Department Of Political Science
University Of Calabar
Calabar – Nigeria
Central Bank of Nigeria Owerri Branch
The article focuses on inter-governmental relations and the challenges of Third Tier Government. The aim is to show the nature and pattern of inter-governmental relations between Cross River State government and the eighteen local government councils. The article reveals that the relationship between Cross River State Government and the eighteen local government councils is that of dominance in favour of the State Government. This finds expression in complete supervision and control manifested mainly in Administrative, judicial and legislature control. This complete control has removed independence from local governments and renders them helpless in instituting programmes that address the peculiar needs of the local area. The article recommends that state involvement in local government matters be abolished to give room for some measure of autonomy.
The evidence of a number of observers as concerning intergovernmental relations is that the relationship between Cross River State Government and that of the eighteen local Government Councils has reverted to a master-servant one. Only in a few instances, it might be argued, is the partnership model being encouraged. The control exercised by the State Government Authorities over the local government seem to be extensive in Cross River State, as well as other states in Nigeria.
This control exercise is deemed necessary to ensure a standard of service which otherwise might vary greatly from one authority to another. Any restraint must, to some extent, limit local autonomy but the degree and its many forms continuously perturb those who feel that local democratic participation in decisions which determine the conduct of the local government service is being, and in some cases has been superseded by the remote dictates of “Government House Jugement” Whether the choice is as simple as that between local democratic inefficiency and centralised competence, as is sometimes suggested, is highly controversial…
According to Eyamba (2001) the relationship between the Cross River State government and its constituent local government councils is very puzzling and unsatisfactory. Eyamba wants a straightforward answer to the question “which is the master and which is servant”?
In law, the control and supervision of local government authorities by the State government is considerable; in practice the influence of unwritten conventions and personal relationships greatly modify this fact. Let us examine some of this control areas.
Administrative Control between the State government and the local government makes many forms. One of them is inspection. Most people have heard of school inspector, from the State Ministry of Education, whose duty is to see that local education authorities) properly fulfill their responsibilities under the Education Legislation.
Another form of control is through “default powers”, which means that if a Commissioner is not satisfied with the way in which a local authority is performing its function, he may make an order requiring it to do certain things by a certain time, and if it fails to do so, he may take the powers from it and exercise them himself, either directly or appointing a new authority to do so.
Again, certain matters which are within the general competence of local government authorities nevertheless require approval from the State Government before they are valid. Certain local authorities are responsible for building schools and houses; but they are required to submit the plans to the appropriate ministry for approval, as government wants to ensure that certain standards are maintained and that public funds are appropriately expended.
Apart from these specific controls, commissioners today have varying and considerable powers of delegated legislation. Legislation from the House of Assembly governing the services which local authorities administer only with broad principles, much of the detail is left to be filled from time to time by the Commissioner who is empowered under these acts to make subsidiary legislation, in the form generally known as “Statutory Instruments”.
But alongside these controls, there are constant consultations of a less formal kind between ministries and local authorities, both through demi-official correspondences and personal civil servants on the one hand and Chief Officers of local authorities, Chairmen of Committees and Representative Councillors on the other.
The fact that most local government councils in Cross River State behave responsibly means that controls are kept to a minimum and consultation to a maximum, and hence they can stir up a partnership relationship between State ministries and local government authorities. Partnership can, of course, vary in degree, and there can be senior, junior or equal partners, the kind of partnership which exists between State government departments and local government authorities varies with the subject matter. For example, in housing matters, the State Government could be called the senior partner, since it provides most of the money and keep a close control on sitting, designing and coating. The Local Government authority’s function is to maintain the houses in good condition.
In providing many local amenities on the other hand, the local government authorities are the senior partners, for the State government is not heavily involved financially and does not wish to exercise control in the national interest. In education the partnership could he called an equal one since the State ministry of education keeps a tight control on the building design, equipment and cost of schools, but the local government authority has real independent responsibility for what happens inside them, with regards to children and teachers
The State government controls the local government by influencing annual budget allocations, deciding to give or withhold grants, approve or disapprove loans as well as by auditing their financial accounts. It is the State Government that approves the budget estimates of local government. Where it is discovered that a local government council plans to undertake activities that its revenue cannot support, the state government can refuse to accept such activities from being included in the budget.
The State government can also decide to almost assist local governments by offering grants and loans for specific programmes. If it does so, it will control the local government in the way the money is spent. In the event of any doubt over the honesty of local government staff in handing the finances, the State government has the power to audit their account. Those found to gave misused government funds are often punished. The State government provides local government councils with guidelines on how to control and use public money, referred to as financial memoranda or regulations. This guidelinesassist local government staff in the way to control the public funds and helps them to avoid being embarrassed by state Government Auditors.
The Fourth Schedule in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly states the functions of a Local Government. The limit of the powers to perform certain functions by a Local Government is also spelt out by the instrument establishing it. Where any local government acts in excess of its powers, the Courts of Competent Jurisdiction in the State can declare the acts ultra vires and therefore null and void.
A local government is established by the Federal Government for administrative convenience and so, if it errs, the State has the power to either dissolve or suspend the local government and set up a judicial Commission and inform the Court and/or organise a fresh election for the purpose of the replacement of the former members within a period of three months.
The Sharia palaver which became a pervasive issue in the country and the tension from the powers of its existence is tending to tip the social, economic and political balance in this country. This is so because any local government in the Northern part of the country has the power to put the customary law in place within its area of authority. However, such declaration must be consented by the State Government for it to be operational.
Also, local government as a legal corporation is liable in Court for certain classes of action specified by law. Local Government does not exist independently. There is interdependency that legalizes some actions of the local government as a political entity.
Each local government has a legislative council that possess the power to make bye-laws as outlined in the 1976 local government Edict. But it should be note-worthy that such bye-laws cannot come into effect without the approval of the State Government.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Evidently, there is a strong intergovernmental relations between the local government and the State government in Nigeria. This relationship is mostly in form of control and supervision, which manifest itself in the following areas:
- Legislative control
- Administrative control
- Judicial control
In seeking for solutions to problems of local-State intergovernmental relations, it is necessary to utilize a time-frame. What makes sense may not be practicable in the present circumstances. Therefore, we can classify the strategies that have been (or is being) proposed into two: Those for the long-term and those for the short-term; to quote the economists.
Two alternative proposals are usually made for the long-term. The first set of proposals call for an abolition of State ownership in local government matters, for whatever it is worth. This will normally entail a disbandment of the Department of Local Government and the Local Government Service Commission at the State level and the decentralization of inter-governmental relations institutions at the State level in a way that will permit greater local government achievement and leadership. Invariably, this position often calls for a stronger Federal involvement in local government along the lines of financial instrument.
On the other hand, the other emphasizes the dire need for strengthening state control and co-ordination of the local government and their activities. To them, most of the present problems arise because the work of the different State ministries and their field agencies are not co-ordinated with those of the local governments.
These are all for the future. Meanwhile, the emphasis under the present system
must be on the quantitative and qualitative improvement of local government personnel.
This is because only by performing at a tolerable level, given the improved revenue of their
councils, can local government officials prove their worth to all other levels of government
and the citizens at large, particularly those at the grassroots. .
Local government should receive more revenue from the federal and State governments. They should equally use whatever is received judiciously. This will enable them to carry out their development responsibilities, particularly in the rural areas.
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