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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY:
Corruption is a world-wide phenomenon which has been in societies throughout history. It has caused political and economic instability in societies and it has also led to social conflict and violence in the local government sector and also to the society at large. Corruption has been identified as one of the major problems confronting effective local government administration in Nigeria.
According to Harsh (1993), corruption is a practical problem involving the outright theft, embezzlement of funds or other appropriation of state property, nepotism and granting of favors to personal acquaintance. Furthermore, he said corruption involves the behavior which deviates from moral and constitutional requirements. Also, Odey (2002), contextualized corruption in Nigeria as the air which every living person breathes in naturally, he said corruption in Nigeria has been so naturalized that many of us becomes corrupt without making any effort and often without knowing it. Despite the availability and expenditure in the extremely large amounts of foreign exchange derived mainly from Nigeria’s oil and gas resources, economic growth has been weak and the incidence of poverty has increased. It is estimated that Nigeria received over $22 billion from oil export between 1981 and 1999. Yet the number of Nigerians living in abject poverty, that is, on less than $1 a day doubled between 1970 and 2000 and the proportion of people living in poverty rose from 36% in 1970 to 70% in 2000. With the above quotation, it is seen that corruption within Nigeria is the main cause of this problem.
Corruption is the greatest bane of local government administration in Nigeria. At the grass-root level, corruption has been accommodated, entertained and celebrated within the system. In the local government setting, corruption is labeled and referred to as “EGUNJE”, ( a slogan which means “illegal offer” in Nigeria). Unfortunately, Democracy, which is assumed to be the antidote to corruption, is not well practiced at the grass-root level. Kolawole (2006) laments this situation when he opines that “in spite of the establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Commission (ICPC), corruption still strives in our society”. In his analysis, Kolawole was of the view that lack of funds was no more a constraint on local government performance, but a mismanagement and misappropriation of funds accruable to it.
The term local government administration in Nigeria has attracted serious attention both nationally and internationally since the great local government reform of 1976, thus the initiator of the 1976 Local Government Reforms as contained in the guidelines (1976), emphasized the basic features of local government as “government at the local level exercised through representative council established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas”. These powers would give substantial control over local affairs as well as the staff and institutional and financial powers to initiate and direct the provision of services and to determine and implement projects so to complement the activities of the state and the federal government in their areas, and ensure through active participation of the people and their traditional institutions that local initiatives and response to local needs are maximized. Local government is the closest tier of government to the people of Nigeria, yet the resident population in it is denied the benefits of its existence. Awa (1981) defines local government as “a political authority set up by a nation or a state as a subordinate authority for the purpose of dispersing or decentralizing political power”. Equally, the United Nations office for public administration (1976) sees local
government or local government administration as a political sub-division of a nation or (in a federal system) state, which is constituted by law and has substantial control of local affairs, including the power to impose taxes or to exert labour for prescribed purposes. The governing body of such an entity is elected or otherwise locally selected.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN, 1999 as amended 2011), defined local government as government at the local level exercise through representative council established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas. These powers should give the local government council substantial over local affairs as well as the staff and institutional and financial powers to initiate and direct the provision of services and to determine and implement projects so as to complement the activities of the state and federal government in the areas to ensure through devolution of functions to their councils and through the active participation of the people and traditional institutions that local initiative and response to local needs and conditions are maximized.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY AREA.
The study area of this research work is based on Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Bayelsa state was created on October 1st, 1996 out of the old Rivers state by the then regime of General SanniAbacha. The name Bayelsa, is an acronym of the first three (3) letters of the major local government areas known as Brass-BALGA, Yenagoa-YELGA and Sagbama-SALGA, these three acronyms formed BAYELSA. The then Brass LGA is what makes up the present Nembe, Brass and Ogbia local government areas; the then Yenagoa LGA consists of the present Yenagoa, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Southern Ijaw local government areas and the then
Sagbama LGA is what makes up the present Sagbama and Ekeremor local government areas. Bayelsa has a population of around 2million people. Its capital is at Yenagoa, the traditional center of the Ijaw people, Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group after Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo; while Ijaw dialects are spoken by most Bayelsan’ people. English is the state’s official language. The state covers an area of about 21’000 square km, and about three-quarters of its total area lies under water. Bayelsa state is located in the southern part of Nigeria. It shares boundaries with Rivers state on the West, on the East and South by the Atlantic Ocean and on the North by Delta state. The local population engages in mostly fishing and farming on a subsistence and commercial level. Bayelsa state has one of the largest crude oil and natural gas deposits in Nigeria and a thriving petroleum sector. The first oil found in commercial quantities in Nigeria was found in 1956, in an area that is currently part of Bayelsa state. The state consists of eight local government areas which are Kolokuma/Opokuma, Sagbama, Yenagoa, Nembe, Brass, Ogbia, Epie/Atissa and Ekeremor local government areas.
Yenagoa is a local government area in Bayelsa state, Nigeria. It has an area of 706km square and a population of 353,344 at the 2006 census. The postal code of the area is 561. Yenagoa is the traditional home of the Ijaw people. The Ijaw forms the majority of Bayelsa state. English language is the official language, but Epie/Atissa language, one of the Ijaw languages, is the major local language spoken in yenagoa. Since attaining the status of state capital in 1996, construction and other activities have accelerated appreciably.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM:
The state of corruption in Nigeria has been categorized as endemic. Corruption has not only been classified as a major problem in local government administration but it has also been identified as a major obstacle to the national growth and development of the economy. Research has shown that corrupt practices have been perpetrated not only in local government administration but also in public and private places since the pre-colonial era to the colonial period and through independence till date. Absence of democracy and good governance gives way to corruption; also poverty is an inducement to corruption at the grass root level. Many of the local government representatives are jobless; they go into politics to make money rather than to serve the purpose to which they were elected. Apart from poverty itself, the fear of poverty is another factor, people are afraid of going back to poverty after the completion of their tenure or after retirement, this then results to stealing of public funds.
Corruption also flourishes under weak leadership and weak government. When political or administrative leader cannot effectively control people under him, corruption becomes imminent, due to the fact that most of the funds meant for public project will be diverted to their private purse as a result of lapse in the system. Also, low wages and salaries as well as greed also brings about corruption, this is as a result of lack of effective accountability in the system. Local government officials are not held responsible for their actions as well as their inactions and also there is no strict adherence to the rules guiding the local government system. The local government system in the country is characterized by ethical perversion and moral depravity. The masses are not carried along in the execution and implementation of projects, projects are done on papers without recourse to inspection and probity.
There are different problems facing local government administration in Nigeria, but the main problem facing local government administration in Nigeria is the issue of corruption. As a matter of fact, mere mention of local government includes corruption. The popular myth propagated by the local government officials is that the councils are always short of funds. No doubt, the heavy funding that runs into billions of naira as seen from the tables of budgeting may not be enough because of the high level of corruption in the councils. It has also been observed that most local government councils do not accord adequate regard to the budget process. The outcome of this situation is the indiscriminate and unplanned execution of projects. The state government which would have served as a check is not free from this problem either. These contracts are inflated and worst still, the projects are not executed and there by defeating the essence of these budgets.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY:
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