Historical Background

The evolution of local government system in Nigeria could be traceable to the Great Britain municipalities form of local government. This system was introduced in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu etc had similar responsibilities with that obtainable in Britain. This is a multiple system of local government that operated before the 1976 Local Government reforms. After the Second World War, local government councils gradually replaced indirect rule system of native authority of the emirs and law making became relatively easy even when most of the native authorities were so large.

In Southern Nigeria, it was different from the native authorities. The native authority system respected and guaranteed the authority of the emirship system existing in the Northern region. It was a multiple system in the southern part of the country. There were in place Divisional Council, all purpose District Council, Local Councils, City Councils etc. Their powers were defined and made specific by the powers that created them. For example, the law or instrument which established a local council always set out a list of functions which local government bodies could perform. The law then authorised the minister of local government to allocate these powers and functions to the different levels or tiers of local governments. In southern Nigeria, the structure of local government councils showed, Eastern region with two-tier system of local government, Mid-west and Western regions with three-tier system and Lagos onetier system.



Structure: The 1976 reforms of local government changed the multiple system of local government councils to a single-tier all-purpose local government. All the local governments were made the third-tier of government after the central and state governments.



  1. Establishment and maintenance of Cemetries and homes for the destitute.
  2. Collection of rates, radio and television licences.
  3. Licensing of bicycles, trucks, canoes, wheel barrows and carts.
  4. Establishment and maintenance and. regulation of markets, motor parks and public conveniences.
  5. Construction and maintenance of roads,streets, drains and other public highways, parks, open spaces or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a state.
  6. Registration: Local governments are involved in the registration of births, deaths and marriages in their areas of authority.
  7. Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates.
  8. Control and regulation of out-door advertising and hoardings, movement and keeping of pets of all description, shops and kiosks, restaurants and other places for sale of food to the public and Laundries.
  9. Also to participate in the provision and maintenance of primary education, development of agriculture and natural resources, the provision and maintenance of health services.
  10. Naming of streets: They are involved in naming of streets, roads and to number houses.
See also  MASS MEDIA



  1. The National Assembly: The National Assembly make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils.
  2. House of Assembly of a state: House of Assembly make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils.
  3. Grants: Another source of finance is the special grants they receive from both the central and state governments. However, in most cases, these grants are for specific projects.
  4. Collection of rates: Revenues are equally generated through collection of rates on radio and television licenses, market shops and stalls etc.
  5. Commercial ventures: In recent time, some local governments were involved in commercial ventures like, transportation.
  6. Payment of fines: Fines are paid by those that have disobeyed the rules and regulations and it form part of the local government revenue.



  1. Shortage of trained personnel: Acute shortage of trained and experienced personnel affect the efficiency of local governments.
  2. Acute shortage of fund: Most local governments do not have enough funds to operate.
  3. Political interference: Political leaders have at different times interfered with the activities of local governments.
  4. Bribery and corruption: Some officials demand and even take bribe before performing their normal functions.
  5. Diversion of public fund: Some officials involved in revenue collection embezzle part of the fund for their own selfish ends.
  6. Granting of undue favour: Some local government officials use their positions to give undue favour to their friends, e.g. in the award of contracts.
  7. Tribalism, nepotism and favouritism: These are mainly observed in the areas of appointment, transfer , discipline and promotion of staff.



  1. Uniform system of local government: There was the introduction of a uniform system of local government throughout the country.
  2. Federal government involvement: The federal government became directly involved in local government administration.
  3. Service board/ commission: There was the introduction of local government service board/commission in all the states.
  4. Statutory functions: The local governments were given specific statutory functions to perform.
  5. Single tier: All the local governments were made all- purpose single tier local government.
  6. Appointment: There was the appointment of full-time chairmen and supervisory councillors.
  7. Condition of service: The condition of service of local government staff was unified with that of their counter-parts in state and federal civil service.
  8. Grants: Federal and state governments were made to give grants to local governments.
  9. Key committees: Each council was mandated to have certain key committees like the Finance and General purposes committee and any other two committees.
  10. Term of office: The majority of local councillors were to be elected on a three year basis.
  11. Exclusion of traditional rulers: The traditional rulers were excluded from local government councils.
  12. Traditional/Emirate council: The reform brought in the establishment of traditional/ emirate councils.



The system of Indirect rule introduced by the British colonial administration in Nigeria made use of traditional rulers in government The system worked very well, especially, in Northern Nigeria, where in the first instance, a House of Chiefs as a second chamber in the region was established during the colonial period. Also, in the First Republic, House of Chiefs were in place in each of the three regions . Membership was mainly first class and second class traditional rulers. The first chamber was House of Assembly and House of Chiefs as the second chamber. The following are some of their roles or functions in government.

  1. Ministerial appointment: Some of them were appointed as ministers, though, without port-folio, i.e ., no specific functions to perform than their traditional role.
  2. Appointed as governors: For example, the Late Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife, was made the regional governor of the Western Region in, 1960.
  3. Legislation: They were also appointed into the second chamber in the regional lawmaking body (House of Chiefs). They worked with the first chamber (House of Assembly) in legislation. Laws were made by both houses.
  4. President of customary courts: Some traditional rulers were appointed as president of customary courts. They involved themselves in the administration of cases in these courts.
  5. The tyranny of the first chamber: House of Chiefs acted as a check to any tyrannical act of the upper chamber.
  6. Representation of the grassroots: They were seen as the representatives of the people at the grassroots.
  7. Acted as a link: They were seen as a link between the people and the government.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *