle of this reform for the local government to be autonomous having the freedom to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference, the local government system in Nigeria still have some constraints that have impeded it’s autonomy. (Okoli, 2005: 107). This research work puts in focus, Ofu local government area in
Kogi state. It will investigate the autonomous nature of the local government area and see the level of services that has been delivered in the area. Ofu local government area of Kogi state was created out of Idah local Government Area In May, 1989 in the then Benue state by the Federal Military Administration of Nigeria led by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. It has nine districts. They are; Ugwolawo, Itobe, Igalaogba, Ojokogbe, Aloji, Ejule, Ogbonicha, Igo, Omache and Ofoke. The hand-quarter of the goo-political entity is Ugwolawo, the historical town that provides haven for the only Federal Government College in the Kogi Eastern Senatorial district. Graphically, the local government share boundaries with Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi state to the North while also sharing boundary with Ankpa local government to the south. Ofu local government equally shares boundary with Olamaboro local government area to the South East and also sharing boundary with Ajaokuta local government area to the west. The local government area occupies a landmass of almost 8,747.5 square kilometer and a perimeter of 252.5 kilometers. The 1991 census figure of National population commission puts the population of the
people at 112,697. The people are predominantly Farmers. The Land is fertile for large scale production of crops like maize, beans, groundnuts, rice, cassava, melon, guinea corn, Barbara nuts and so on while mangoes, cashew, palm trees, cocoa e.t.c yield in abundance for commercialization. The place is equally endowed with mineral resources like caoline, lime, marble, galena, fieldpars e.t.c lie beneath the earth there in large quantity for exploration. As it is the characteristic that is always endemic of the countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa, cultural activities are of paramount importance to the people of Ofu. Their tourist delights include Uloko Amo Waterfalls at Ofokopi, Ugbakoji hills in Itobe, Egane Waterfalls, Ofakete Natural Bridge and Ala Natural funnel.
1.2 Statement of the Problems
Local government Autonomy is meant the Freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own Finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference. Before the 1976 Local Government Reform, Local Governments were under the direct tutelage of the state
government which vested with the exclusive powers to make and unmake them. As a result, Local Governments were subjected to excessive controls by their respective state governments. These controls by their respective state governments were carried out through such mediums as approval of bye-laws and major contracts, appointment of certain categories of professional and administrative staff, approval of annual estimates and loan proposals and funding through grants-in-aid. These control measures posed negative consequences as they culminated into delays which in turn frustrated many important policies and programmes in the local government area. In addition, state governments created, modified, dissolved and suspended local government councils at will. The states had the power to abolish their local government system. In fact, local government existed at the mercy of the state.
The autonomy of local government in Africa countries such as Nigeria is more in theory than in practice. As Olowu (1988:71) succinctly puts it:
Most government has opted for the direct control by central government of their local governments through a battery of legal, financial and administrative controls… So called “local government” units of central governments or worse still, exist as parallel institutions to the government’s field administration controlled by both the central and field units.
The heavy dependence of local governments in Nigeria for instance on statutory allocation from the Federal government whittles down the autonomy of the former. It puts local government at the mercy of the federal government. Furthermore, successive Nigerian governments (both federal and state) have interfered in the actual functioning of the local government. For instance, between 1984 and late 1987, local government councils were abolished and the administration of the affairs of the local government were placed entirely on the sole administrator. Again, in 1994, the elected local government council were disbanded by the military government of General Abacha and replaced with caretaker committees (Ezeani, 2004). Also the financial autonomy of local governments has on many occasions been tempered with by the state governments. This is currently the case in Nigeria
were some state governments confisiticate federal allocations to the local government and give whatever amount they like to the chairman to run the local government. (Ezeani, 2004:86). Despite these for reaching measures as recommended by the 1976 local government reform thereby making it the bedrock of modern local government system in Nigeria, One can safely assert that the local government still has some constraints that have actually impeded its success. These in the view of Olugbemi (1986) can be summarized as;
– Continued jurisdiction of state government over the most important functions allocated to local government in the guidelines and as stipulated in the fourth schedule of 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
– Continued imposition of various central government, it controls the selection of councilors, in budgeting and budget control, in policy determination including the determination of fiscal policies, in personnel management etc which tend to diminish the value of government in local governments.
Therefore, the study will seek to provide empirical and verifiable answers to these problems based on the following questions.
– Does Federalism guarantee local government autonomy?
– Is Nigeria local government system (Ofu Local Government) autonomous?
– Does the granting of full autonomy to the local government enhance its service delivery?
1.3 Objectives of the study
Every research work encapsulates and embodies diverse objectives to be achieved at the end of the research. Thus, the broad objective of this research work is to assess “the Nigerian Federalism and local government autonomy specifically Ofu local government area of Kogi state. Specifically however, the study attempts to:
– To ascertain if federalism guarantees local government autonomy.
– To investigate if Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) is fully autonomous.
– To explain if full autonomy is given to Nigeria local government system (Ofu local government) will enhance its service delivery.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The significance of this study is divided into two viz: Theoretical and practical.
At the theoretical level, it will add to the frontier of knowledge of Nigerian Federalism and local government autonomy. This research will serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic. At the practical level, the study will help our policy makers and those in power to see the negative effect of lack of local government autonomy, and in a way make the leaders see reasons or how effective the government at the grass root (local government) will become if given full autonomy.
1.5 Literature Review
As a topical area of study, a number of scholarly works had been done, especially on interpretations of variables related to this topic. The importance of reviewing relevant literature cannot be over emphasized. Fox (1969) and leady (1974) argued that if contemplated research is to contribute to the relevant discipline then the researcher must understand the discipline. They pointed out that the most directed way of doing this is to read the basic writing of other thinkers. As a style of organizing the review, this work adopts the thematic approach to organize the literature. By this, issues are reviewed based on similarity, conformity or ideas. The review is therefore done under three themes identified as variables under study. This is also to ensure proper organization and easier understanding for readers. The themes are; Federalism, local government and local government autonomy in Nigeria.
The concepts of Federalism bristles with difficulties as there are quite a number of views or opinions trying to explain this elusive term (there is no unanimity of opinions). As Daniel Elazer (1992) observed, “there are several varieties of political arrangements to which the term is properly been applied” (Jinadu, 1980:26). William Ricker also pointed out that “an initial difficulty in any discussion of federalism is that the meaning of the word has been thoroughly confused by dramatic changes in the institutions to which it refers” (Ibid). The word Federalism etymologically has its root from the Latin word “Foedus” meaning compact or league. From the same Latin word “Foedus” the following English words “Federal, Federate,” and the word federation” came into existence and found their ways into the stream of English language, politics and law. In constitutional law the word “Federal” is commonly employed to express a league or compact between two or more states to become a United Nation under the central government called the “federal government.”
According to K.C., Wheare, (1953:10) is the method of dividing powers so that central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. According to him, the characteristics of this federal principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division and co-ordinate, not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions. Wheare’s central argument is that federalism will be adopted if people in the constitutional units
Desire to be under a single independent government for some purposes at any rate and desire at the same time to retain or to establish independent regional government on some matter at least. (K.C Wheare, 1963: 35-36).
From Wheare’s definition of federalism, the constitutional provision protects the autonomy of different regional levels of governments and as such neither the central or regional governments are subordinate to each other, but rather the two levels of government are coordinate and independent.
William Livingston (1956:1-2) looked beyond the narrow confines of legal formulation to the general systemic view and saw federalism as the product of the interaction of socio-cultural and political factors, while observing that the documentary constitution may be a poor guide to whether a political system is Federal or otherwise. He explained that:
The essential nature of Federalism is to be sought for not in the shade of legal and constitutional terminology, but in the forces, economic, social, political and cultural that has made the outward forms of Federalism lies not in the institutional structure but in the society itself. Federal government is a device by which the federal qualities of the society are protected. (Livingston, 1956:3).
This is a departure from Wheare’s legal construct; Livingston demonstrates interaction between constitutions framework and socio-cultural structures. In effect, he shows that the form of constitution is not dependent of the centripetal and centrifugal forces operating in the society. Livingston went further to distinguish between a federal constitution; which is the legal document, and a federal society necessitates the federal constitution. He notes the Federal constitution to mean the arrangement incorporating the federal principles, such as the division of powers while the federal society is one with a plurality of ethnic groups with different historical, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, but in which each ethnic group occupies a marked and distinct geographical location from the others. Federalism therefore becomes a device for compromising unity in diversity. Livingston (1956:3).however emphasized the need for common political tradition if federalism is to survive asserting that “of all the factors that go into matrix out of which Federations are produced similarly of social and political tradition is probably the most important.
Livingston concluded that the political institutions of Federalism once created, “May themselves shape the pattern of society by determining the channels which these social pressures will flow, in short, the constitution affects and is effected by societal diversities”.
The problem with the above analysis is while stating the factors, which affect the operations of a federal system; it is vague on which of these factors are necessary conditions for the formation of a federation. Similarly, Livingston’s definition of federal system’s so broad that all societies with
division of powers can find niche in the classification. For example, this approach does not help in sorting out the boundaries between federal states like U.S.A and decentralized system like Britain.
Carl Friedrich (1963:35), shares a similar view with K.C Wheare. According to him, Federalism should be seen as a process by which unity and diversity are politically organized and this process include all political phenomena, persons, institutions and ideas. He described a federation as union of group selves, united by one or more objectives but retaining their distinctive group level, while association is on the interpersonal level. He noted that federalism without destroying themselves that are uniting and is meant to strengthen them in their mutual relations. Friedrich argued that federalism should be a process. The process by which a number of separate political communities enter into arrangements for working out solutions, adopting joint policies and making joint decisions on joint problems and conversely also the process by which a unitary political community becomes differential into a federally organized whole.
Itse Sagay (2003) corroborates with Wheare by posting that Federalism is;
An arrangement whereby political power within a multinational country are shared between a Federal or central authority and a number of regionalized governments, in such a way that each unit, including the central authority, exists as a government separately and independently from the others, operating directly on persons and property within its territorial area, with a will of its own and its own apparatus for the conduct of affairs and with an authority in some matters exclusive of all others. In a federation each government enjoys autonomy, a separate existence and independence of the control of any other government. Each government exists, not as an appendage of another government but as an autonomous entity in the sense of being able to exercise its will on the conduct of its affairs far from the direction by any government.
The above definition is in line with Wheare’s own stipulation that in the Federal system, there is no hierarchy of authorities, with the central government on the others. All governments have a horizontal relationship with each other.
Another scholar on the discussion of federalism is Austin Ranny (1993: 789) who sees federalism as a system of government where power is divided between a national government and several sub-national governments, each of which is legally supreme on its assigned sphere. He noted that
Federalism was adopted as political expediency, adding that Federalism has been widely praised as of the grant American contribution to the art of government
A number of different nations have adopted it as a way of enabling regions with sharp different cultures and interest to join together as one nation. The clearest examples are nations like Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland also in Brazil, India and Mexico.
Osaghie (1990) also argues that an important characteristic which distinguishes Federal character systems from non Federal systems is contractual, non-concentration of power. According to him, in a Federal state, there is an irrevocable division of power as a product of constitutional compact among the nationalities or sub-communities that compose the Federation.
Tekena Tamuno (1989:18), Federalism as a form of government where the component units of a political organization participate in sharing powers and functions in a cooperative manner though the combined forces of ethnic pluralism and cultural diversity, among others, tend to pull their people apart. Delicate arrangements of this kind were carefully worked out, provide sufficient room for the co-existence of centre-seeking and centre fleeing forces, peace, for lucky communities which achieve and sustain measure of this, under these arrangements, is not necessarily that of the grave, where people agree sometimes and disagree sometimes, concerning the goals and means of co-operative governments of this kind, friction and conflict resolution is quite possible through the time and effective intervention of accredited authorities and organs of government.
Professor Attahiru M. Jega (1999) gave a seemingly elementary but useful definition of federalism, by saying a federal system is a government in which the written constitution or an inviolable statutory precedent specifies that certain fundamental authority adheres to a central government and that other fundamental authority belongs to smaller areas. (Eligwu, 1996: 88). In this sense, Federalism is essentially about the distribution of political and economic decision making power among constitutions units or levels of government. Some inferences can be drawn from the above literatures on the concept of federalism; the first is that the study of federalism is still in a state of partial theory with the numerous writers, each speaking a language particular to him. On close examination, it can be observed that no fundamental disagreement exists among the scholar in their divergent approaches to the topic. Each approach is a narrow perspective of the broad theme and none by itself explains the totality of the federal concept. For example, Wheare provides a legal framework of what constitutes a federal constitution, Livingston looks beyond the surface to the social diversities that the constitutional divisions of powers is supposed to mirror, while Friedrich looks intensely at the actual operation of the societal centripetal and centrifugal forces and how they affect the constitutional arrangement.
On the whole it could be inferred that the existing literature that pictures what is federal government and what is not, remains as blurred as ever. The student of federalism is therefore in a sort of quandary.
But for the purpose of this study, the definition as given by K.C. Wheare (1953) would be adopted as a working definition because it is still not possible except by this Wheare’s definition to determine the prerequisite of federalism and basis on which to establish which countries are federal and which are not.