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Local Government And Community Development In Nigeria

This assignment is going to be divided into three sections. In the first part, I will discuss a brief history of the local governments, the integration of community development and local governments in Nigeria. Secondly,I will also discuss the post-reform developments in relation to community development. Finally,make an overall assessment of the reform also in relation to community development.

“The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it

Among many, distributing to everyone exactly the function he is competent to”

-Thomas Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell in 1816.

What Is Community Development?

The process by which the efforts of the people are united with those of

governmental authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural

conditions of communities to integrate those communities into the

the life of the nations and to enable them to contribute fully to the

national progress.

What Is Local Government?

A local government is a political and administrative unit that is empowered by law to administer any locality.

How Local Governments Originate Or Evolve?

Local Government is one of man’s institutions. The earliest form of local government existed in the form of clan and village meetings. In fact, democracy itself originated and developed along the lines of local governance initiatives in the ancient Greek city states.

Local government and community development are two closely related concepts. They are both primarily concerned with the development of local areas through community effort. However, over the years the two concepts have been institutionally separated. One of the aims of the 1976 Local Government reform sponsored by the Federal Military Government was to integrate community development into local government. The status of community development in Nigeria presently and its relationship, to the institution of local government. As both local government and community development are primarily state responsibilities in Nigeria’s Federal arrangement. Different approaches have been adopted by the states in Nigeria.

What Are Reasons For Creation Of Local Governments?

A lot of reasons have been given for the evolution and creation of local government. These range from political, social and economic reasons. These reasons have been captured by section 7(2) of the constitution in the following words:

The person authorized by law to the area over which a local government council

May exercise authority shall-?

define such an area as clearly as practicable

ensure, to the extent to which it may be reasonably justifiable, that in defining such an area regard is paid to-

a) The common interest of the community in the area

b) Traditional association of the community, and

c) Administrative convenience.

1) To Bring Governance Closer To The People

Participation by citizens in governance is one of the underlying precepts of democracy and modern day notion of government. Local governments served as avenues through which the people participate in governance. This is done through participation in electoral processes and decision making in local communities.

2) For Administrative Convenience:

Local governments are created for administrative expediency. There are many functions that will cumbersome for the state and federal governments to perform because of the distance separating them and the people. These functions can be effectively performed by the local governments.

3) To Engender Development:

Local governments are created to bring about meaningful development in the rural areas. As agents of rural development, local governments are to use the funds made available to them by both Federal and state governments and their internally generated revenues to improve the quality of lives of the people within areas of their operations through the followings:

initiating and attracting development projects to the local government such as

provision of access roads, water and rural electricity.

Sustaining livelihoods through the provision of credit facilities for agriculture, arts, crafts and small businesses.

Encouraging the formations of cooperative societies and other economic groupings.

Local Government And Community Development In Nigeria

The local government is the closest tier of government to the people in Nigeria, yet

the resident population in it is denied the benefits of its existence. The failure of the

local governments in the area of service delivery has made the citizens to loose trust

in government as an institution. In some areas, council officials are better known for

the harassment of citizens than service delivery. Many Nigerians crave for change in

the local government system as presently constituted in order to not only bring it in

conformity with present day realities but also to make it live up to the expectations of

the people who have been yearning for grass roots development. But this will however

require a lot of processes like constitutional amendments and inputs from the civil society.

Local self-government and community development have a common goal: the

development of local (especially rural) communities through the local initiatives and some form of central government support. Even definition of the two concepts emphasized the common themes of: felt needs, local initiatives, participation and an integrated community approach to development in concert with higher level of government. From the definitions of the two concepts i mentioned above is that, the only difference between them seems to be that whereas on is an institution, the other is a process, thereby making integration easier at the conceptual level. Community development ideally thus become a process whereby the local government, in concert with higher levels of governments, brings about comprehensive improvement in the lives of the people within its area of jurisdiction. Many believe that this is the ideal relationship between community development and local government.

A number of arguments have been used to buttress this position. Firstly, the two concepts, at least in the Nigerian context, serve the same clientèle. Although local governments exist in both urban and rural areas, their activities are more evident and notable in the later. This is due to the fact that all levels of government compete in services delivery in the urban areas often leading to complex intergovernmental relations problems. Indeed it has been asserted that during the second and third Nigerian development plans only 10% of total national investment were expanded by al the governments on rural development activities. The rest was spent on urban related activities. Even under the fourth plan (1981-85), the amount allocated to rural areas has increased only to 13%. Similarly, community development is practicable both in the rural and urban areas but all intents and purposes, its impact is more felt in the rural areas. Hence,an integration of community development activities within the frame work of local government will reinforce government attempts to improve rural living conditions. In order to further justify this assertion. It can be easily pointed out that, the periods during which community development had the greatest impact in Nigeria (in northern region before military rule and the development administration period in the eastern region), local governments and community development were common bedfellows often being handled by the same Ministry. Community development efforts have been found very reliable in initiating development activities, they have not been so good in ensuring the maintenance of such projects. On the other hand, local governments possessing formal structures may occasionally lead to bureaucratic delays and bottlenecks.

Local government provides an existing framework not only for decision making with respect to community, but also for coordinating assistance from other agencies of the central government (state or federal) and even from international agencies. In spite of this reasonable case for integrating local government and community development, the experience over the years is one in which local government and community development have been separated both in terms of policy making and government organization. One of the reasons for the popularity of community development movement over the years has been its deliberates attempt to divorce community development from politics. Local governments are primarily political institutions, and their operations, structure and powers are heavily dependent on the prevailing political power configuration. Many of the multilateral agencies which are the benefactors of the community development movement are therefore suspicious of local government and will prefer to keep the two relatively apart. It is, however,questionable the extent to which community can be “developed” without reconciling with the local and even national power structures and this is one of the most serious criticisms that the community development movement has earned itself in other parts of the world, notably India. Nevertheless,there is always the need to reduce the areas of conflict between local politicians (including the traditional rulers) and technical experts charged with assisting the community’s development process.

Another problem raised is the issue of power relations between ministries of central government. Since community development cover a range of activities-information, adult education, works, welfare, social services etc. Virtually all the ministries of the state government are involved. If the ministry of local government is charged with the additional responsibility of overseeing community development effort in a state without the necessary power to enforce its guidelines and suggestion, community work will suffer. The resulting situation is one in which the community development department is tossed from ministry to the other at the state level depending on the whims of the government in power. This problem however can be considerably minimized if wider latitudes of autonomy and discretionary authority are accorded to the local governments themselves and the ministry of local government assumes more a supportive rather than supervisory or control role. This lack of consensus as to the proper place of community development within governmental machinery is a reflection of a larger problem, the law priority accorded to rural and therefore community development.

The 1976 local government reform tried to correct this situation. First, the reform itself was aim at revitalizing local government institutions throughout the country. It is hoped that rural community will benefit from the new constitutional protections and resources being channelled to the grass roots. Among other thins the reform attempted:

To define and prescribe local governments as the third tier of governmental authority and administration throughout the country.

To delineate their functions size in a way which would make it difficult

for states to by-pass their local government.

To evolve a national system of financing the local which would involve

contributions being made by the federal and state governments as well as by the local governments themselves.

D) Ensuring Political Participation:

(i) Participation in the electoral processes: Government shall open the electoral space and allow every eligible citizen to either vote or be voted for. It is not only desirable but naturally justified that citizens should have a say in who becomes their leaders especially when such leaders will have charge of their resources. Participation in this case also includes the freedom to form political parties and associations through which individuals can canvass political interests. (ii) Participation in governance: It is the duty of government at all times to ensure that every strata and segment of the society is represented in the government. The duty becomes imperative because of the plurality

nature of the Nigerian society and the need to secure the confidence and loyalty of the tribes that make up the Nigerian nation. The constitution has made glowing provisions for this.

According to the intention of the Federal Military Government of that time was to ensure that:

Human and material resources could mobilize for local development and the certainty that as from now every stratum of the Nigerian society would benefit from the continued prosperity of this country, through the availability of amenities, indeed necessities, such as electricity, adequate water supply improved transportation, health facilities and so on. The reform attempted to mobilize national resources through the a stronger system(from the federal and state governments) and ensure that better community services will be available throughout the country based on the people’s initiatives and felt- needs.

Function Of Local Government Since 1976


Markets and motor parks;

Sanitary inspection, refuse and night soil disposal.

Control of vermin, slaughter houses, slaughter slabs;

Public conveniences;

Burial grounds, registration of births, deaths and marriages, provision of community and local recreation centres;

Parks, gardens and public open spaces, grazing grounds, fuel plantations, licenesing, regulation and sale of liquor.

Licensing supervision and regulation of bicycles, hand carts and other types of vehicles except those mechanically propelled, control of hoardings, advertisements, use of loud-speakers in or near public places, and drumming, naming of roads and streets and numbering of plots/buildings, control and collection of revenue from the forest, collection of vehicle parking charges, collection of property and other rates, community tax and other designated revenue sources.


Health centres, Maternity centres, dispensaries and health clinics, ambulance services, leprosy clinics and preventive health services, Abattoirs, meat inspection. Nursery and primary adult education. Information and public enlightenment, provision of scholarship and busaries, provision of public libraries and reading rooms, an Agricultural extension, animal health and extension services and veterinary clinics.

Rural and semi-urban water supply, fire services, provision of roads and streets, their lighting, drainage, control of water and atmospheric pollution, control of beggers,prostitution and repatriation of destitute the infirm and orphans, provision of public utilities except where restricted by other legislation, specifically including provision of road and inland transport. Public housing programmes. Operation of commercial undertakings, control of traffic and parking, regulation and control of buildings. Town and country planning, piped sewage system.

Implication Of The 1976 Local Government Reform On Community Development In Nigeria.

The most apparent implication for community development was the transfer of community development departments into the Ministry of Local government from ministries such as information. In addition, local governments because of their newly-gained access to resources – high calibre and trained officials, technical equipments and grants- were able to participate more effectively in community development projects. The self help projects undertaking by local governments between 1978 and 1980 in seventeen states of the Federation as at that time in concert with people of the respective states.

The local government reform also initiated new structures for community development, one which was very closely linked with the local government system. In one of the state of the Federation in 1980, this is Lagos state and is articulated into the state local government law. Section 42 of the laws states that:

1) Every council shall established community development committee each of which shall be a unit of administration below the council. The council shall delegate to such community development committee with or without restriction and condition, any function exercisable by the council with respect to the area of that CDC except the power to make by-laws approving estimates, levying community taxes or rates or borrowing money, but a CDC may with the approval of the council impose a special levy on its community for a special purpose and may be appointed by the local revenue board to collect revenue on its behalf with the area of jurisdiction of the committee.

A CDC shall cater for a population not less than 500 persons and not more than 50,000.It shall comprise a general council of which all adult persons within the community may be members and as executive committee elected by the general council.

Each CDC shall prepare its annual budget and subject and submit to its council

for approval and inclusion in its own budget. Fifty percent of the approved expenditure for each approved project of a CDC shall be paid out of the statutory grant of the state as a matching grant shall be a sum equal to the amount collected or spent by the CDC on each particular project from other services.

A similar structure exists in almost all the states in the Federation. In spite of this, however, community development programmes are still based primarily in the Ministry of Local Government. In Lagos state for instance, the Ministry of Local Government has the primary responsibility for community development while the local governments are merely supportive and supervisory. Also, in Kwara state the community development department has been transferred from the Ministry of Local government to the Ministry of rural development and water resources. Such an arrangement has, at best, a potential for generating conflict between governmental institutions. Basic to the problems confronting community development in Nigeria is the issue of finance – the role played by government grants, loans and technical assistance in complementing and mobilizing the people’s efforts. A wide array of criteria had been used in the past. In Edo state for instance, community projects were grouped under the following categories for aid purposes:

Category 1

Projects which normally ought to be provided by the government.

Category 11

Projects which contribute to the economic progress of the people e.g. access roads, cooperative farming, fish ponds, markets and cottage industries etc.

Category 111

Projects which advance the socio-cultural improvement of the life of the people e.g libraries, youth centres and town halls.

Sources: Mid-Western state of Nigeria, Self-help projects (Benin City, Ministry of home affairs and information, 1973).Community development division.

However, with 1976 reform, a uniform set criteria either of equality and/or population became widely accepted in the most states for aiding community development projects. This was because the grants paid by the federal government to state and local government were based on these two factors. Unfortunately,even these contributions dwindled as the uncertainties which surrounded the grants to local governments increased all over the federation. Indeed there is evidence in a number of states that the grants meant for community development projects at both state and local levels are been hijacked and diverted through the community development units at the state government level. In one of the state Kwara gave no grants whatsoever to supplement self-help projects. This resulted in a growing number of uncompleted projects throughout the country and promised grants –in-aid not forthcoming.

An Overall Assessment Of Community Development In Nigeria.

Only recently are policy makers in Nigeria waking up to the reality of rural and agricultural neglect. such recognition arises from growing food shortage and food import bills. Agriculture in spite of government special programmes and in spite the fact it provides employment for above 65% of the countries’ population is not given a top priority it deserves in national allocation of resources. This situation is however not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a malady affliction most Third World Nations. A few countries have however seen the handwriting on the wall and are reappraising their priorities. Why for instance, should the government continue to spend a disproportionate amount of its resources. As earlier mentioned, promised state-government grants are often never forthcoming and even local grants are hijacked into higher priority state-government projects.


I n conclusion, both the National and state government should strive to make the present local government stronger and should devolve on the latter the primary reason ability for supervisory role. To this end, local government units should not be further broken up; rather state governments should look into the possibility of creating community development committees or councils out of the present local government structure patterned after the Lagos state law I discussed earlier. This together with wider autonomy accorded to the councils will considerably defuse inter-community tension and will take into consideration the realities of the multi-community nature of the present local governments units.

Finally, money should be set aside annually both at the national and state levels for rural community development activities in the local governments. In addition, this amount should be administered according to national criteria which relates to self-help projects to national minimum needs for basic infrastructures as contained in the National development plan. The example is of Edo state I cited above.

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