Federalism, according to K.C Wheare, is the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. He said that the characteristics of this Federal Principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division of powers and co-ordinate not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions (K.C Wheare, 1953: 10).
The practice of federalism in Nigeria is one of the legacies the British colonial masters bequeathed to Nigeria. Local government is born out of federalism because federalism has to do with the division of power between the central and the component units local government is a component in a federal system, it is recognized as a third tier of government which is charged with the responsibility at the grass root. The local government performs certain functions assigned to it by the constitution and the local government is to be autonomous in its own to carry out all its responsibilities without interference from the central government.
The local government should do precisely the word government in its own sphere. The evolution of local government in Nigeria has undergone a lot of changes and all these are geared towards making the local government a system that could serve the purpose for its creation. But specifically in 1976, under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime introduced the 1976 local government reform. The reform recognized the local government as the third tier of government in the Nation and it is expected to do precisely what the word local government implies that is, governing at the local level. The reforms also intend to stimulate democratic self government, encourage initiative and leadership potential and entrain the principle of this reform for the local government to be autonomous having the freedom to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference, the local government system in Nigeria still have some constraints that have impeded it’s autonomy. (Okoli, 2005: 107).
Local government Autonomy is meant the Freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own Finances, make policies, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference. Before the 1976 Local Government Reform, Local Governments were under the direct tutelage of the state government which vested with the exclusive powers to make and unmake them. As a result, Local Governments were subjected to excessive controls by their respective state governments. These controls by their respective state governments were carried out through such mediums as approval of bye-laws and major contracts, appointment of certain categories of professional and administrative staff, approval of annual estimates and loan proposals and funding through grants-in-aid.
These control measures posed negative consequences as they culminated into delays which in turn frustrated many important policies and programmes in the local government area. In addition, state governments created, modified, dissolved and suspended local government councils at will. The states had the power to abolish their local government system. In fact, local government existed at the mercy of the state.
The autonomy of local government in Africa countries such as Nigeria is more in theory than in practice. As Olowu (1988:71) succinctly puts it:
Most government has opted for the direct control by central government of their local governments through a battery of legal, financial and administrative controls… So called “local government” units of central governments or worse still, exist as parallel institutions to the government’s field administration controlled by both the central and field units.
The heavy dependence of local governments in Nigeria for instance on statutory allocation from the Federal government whittles down the autonomy of the former.
It puts local government at the mercy of the federal government. Furthermore, successive Nigerian governments (both federal and state) have interfered in the actual functioning of the local government. For instance, between 1984 and late 1987, local government councils were abolished and the administration of the affairs of the local government were placed entirely on the sole administrator. Again, in 1994, the elected local government council were disbanded by the military government of General Abacha and replaced with caretaker committees (Ezeani, 2004). Also the financial autonomy of local governments has on many occasions been tempered with by the state governments. This is currently the case in Nigeria were some state governments confisiticate federal allocations to the local government and give whatever amount they like to the chairman to run the local government. (Ezeani, 2004:86).
Despite these for reaching measures as recommended by the 1976 local government reform thereby making it the bedrock of modern local government system in Nigeria, One can safely assert that the local government still has some constraints that have actually impeded its success. These in the view of Olugbemi (1986) can be summarized as;
– Continued jurisdiction of state government over the most important functions allocated to local government in the guidelines and as stipulated in the fourth schedule of 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
– Continued imposition of various central government, it controls the selection of councilors, in budgeting and budget control, in policy determination including the determination of fiscal policies, in personnel management etc which tend to diminish the value of government in local governments.
The concepts of Federalism bristles with difficulties as there are quite a number of views or opinions trying to explain this elusive term (there is no unanimity of opinions). As Daniel Elazer (1992) observed, “there are several varieties of political arrangements to which the term is properly been applied” (Jinadu, 1980:26). William Ricker also pointed out that “an initial difficulty in any discussion of federalism is that the meaning of the word has been thoroughly confused by dramatic changes in the institutions to which it refers” (Ibid). The word Federalism etymologically has its root from the Latin word “Foedus” meaning compact or league. From the same Latin word “Foedus” the following English words “Federal, Federate,” and the word federation” came into existence and found their ways into the stream of English language, politics and law. In constitutional law the word “Federal” is commonly employed to express a league or compact between two or more states to become a United Nation under the central government called the “federal government.”
According to K.C., Wheare, (1953:10) is the method of dividing powers so that central and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent. According to him, the characteristics of this federal principle are the division of powers among levels of government, a written constitution showing this division and co-ordinate, not sub-ordinate supremacy of the two levels of government with respect to their functions. Wheare’s central argument is that federalism will be adopted if people in the constitutional units.
Desire to be under a single independent government for some purposes at any rate and desire at the same time to retain or to establish independent regional government on some matter at least. (K.C Wheare, 1963: 35-36).
From Wheare’s definition of federalism, the constitutional provision protects the autonomy of different regional levels of governments and as such neither the central or regional governments are subordinate to each other, but rather the two levels of government are coordinate and independent.
William Livingston (1956:1-2) looked beyond the narrow confines of legal formulation to the general systemic view and saw federalism as the product of the interaction of socio-cultural and political factors, while observing that the documentary constitution may be a poor guide to whether a political system is Federal or otherwise. He explained that:
The essential nature of Federalism is to be sought for not in the shade of legal and constitutional terminology, but in the forces, economic, social, political and cultural that has made the outward forms of Federalism lies not in the institutional structure but in the society itself. Federal government is a device by which the federal qualities of the society are protected. (Livingston, 1956:3).
This is a departure from Wheare’s legal construct; Livingston demonstrates interaction between constitutions framework and socio-cultural structures. In effect, he shows that the form of constitution is not dependent of the centripetal and centrifugal forces operating in the society. Livingston went further to distinguish between a federal constitution; which is the legal document, and a federal society necessitates the federal constitution. He notes the Federal constitution to mean the arrangement incorporating the federal principles, such as the division of powers while the federal society is one with a plurality of ethnic groups with different historical, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, but in which each ethnic group occupies a marked and distinct geographical location from the others. Federalism therefore becomes a device for compromising unity in diversity. Livingston (1956:3).however emphasized the need for common political tradition if federalism is to survive asserting that “of all the factors that go into matrix out of which Federations are produced similarly of social and political tradition is probably the most important.
Livingston concluded that the political institutions of Federalism once created, “May themselves shape the pattern of society by determining the channels which these social pressures will flow, in short, the constitution affects and is effected by societal diversities”.
The problem with the above analysis is while stating the factors, which affect the operations of a federal system; it is vague on which of these factors are necessary conditions for the formation of a federation. Similarly, Livingston’s definition of federal system’s so broad that all societies with division of powers can find niche in the classification. For example, this approach does not help in sorting out the boundaries between federal states like U.S.A and decentralized system like Britain.
Carl Friedrich (1963:35), shares a similar view with K.C Wheare. According to him, Federalism should be seen as a process by which unity and diversity are politically organized and this process include all political phenomena, persons, institutions and ideas. He described a federation as union of group selves, united by one or more objectives but retaining their distinctive group level, while association is on the interpersonal level. He noted that federalism without destroying themselves that are uniting and is meant to strengthen them in their mutual relations. Friedrich argued that federalism should be a process. The process by which a number of separate political communities enter into arrangements for working out solutions, adopting joint policies and making joint decisions on joint problems and conversely also the process by which a unitary political community becomes differential into a federally organized whole.
Itse Sagay (2003) corroborates with Wheare by posting that Federalism is;
An arrangement whereby political power within a multinational country are shared between a Federal or central authority and a number of regionalized governments, in such a way that each unit, including the central authority, exists as a government separately and independently from the others, operating directly on persons and property within its territorial area, with a will of its own and its own apparatus for the conduct of affairs and with an authority in some matters exclusive of all others. In a federation each government enjoys autonomy, a separate existence and independence of the control of any other government. Each government exists, not as an appendage of another government but as an autonomous entity in the sense of being able to exercise its will on the conduct of its affairs far from the direction by any government.
The above definition is in line with Wheare’s own stipulation that in the Federal system, there is no hierarchy of authorities, with the central government on the others. All governments have a horizontal relationship with each other.
Another scholar on the discussion of federalism is Austin Ranny (1993: 789) who sees federalism as a system of government where power is divided between a national government and several sub-national governments, each of which is legally supreme on its assigned sphere. He noted that Federalism was adopted as political expediency, adding that Federalism has been widely praised as of the grant American contribution to the art of government
A number of different nations have adopted it as a way of enabling regions with sharp different cultures and interest to join together as one nation. The clearest examples are nations like Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland also in Brazil, India and Mexico.
Osaghie (1990) also argues that an important characteristic which distinguishes Federal character systems from non Federal systems is contractual, non-concentration of power. According to him, in a Federal state, there is an irrevocable division of power as a product of constitutional compact among the nationalities or sub-communities that compose the Federation.
Tekena Tamuno (1989:18), Federalism as a form of government where the component units of a political organization participate in sharing powers and functions in a cooperative manner though the combined forces of ethnic pluralism and cultural diversity, among others, tend to pull their people apart. Delicate arrangements of this kind were carefully worked out, provide sufficient room for the co-existence of centre-seeking and centre fleeing forces, peace, for lucky communities which achieve and sustain measure of this, under these arrangements, is not necessarily that of the grave, where people agree sometimes and disagree sometimes, concerning the goals and means of co-operative governments of this kind, friction and conflict resolution is quite possible through the time and effective intervention of accredited authorities and organs of government.
Professor Attahiru M. Jega (1999) gave a seemingly elementary but useful definition of federalism, by saying a federal system is a government in which the written constitution or an inviolable statutory precedent specifies that certain fundamental authority adheres to a central government and that other fundamental authority belongs to smaller areas. (Eligwu, 1996: 88). In this sense, Federalism is essentially about the distribution of political and economic decision making power among constitutions units or levels of government. Some inferences can be drawn from the above literatures on the concept of federalism; the first is that the study of federalism is still in a state of partial theory with the numerous writers, each speaking a language particular to him. On close examination, it can be observed that no fundamental disagreement exists among the scholar in their divergent approaches to the topic. Each approach is a narrow perspective of the broad theme and none by itself explains the totality of the federal concept. For example, Wheare provides a legal framework of what constitutes a federal constitution, Livingston looks beyond the surface to the social diversities that the constitutional divisions of powers is supposed to mirror, while Friedrich looks intensely at the actual operation of the societal centripetal and centrifugal forces and how they affect the constitutional arrangement.
On the whole it could be inferred that the existing literature that pictures what is federal government and what is not, remains as blurred as ever. The student of federalism is therefore in a sort of quandary.
But for the purpose of this study, the definition as given by K.C. Wheare (1953) would be adopted as a working definition because it is still not possible except by this Wheare’s definition to determine the prerequisite of federalism and basis on which to establish which countries are federal and which are not.
In the view of the United Nations office for public administration Local government is a political division of a nation or (in federal system), state, which is constituted by law, and has control of local affairs, including the power to impose taxes or exact labour for prescribed purpose. The government of such an entity is elected or otherwise locally selected (quoted in Ola 1984:7).
According to Ola (1984) who is in line with the above assertion, indicates some elements which precipitate the establishment of local government as the third tier of government;
-citizen’s participation in the management of local affairs
-efficient and equitable provision of essential service
– Resource mobilization for development purpose
William Robson in Mahal (2006) asserts that local government involves the conception of territorial, non-sovereign community possessing the legal right and the necessary organization to regulate it own affairs. This in turn presupposes the existence of a local authority with power to act independently of external control as well as the participation of the local community in the administration of its own affairs.
In the 1976 local government reform hand book, local government was defined as Government at the local level exercised through representative councils established by law to exercise specific power within defined areas. These powers should give the council substantial control over local affairs as well as the staff and institutional and financial power to initiate and direct the provision of services and to determine and implement project so as to complement the activities of the state and federal government in their areas, and to ensure and through devolution of function to council and through the active participation of the people and their traditional institutions that local initiatives and response
to local needs and condition are maximized.
Price (1975:160) sees local government as:
An attempt to make use of its citizens’ local loyalties by delegating local function to local administrative bodies, which may be various type, such as locally elected representative body, a recognized traditional authority or local representative, with clearly defined power of the central government.
Drain (2000) in his book “Local Government Administration”, perceives local government as the lower level of government responsible for domestic enhancement. To him, he said development must start from the grassroots with an organized system and with public enlightment. Development should be every body’s business, local government is the government close to the people and that listens to the people. Local government is therefore all about enhancement and agent of rural or community development.
Odenigwe (1979) sees the local government in Nigeria as the ultimate agency for mobilizing citizens and material resource for rural development under the new system. Local governments are now in a better position to mobilize, direct and co-ordinate the efforts of the people on rural development.
Venkataranyaiga and Pattabhiram see the local government as
The administration of a locality a village, a town, a city or any other area smaller than the state by a body representing local Inhabitants, possessing a fairly large amount of authority, raising at least a part of its revenue through local taxation and spending its income on service which are regarded as local and therefore distinct from state and central services.
According to L. Ademolekun and L. Rowland, (1979:1) sees the local government as a tier of government with formal and unequivocal recognition of local government as constituting a distinct level of government with defined boundaries clearly stated functions and provision. To el-borate on this definition above, being a tier means that unlike before when local government was placed under the ministry or department, with limited responsibilities, it is now regarded as the third level of government and charged with greater and additional responsibilities of mobilizing, sensitizing and harnessing the human and material resource at the local level for the development of such localities. As the third tier of government the local government now enjoys the following autonomy.
Staff: the local government can now recruit, pay and discipline their staff through the local government service commission.
The local government now enjoys high level manpower unlike before.
Financial autonomy: the local government as a third tier of government now gets its fiscal allocation from revenue allocation and mobilization commission. It also exercise control over its annual budget.
Fiscal autonomy: it can now generate its own money through rent, rate and tolls.
From the assertions of all the scholars reviewed above, it is seen that they all agree that the local government is a third tier of government and as such is an agent of rural development.
Local Government Autonomy
There is a good deal of confusion and misinterpretation to what the term “autonomy“ connotes, despite its regular usage, yet the real understanding of the term leaves much to be desired. The numerous scholars and government functionaries who used the term assumed that their audience understands the concept furthermore; government’s reform that is intended to preserve or extend local government autonomy ends up short of their objectives because the full meaning of the term autonomy has not been fully explained (Odunfa, 1991). Local government autonomy is the freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make polices, laws and provide services within the limits of its resources and functions without interference from the federal and state government. The work of different scholars will be reviewed on the meaning of local government autonomy.
Nwabueze (1983) defines the autonomy under a federal system to mean “each government enjoys a separate existence and independence from the control of the other government. It is an autonomy which requires just legal and physical existence of an apparatus of government like a legislative assembly, Governor, Court e.t.c. but that each government must exist not as an appendage of another government but as an autonomous entity in the sense of being able to exercise its own will in the conduct of its affairs free from direction of another government. According to Nwabueze, autonomy would only be meaningful in a situation whereby each level of government is not constitutionally bound to accept dictation or directive from another.
In the view of the defunct centre for democratic studies local government autonomy refers to “the relative discretion which local government enjoys in regulating their own affairs the extent to which local government are free from the control of the state and federal government in the management of local affairs. In this contribution on the literature of autonomy Davey (1991) opines that “local autonomy is primarily concerned with the question of responsibilities, resources and discretion conferred on the local authorities. As such discretion and responsibility at the care of local government it presumes that local government must poss. the power to take decision independent of external control within the limits laid at own by the law. It must garner efficient resumes particularly of finance to meet their responsibilities put differently lead autonomy is the freedom of independence in clearly defined issue, are as separate legal identity from other level of government. In essence, when one talks of local government autonomy in Nigeria’s policy we refer to the relative independence of local government control by the state and federal governments. Therefore it is the nature and structure of transactions or interaction between the three levels of government that reveals the degree of local government autonomy.
The autonomy of local government in African countries such as Nigeria is more a theory than in practice. As Olowu (19988:71) succinctly puts it:
A battery of legal, financial and administrative controls… so called “local government units”. In Most government in African have opted for direct control by central government of the local government through reality operate like field administrative units of central Government or worse still exist as parallel institutions to the government’s field administration controlled by both the central and field units.
The heavy dependence of local government in Nigeria for instance to statutory allocation from the federal government whittles down the autonomy of the former, it puts local government at the mercy of the federal government. Furthermore, successive Nigerian government (both federal & state) has interfered in the actual functioning of the local government. For instance between 1984 and late 1987, local government council were abolished and the administration of the affairs of the local government were placed entirely on the sole administrator. Again in 1991, the elected local government council were disbanded by the military government of General Abacha and replaced with caretaker committees.
Also the financial autonomy of local government has on many occasions been confisticated by the State Government. This is currently the case in Nigeria were some state government confisticate federal allocations to local government and give whatever amount they like to the chairman to run local government (Ezeani, 2004: 186).
In the critique of the government of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria, Akpan (1982:160)
By the use of these central government official in these roles, by limiting the financial and executive
powers and functions of local government to the whims and pleasures of the central government by taking over control of staff serving local government, by assuming the main financial responsibility for local government services; Nigeria from independence practiced a veiled form of integrated administration decentralization with the so-called local government serving as nothing but mere arms and agents to the central government.
It is no surprise therefore, that Ronald Wraith who has written extensively on local government, once had to change the title of his book from “local government in West Africa” to local administration in West Africa” because he realized that in most cases that what exist in West African countries were mere local administration rather than local government (Wraith 1982: 224). Despite these far reaching measures as recommended by the reforms especially 1976 thereby making it the bedrock of modern local government system in Nigeria, one can safely assert that the local government’s autonomy is more of a theory than in the real practice of it and this is an impediment to its success. These in the view of Olugbemi (1986) can be summarized as, Continued jurisdiction of state government over the most important functions allocated to local government in the guideline and as stipulated in the fourth schedule of 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The failure of the federal government to effect a more equitable sharing of the tax field among the three levels of government. Continued imposition of various central government controls in the selection of councilors, in budgeting and budget control, in policy determination including the determination of fiscal policies, in personnel management e.t.c. which tend to diminish the value of government in local government.
Structural functionalism as described by Haralambos and Holborn (2004: 936-937) is a theoretical framework that is intended to explain the basis for the maintenance of order and stability in society and the relevant arrangement within the society which maintain from the biological sciences was abinitio adopted as a mode of analysis by Gabriel Almond. Almond contends that every political system has structures that are there to perform certain functions. It goes further to say that every political system involves structure and functions according to Robert Marton (quoted in Nwaogu 2002: 47) are “those observed consequences which make for the adaptation or adjustment of a given system “structures on the other hand, refer to “the arrangement within the system which perform the function” it is therefore evident in the view expressed above that for the continued existence of a political system, all structures must be allowed to perform its functions allocated to it by the constitution freely.
Gabriel Almond the main proponent of this theory developed seven (7) specific functions which every political system must perform;
In Nigeria, power is shared among the three level of government (federal, state, and local) which in this regard are the structures: these structure are expected to be taken care of by the constitution taking cognizance of the notion that constitution is the frame or composition of government, to the way in which a government is actually structured in terms of its levels, the distribution of power within it, the relations of the organs, and the procedures for exercising powers (Nwabueze, 1993:1) inherent in Nwabueze’s view is that constitution creates structures, assign roles or functions to them as well as co-ordinates and regulates their respective and collective activities and relationship with each other. In Nigeria federation, the executive legislature and judiciary is assigned specific functions by the constitution. Also the three levels of government, federal state and local governments have their own powers delineated and delimited in the constitution. It is expected that the levels of government performs their respective functions as drawn in the constitution, the aim and
maintenance of order and stability which is about the most essential of the state based on the liberal scholars, could have been achieved. Again in a federal state, the various component units are equally structures which are expected to perform certain functions. Since it is expected that the central and regional government should exist independently and also co-coordinately, and not a situation where the central government assumes a dictatorial role on other levels, performing the functions the regional government is to perform, it is then logical that all the component units should be autonomous & economically viable as to ensure uniformity in size of the government units as anything contrary to this could suggest J.S. mills’ “law of instability” if a particular structure is not viable there will certainly be limitations on the functions it is expected to perform for the continuous existence of the federation. Moreover, since the constitution has a pride of place in federal practice, it then becomes imperative that the various structures in a federation should participate in its making as this is also part of their function. A deviation from this view, could amount to a situation where the constitution will fail to reflect the aspiration of the people. The constitution might as well fail to institutionalize the appropriate structures whose functions it also ought to define and delimit. In other words the constitution may even create structures, but fail to assign appropriate functions to them. Furthermore, it is important to note that the federal system of government has the local government as the third tier and not an administration under any other level of government as provided by the 1976 local government reform, and also in the constitution (1999) 4th schedule, it assigns some functions to the local government thus, in a federal system practice, the various level of government are supposed to be sharing powers & functions in such a way that power will not be concentrated or centralized on a particular tier at the detriment of others. In line with structural functional theory, if the local government is allowed with a full autonomy to perform its function within its jurisdiction, in a way will enhance service delivery at the grassroots. Both the input & output functions should be performed simultaneously, output should be a product of input function therefore constitution making as output functions should reflect the inputs made by various structures. In a situation where there is a deviation from this practice, structural defects set in and if not properly managed, could lead to system decay.
ii. Local government
iii. Local government autonomy
vi. Local government officials
i. Federalism: it is a system of government in a country otherwise referred to as a federation, is a system of government in which the political and socio-economic powers are shared between the central government (referred to as federal government) and the co-ordinate political sub-division of the country, referred to in Nigeria as region but now referred to as states and local government.
ii. Local government: it is a government at the local level exercised through representative council established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas. These powers should give the council substantial control over local affairs as well as the staff, institutional and financial powers to initiate and direct the provision of service and to determine and implement projects so as to complement the activities of the state and federal government in their areas and to ensure through active participation of the people and their traditional institution that local initiatives and responses to local needs are maximized.
iii. Local government autonomy: is the freedom of the local government to recruit and manage its own staff, raise and manage its own finances, make policies, laws and provide service within the limits of its resource and functions without interference from the federal and state government.
iv. Functions: observed consequences which made for the adoption or adjustment of a given system.
v. Structure: the arrangement within the system which performs the functions.
vi. Local government reform: it is an attempt to re-organize the local government so as to improve the whole activities at that level.