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1.1       Background of the Study                                                                            

The various levels of government that make the structure of any government are known as tiers of government. The level varies with the types of political system within each state. In unitary states, there is always the presence of two tiers of government, while in a federal states; there is always the presence of three tiers or levels of government. In unitary states where power, roles and functions are merely administratively delegated, the lower authorities tend to act as mere agents, conduits or surrogates of the central national government. The United Kingdom is an example of unitary government. But, in federal system like Nigeria, the sub-national including the local governments have varying degrees of autonomy to the extent defined by the constitution. In federal settings, significant fiscal functions (revenue generation and expenditure functions) are shared between the central and lower levels of government.

Local governments worldwide are considered as strategic institutions for the provision of basic socio-economic, environment and other services. Their strategic vantage proximity to the grassroots makes them valuable and viable for providing effective and efficient services required by the community. They can and should be engines of growth and drivers of development. They provide cultural, educational, management, research, commerce and political services. They also offer employment, health facilities and boost the local economy, and by extension, the national economy.

The term “intergovernmental relations” is commonly used to refer to relations between central, regional and local governments, as well as governments between any one sphere (level) , that facilitate the attainment of common goals through co-operation (Opeskin, 1988).

Intergovernmental relations is the interactions, relationships and the conduct of officials between governmental activities. It seeks the achievement of common goals through mutual relationships between and across vertical and horizontal governmental arrangements, alignment and cohesion across all spheres of government. The aim of governmental relations therefore, is to enable governmental activities (primarily service delivery), through synergy, effectiveness and efficiency in delivering services, to sustain democracy and strengthen delivery capacity across all spheres of government for the common good (Isioma, 2010, p.53). Flowing from the above, intergovernmental relations can be described as the interactions that take place among the different levels of government within a state.

The goals of intergovernmental relations are said to promote peace and harmony among the three tiers of government, which are the federal, state and local government, and to accelerate the achievement of self-reliant economy.  In so doing, inter-governmental relations is expected to help minimize inter-jurisdictional conflicts among the various levels of government. Also to boost greater natural economic integration through the activities of the three levels of government.  Again to enhance the emergence of co-operative rather than competitive Federation there is also need to enhance effective and efficient utilization of available human and material resources among the three levels of government. To help solve the problem of rural and urban poverty.  To achieve a situation where there is special need for integrating programmers on a nationwide scale.  To look into the situation where states, local government or unit of the federal set up have responsibilities with no resources base to perform them (Nwafor: Unpublished work).

The achievement of the objectives of inter-governmental relations is dependent on some social factors within the Nigerian social System. Some social factors include the political setting and the state of the economy in the nation.  Looking at the political setting, the inter-governmental relations is basically based on the three tiers of government that is the Federal, State and Local Government.

The current federal arrangement is a direct legacy of military rule, with the attendant risk that states and LGAs were created to behave more as agents of the center, and perhaps for the primary purpose of political distribution of national resources, and not for effective delivery of public services (Khemani, 2001). To this end, Nigeria’s fiscal federalism involves the allocation of expenditure and tax-raising powers among the federal, state and local governments. The 1999 constitution has outlined the revenue profile of each tier of government; the revenue sources of the local government only generate a paltry amount of revenue that is inconsequential. The fiscal inter-relationship between the three-tiers of government has been contentious over the years due to lack of an acceptable formula. It generates tension and bad blood among the three tiers of government.

Generally, the existence of local government has often been justified on three grounds, namely; (i) certain functions of government are purely local in character and should be locally administered and controlled; (ii) local government gives valuable opportunity for education in citizenship, that is, it provides opportunity for democratic decision-making; and

(iii) local councils are most easily held accountable to local groups and individuals than the central government and its agencies (Mill, 1912).

For several factors, the experience with Nigerian local governments has clearly deviated from these stated objectives. A cursory review of activities of local government in Nigeria, especially since 1999 when civil rule re-emerged in the country following several years of military rule, will reveal that this entity has not lived up to expectation in any of the five areas enumerated above. Rather, the local councils have been engrossed in one form of anti-development activities or the other (Oladeji, 2014). In the words of President Olusegun Obasanjo:

What we have witnessed is the abysmal failure of the local government system. It is on record that at no time in the history of the country has there been the current level of funding accruing to the local governments from the Federation Account, yet the hope for rapid and sustained development has been a mirage as successive councils have grossly under-performed in almost all the areas of their mandate….The number of local government Areas (LGAs) had also risen steadily from 301 in 1976 to 774 currently listed in the First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, yet the clamour for the creation of more LGAs has not abated. Indeed, as of date, a total of over 500 new LGAs are in the process of being created by various State Governments. At the same time, the number of States has tripled from twelve to thirty-six since January 1976 without addition of land area to Nigeria (Obasanjo 2003).

The local governments appear to have produced exactly the opposite of their original objectives in Nigeria. Rather than bringing government and development closer to the people, local governments have produced absentee local government chairmen who are only seen at council headquarters to receive the monthly statutory allocation. This is a common experience in most of the local government councils in Nigeria.

Since the new democratic dispensation in 1999, the councils have served largely as centres for the payment of salaries and allowances of staff and contractors, with little or no efforts being made to complement development aspirations of higher levels of government. In addition, the issue of local government finance, which is closely associated with the performance and relevance of the entity, has also become highly controversial. Essentially local government has very weak revenue framework; its revenue sources are residual, consisting of items with lowest revenue yield such as rates, tenement rates, market and trading license and fees; motor park duties, advertisement fees, entertainment tax, and radio/television licence. The nation’s revenue sharing system, with weak institutional framework for monitoring and control, compounds local government’s problem.


1.2       Statement of the Problem                                                                                        

The observance of intergovernmental relations in Nigeria has over the years remained quite contentious. The level of these relationships between and within the nation federating units (now consisting of federal, state and local government) particularly as it relate to revenue sharing has continually remained issues in the front burner of the nation’s polity. The encroachment of local finance by the state government has negatively affected the performance of local government in terms of its constitutional responsibilities. The setting up of state and local government joint account committee, local government service commission, ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs and other allied agencies at the state level have made local government autonomy a mirage in Nigeria.

The structure of the revenue profile of the local governments in Nigeria clearly indicates that they heavily depend on statutory allocation for their survival since the internal revenue sources are insignificant. This is so, despite the fact that about seventy per cent of the Nigerian population live in rural areas and the only impact of government on their lives will be service delivery by the local governments which presently is lacking in most local governments in Nigeria majorly as a result of the nature of the inter-governmental financial relationship and corruption. There is a clear mismatch between responsibilities and revenue powers at the lower tier of government and this has greatly affected the performance of the local government, especially in the area of service delivery.

Scholars have identified inadequate finance as a major problem hindering the efficient performance of the functions of local government in Nigeria (Adedeji, 2006). In addition, intervention over the local government financial operations by higher tiers of government is another problem militating against effective local government system in Nigeria. This relates to the issue of autonomy of the local government within the context of federal framework. Indeed, concern over autonomy of the local government derives essentially from availability of fund to execute constitutional functions (Oladeji, 2014).

Arising from the control of local governments by the ‘superior’ tiers of government are the hindrances in the performance of the local governments. Again, the usurpation of the power of the local governments has also meant the restraint of the power of the people to choose who represents them at the local government level. Many state governments have appointed people of their choice as the Committee chairmen at the local governments. The consequence of this is that the participation of the people in choosing who their leaders are cannot be realized. Worse still, the appointed committee chairmen customarily owe their allegiance to the governors of the state and not to the people. Planning and execution of projects are done not on the preference of the people but on the dictates of the state governors.

Consequently, the usurpation of power by the other two tiers of government – Federal Government and state governments – which was sometimes necessitated by poor governance quality by the local councils, have wider implications for the effective performance of the local governments that are perceived as the closest of the tiers of government.

Yet, the incapacity of the local government to perform its responsibilities would ultimately hinder the needed approach to development, which is to make development grow from the bottom to the top. It hinders the participation of the people in the affairs of the local government when the operations of the local government are being directed not from the people but from the ‘superior’ tiers of government. The situation apparently remains, as was admitted by the Political Bureau in its report, that “despite the strategic importance of local government to the national development process, its contribution has been minimal”. The next logical question then is why should this be the case in view of a lot of resources that have been committed to turning around the local government system?

The near total control and domination of the local government by the state government all over the federation has adversely impaired the ability of local governments to deliver service at the grass root. This definitely is not a healthy situation given the fact that about seventy per cent of the Nigerian population live in rural areas and the only impact of government on their lives will be service delivery by the local governments which presently is lacking in most local governments in Nigeria major as a result of the nature of the inter-governmental financial relationship and corruption.

This has made most local government in Nigeria to fail woefully in its constitutionally recognized functions, some of which are provision of basic health services, quality education, rural infrastructures and other social amenities. Ukwa West local government area of Abia state is a clear example of a local government which is under state financial and administrative control and dominance, as the state government has a tight grip on the finance and administrative function of the local government despite the fact that Ukwa West happens to be one of the few areas in the state that has crude oil in commercial quantity. In an attempt to address the problem highlighted above, this study is seeks to provide answer to the following questions:

  1. What is the relevance of intergovernmental relations in local government in Nigeria?
  2. Has the relations between the state and local government improve governance at the grass root?
  3. Is the dominance of the Local Government by the State implicated in the poor performance of Ukwa West Local Government Council of Abia State?

1.3      Objectives of the Study                                                                                 

This study has both broad and specific objectives. The broad objective of this study is to examine the impact of inter-governmental relations on state local government relations in Abia state in terms of service delivery, using Ukwa West local government as case study. However, the specific objectives are to:

  1. Examine the relevance of intergovernmental relations in local government in Nigeria
  2. Determine whether the relations between the state and local government improve governance at the grass root
  3. Ascertain whether the dominance of the Local Government by the State implicated in the poor performance of Ukwa West Local Government Council of Abia State

1.4       Significance of the Study                   


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