Brief Historical Background of Local government System in Nigeria Regardless of nomenclature, local government is a creation of British colonial rule in Nigeria. It has overtime experienced change in name, structure and composition. Between 1930s and 1940s, for instance, local government was known as chief-in-council and chief-and-council, where traditional rulers were given pride of place in the scheme of things.
In the 1950s, election was introduced according to the British model in the western and eastern parts of the country with some measure of autonomy in personnel, financial and general administration (Nwabueze, 1982:20-21).
It was on this premise that the rising tide of progress, growth and development experienced in the local governments in these areas was based. The pace of this development was more noticeable in the south than in the north.
During this period, heterogeneity was the hallmark of local government as there was no uniformity in the system and the level of development was also remarkably different. The introduction of 1976 reforms by 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 (Ajayi, 2000:70) The reforms also introduced population criterion under which a local government could be created.
Consequently, a population of within 150,000 to 800,000 was considered feasible for a local government. This was done to avoid the creation of non-viable local council and for easy accessibility. There was provision for elective positions having the chairmen as executive head of local government with supervisory councillors constituting the cabinet.
This was complemented by the bureaucrats and professionals, such as Doctors, Engineers, etc. , who were charged with the responsibility of implementing policies (1976 Guidelines).
In 1991, a major landmark reform was introduced as the system had legislative arm. In addition, the Babangida administration increased the number of local government from 301 in 1976 to 453 in 1989 and 589 in 1991. the Abacha regime also increased the number to 774 local councils that we have today and the administrative structure also underwent some changes (Ajayi, 2000:71). In summary, it can be said that no public institution in Nigeria has been so subjected to frequent reforms than local government. Nearly every successive administration introduces one administrative change or the other.
Apart from the celebrated 1976 reforms, state government officials have also introduced various manipulations. For instance, in Ekiti state, the tenure of elected local government officials was reduced to two years. While some retained it to reflect three years. In the southwest, except for Lagos, a caretaker committee was introduced in 2003 immediately after the general elections. In similar vein, in June 2007, some state governments dissolved their local councils and appointed caretaker committee to steer the affairs of the council prior the conduct of elections.
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