Local governments reach the masses on a more specific level.
Interestingly, one of the purposes of establishing the local government was to encourage participation of the people at the grassroots in administering their affairs.
Through this medium, it was intended that the impact of the Constitution as executed by the federal and state arms of government was felt by the people at the local or often termed grassroots level.
Nigeria is undoubtedly one of the world’s most prominent black democracies.
Like many other federations, the Nigerian federation has evolved over time and has undergone considerable political restructuring to realise the object of true federalism.
Perhaps unlike other federal unions, Nigeria’s federalism has generated considerable debate and controversy. Part of this controversy revolves around the three-tier structure of the federation: the federal government at the centre; the Federal Capital Territory and 36 state governments; and 774 local governments.
While it has been difficult to deal with and hold government at the federal and state levels accountable for the constitutional backing they enjoy, it had become increasingly popular and important to examine and check the functions of governance at the grassroots.
Simply put, this is the art of governance done within a specified local area by state endorsed representative councils, who have been delegated specific power by the state government to make certain laws that address the unique needs of their locality while carefully observing the larger constitution of the nation.
Hence they are the last links in the chain of authority nearest to the local communities and the grassroots.
Some functions of the local government.
1. They make recommendations to the state thereby helping the state to be more precise in its planning
2. They see to the welfare of the destitute in their locality
3. They are charged with generating revenues for the state through vehicle licensing
4. They are responsible for the naming of streets and roads and numbering of houses
5. They are responsible for the registration of births, marriages and death.
6. One important function of the local government is to provide the space, feedback for the testing of state policies before larger implementation.
7. It is the function of the local government to provide public utilities to the people such as construction and maintenance of roads, construction of drainage, provision of street lighting, recreation centres like parks and gardens and open spaces among others.
In the Nigerian context, the local government has largely played these roles. They have largely reflected what the state and federal arms of government are.
They have been praised as an innovative third tier of government, which through its statutory functions, has been able to bring government to the doorstep of rural dwellers, which has made possible for these people to participate in the actual running of the government.
Complaints have been made in local communities regarding corruption, non performance, injustices, exploitation, intimidation, looting and deafness displayed by the representative councils in the local government who actually alone or are used by the higher hands of government for these purposes.
In a long run, it can safely be predicted that the local governments are going to be around for a very long time because their relevance to the totality of governance cannot be done away with.
With this realised, it should be the aim of the state and federal arms of government to see that the local government are made more effective in service to the people at the grassroots.
They should be made more accountable for what they do and what they fail to do. The state and federal arms of government should take care not to needlessly interfere or interpose unjustly in the affairs of the local governments with a view to meet the goals of a progressive federalism.