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This study examined the relationship between local government administration and rural development in Akwa Ibom state from 1999 to 2013. The study was premised on the observed development challenges continuously faced by rural areas of the state despite the enormous funds allocated for this sole purpose. The survey method was adopted to carry out the study. The multi-stage sampling technique (cluster, stratified and simple random sampling techniques) was utilized to draw 384 respondents from the population of study for questionnaire administration and the Pearson Product Moment Correlation was employed as the statistical tool for data analysis. The decentralization theory which lays emphasis on the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to the subordinate or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector was employed as the theoretical framework for this study. The findings of this study revealed that state government interference in the affairs of the local government councils impacted negatively on rural development. Accordingly, local government administration in Akwa Ibom State was also found to have a negative relationship with the realization of rural development programmes. Based on the findings of the study, it was recommended among others that the local government system should be allowed to have financial autonomy over their affairs. Accordingly, they should be placed under strict supervision by the Federal Government through the review of the section of the constitution that concerns the State Joint Local Government Account (SJIGA).
1.1 Background to the Study
The local government system has been a major feature of the Nigerian government and politics since colonial rule though, over the years, there have been changes in name, structure and composition, while the system was operated differently all over the country (Agagu, 2004). It was on this premise that the rising tide of progress, growth and development experienced in the local government was based. The 1976 local government reforms, carried out by the military administration of General Obasanjo, brought about uniformity in the administrative structure of the system. The reforms introduced a multi-purpose, single tier local Government system for the whole country (Ajayi, 2000).
From historical perspective, modern local government administration in Nigeria can be traced to the British system of local government. However, it should be stated, that local administration did not start with the advent of British administration in Nigeria, because some forms of system of local government administration pre-dated the British rule. Local government administration is one of man’s oldest institutions. The earliest form of local governments’ administration existed in the form of clan and village meetings. In fact, democracy itself originated and developed along the lines of local governance initiative in the ancient Greek City States. It should be noted however, that in other parts of the world, local governance was developed along the people’s culture and expectations, and the system was tied to the norms and practices of the people (Aghayere, 1997). According to Gboyega, four points of historical reference can be identified in the development of local government administration in Nigeria. They are: Colonial rule; Local government reforms in the East (1951) and West (1952) respectively; the military coup of 1966; and the 1976 local government reforms (Gboyega, 1993 as cited in Aghayere, 1997).
Local government administration in Nigeria has undergone many changes of which the 1976 Reforms and the Constitutions of 1979 and 1999 can be said to be most prominent. Before 1976, local government administration in Nigeria had passed through many changing environments and this has in no small measure influenced its development. Before 1976, there was no uniform system of local government administration in Nigeria. Although, there were spirited attempts made to carry out some reforms in the local government system, these attempts were uncoordinated and haphazard. The 1976 reforms introduced a uniform system of local government administration throughout the country. The reform was a major departure from the previous practice of local government administration in Nigeria. The philosophical basis of the reform lies in the conviction that a strong local authority with clearly defined functional responsibilities in a power-sharing relationship with the states is an institutional safeguard against tyranny. Following the 1976 reforms, local government became recognized as a tier of government entitled to a share of national revenue consequent on its constitutionally allocated functions (Imuetinyan, 2002).
The provisions of the 1976 reforms document were incorporated into the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) (As amended). The Section 7(1) of the Constitution (FRN, 1999) provides that:
the system of local government by democratically elected local Government councils is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under the Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.
This showed that local authorities were creatures of the state and their relevance, strength and degree of autonomy were subject to the state government’s control (Iyoha, 1997). Fundamentally, the local government is created to serve the rural communities, and therefore, it is expected to mobilize and harness local resources and to ensure their effective utilization, with the support of the state and federal governments. Unfortunately, the much needed development has continued to elude the rural communities across the nation. It has been rural poverty, rather than rural development. However, the prevalence and pervasiveness of poverty and the underdevelopment at the grassroots level is still connected with the high level of corruption and absence of democratic ethos in the local government system (Lawal and Oladunjoye, 2010). In the words of Akhakpe, Fatile and Igbokwe-Ibeto (2012):
… no society can be said to be genuinely growing unless the vital indicators of better living conditions, greater control of both the physical and social environment and a greater ability, capacity and a positive change in the way of life of doing things are evident and present in the rural areas – a vital sub-sector of the society. Indeed, one major index of social change and development today is rural development. No nation can really boast of having achieved development if a large percentage of her rural inhabitants are still wallowing under abject poverty, want and adept in socio-economic penury…
In view of the above, this study, therefore, explores into the challenges in executing effective rural development programmes, analyses the concept of local government and rural development, examines the challenges facing local government in the execution of rural development programmes in order to identify measures of achieving effective rural development and finally, suggests ways of making the local government a viable instrument for rural development in Akwa Ibom state in particular and Nigeria in general.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Despite the justification for the establishment of local governments and their inevitable importance to the people at the grassroots level, this tier of government seems not to have justified the reasons for which it was established. As it is often said that no society can be said to be genuinely growing unless the vital indicators of better living conditions, greater control of both the physical and social environment and a greater ability, capacity and a positive change in the way of life of doing things are evident and present in the rural areas, which is a vital sub-sector of the society (Akhakpe et al., 2012). The local governments were established to enhance these variable indicators at the grassroots, but our experience is that these are not there. Indeed, one major criterion of social change and development today is rural development and this accounts for the expediency for the creation of local governments anywhere in the world. The importance of a local government system is largely determined by its ability to generate a sense of belonging, 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 (Aghayere, 2008). But these realities are lacking in the Nigerian local government system.
Several attempts and reforms have been made since 1979-2003 to make the local government more effective for rural development in Nigeria. In spite of these efforts, no appreciable impact in terms of development has been recorded in the local government in Akwa Ibom State and in Nigeria at large. Schools, health centers, portable drinking water, electricity, good access roads, markets, credit facilities are not readily available and where they are in existence, they are poorly built and managed. It has been observed that the revenue allocations from the federal government to local government councils were increasing astronomically, year by year. For instance, there was increase in 1997 from N23.790 billion to over N32 billion in 1998. In the same vein, the allocation increased from N172.161 billion in 2003 to N370.171 billion in 2007. The increase continued to the extent that it went up from N832.300 billion in 2007 to over N1.3 trillion in 2008 (National Bureau of Statistics - NBS, 2010).
With appreciable increase in statutory allocation to council areas as well as internally generated revenue, the needs of ruralites are yet to be met. But how could the needs of the rural populace be provided for, when these local governments have been suffering from lots of draw backs arising from arbitrary control by the higher tiers of government?
To be sure, Okereke (2003) observes that corruption is one of the major challenges facing the local government system in Nigeria and has manifested itself in various forms such as embezzlement and misappropriation of council funds. The work also observes that financial kickbacks, deliberate falsification of financial records, outright stealing of council’s property, the employment of unqualified, untrained staff has not only led to overstaffing, unproductive workforce and high monthly wage bill, but more importantly delays development of communities.
Effective leadership is another major issue facing the local governments in Nigeria. Leadership recruitment at the grassroots is anything but fair and credible. The researcher has observed ballot stuffing and ballot snatching at elections in Nigeria especially at council elections. This arrangement creates room for a patron-client relationship, thereby leaving the council political office holders at the mercy of the state governments. In such a circumstance, the councils having being reduced to mere rubber stamp find it difficult to provide the type of leadership that is required to propel the realization of rural development programmes.
It is against the backdrop of the fore going that the researcher is poised to examine the factors and challenges that hinder the Local Governments from executing effective rural development programmes in Nigeria. Akwa Ibom State has been selected as the case study. In summary, the research problem is to establish the relationship (if any) between local government administration and rural development in Akwa Ibom State.
The following research questions guided the formulation of the objectives and hypotheses of the study:
i. What is the impact of state government interference in the affairs of local government on rural development in Akwa Ibom State?
ii. What is the impact of lack of fiscal autonomy on rural development in Akwa Ibom State?
iii. What is the relationship between leadership at the local government and the realization of rural development programmes in Akwa Ibom State.
iv. What measures should be adopted by the local government to enhance rural development in Akwa Ibom State?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the impact of state government interference in the affairs of local governments on rural development in Akwa Ibom State.
Specific Objectives include:
i. To establish the relationship between lack of fiscal autonomy and rural development in Akwa Ibom State.
ii. To assess the relationship between leadership at the local government and the realization of rural development programmes in Akwa Ibom State.
iii. To identify measures that should be adopted by the local government to enhance rural development in Akwa Ibom State.
The following hypotheses guided this study:
1. State Government interference in the Local Governments is likely to have a negative impact on rural development.
2. Lack of fiscal autonomy tends to have a negative impact on the socio-economic life of the rural people.
3. Leadership at the local government is likely to have a negative impact on programme implementation.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study is significant to the government and the general society since it has given the researcher the opportunity to contribute to knowledge in the field of public administration. Basically, the study has both empirical and theoretical significance.
Empirically, the study will be of benefit to the entire society because the recommendations that will be drawn will serve as measures of promoting effective rural development in Akwa Ibom State.
Furthermore, the study will act as an instrument to policy makers in the government and other relevant organizations on how best to draw-up effective rural development policies/programmes that can engineer rural development in Nigeria in general and in Akwa Ibom State in particular.
Theoretically, the study will serve as an academic bank to other researchers, scholars, the government and other relevant organizations. The research shall add to existing literature in rural development, as it will serve as a reference point for students of Political Science and Local Government Administration.
1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study
The focus of this study is on the efforts of local government administration on rural development in Akwa Ibom State from 1999-2013. The survey covers three (3) local government areas that were selected from each of the three (3) senatorial districts of the state.
The limitations of this study ranged from the unwilling nature of respondents to divulge some vital information being asked through the structured questionnaire, to waste of time in completing questionnaires by respondents, financial and other logistic constraints in the field.
More importantly, the weak knowledge of the researcher about the statistical tool for the analysis of the data that were obtained from the field survey also brought about the delay in turning-in this work because the researcher had to consult a statistician for the test of research hypotheses and other analysis which the study required.
1.7 Definition of Key Concepts
i. Leadership: The ability to lead in a way that can bring about needed change.
ii. Local Government Administration: This is the administration of local communities essentially through a legitimate constituted authority.
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