By Ingrid V. Hudson
[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 3 (October 1965), p. 19]
(Notes of a visit paid to Nigeria in connection with work for a thesis for the degree of M.A., by Ingrid V.Hudson)
In five weeks spent in Nigeria I was able to meet leading civil servants in the Regional Ministries of Local Government (of Native Administration in the Northern Region) and also to visit local authorities in each region. In addition, through staying at the Institute of Administration at Zaria, I was made more aware of the many problems of those faced with the task of training Native Authority officials.
Three impressions of the present working of local government most readily spring to mind:
(i) Local authorities have themselves become the subject of political controversy. As the home bases of traditional authority, they have been, are, or will most likely become, the focal point of conflict between traditionalism and modernity. Regional governments are known to tolerate grass-roots conflict, in any form, only so long as no challenge is issued to their own positions. The suspension of all local authorities in the Western Region (the last to be suspended was Ibadan on February 4th) is indicative of the value ascribed to”independent” local government in time of political crisis.
(ii) In all regions there is a lank of resources, human and financial. The greater attraction of civil service employment, the malpractices apparent in council control of staffing arrangements and the lack of training facilities have contributed to the councils’ lack of suitable personnel at all grades. The establishment of unified Local Government Services in the Eastern and Western Regions, it is hoped, may lead to an improvement of the present situation. Throughout Nigeria there is a basic lack of resources. The strength of local authority finance is further sapped by the non-utilisation, through corruption and mis-management, of existing resources.
(iii) The premium placed upon the local authorities’ political conformity to the Regional Government, and the lack of resources, combine to limit the effectiveness of local authorities as instruments of administration. Fragmentation of existing units continues, in response to sectional pressures. The necessary reaction of the Regional Administration seems to lie in the investment of “local government” functions within the branches of their own hierarchies. Growing demands for social services, now all too frequently inadequately provided, make it politically inexpedient for any government to tolerate the present set-up for any great length of time.
The great hopes expressed in the potentialities of local government increase one’s concern for its future. Being the branch of government closest to the people, its performance must colour popular attitudes to government as a whole – regional or federal.