Local Government Autonomy in Nigeria and Politics of State Control
Unveiling the Enigma
Native Nigerians practiced different systems of local administration before British colonialism. The systems conformed to their needs, cultural orientation; operated as autonomous entity and were accountable to the native people. The confluence of these diverse modes of existence under colonial umbrella, culminated in colonial system of local administration, which was incompatible, fragmented and only intended to serve colonial economic agenda in Nigeria. The new system was neither independent nor freely exercised control over local affairs but colonial government determined its structure, operation, finance and personnel. Since post-colonial era, local government system has continued to expand in scope, responsibility, personnel, resource requirements, and capital outlay but its autonomy fluctuates. Debate on local government autonomy in Nigeria has given rise to schools of thought – protagonists and antagonists. Based on the persistent subordination of local government to State control amid failure of the system to perform its set goals, the departure of the colonial masters and assumption of leadership by Nigerians seem to worsen the problem. The paper interrogates the amphibious nature of local government autonomy, reasons for the politicization of local government autonomy, efforts towards resolving the dilemma of stakeholder and the logjam to the impasse. The research is analytical, based on secondary data and content analysis. The research adopted elite and pluralist theories in analyzing the politics of local government autonomy and found that the agitations for autonomy of local government in Nigeria cut across all classes but some selfish governing elites who want to perpetuate the exploitation of local government resources continue to stall the efforts. It requires constitutional amendment to prohibit the control of local government by the state government through a clearly defined framework for local government administrative and financial autonomy.