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LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT: IGBO-EZE NORTH LOCAL GOVERNEMNT COUNCIL, 1991-2003
Background to the Study
The government at the centre becomes meaningful to the people if the activities of local government councils touch the citizens in a positive way. Local government is the closest unit of the three tiers of government to the people. Historically, development planning in Nigeria dates back to 1946, after the Second World War. This began with the British Ten-Year Development and Welfare for Nigeria, 1946-1956.1 The Ten-Year Plan and its successor, the Five-Year Plan (1956-1960) did little to improve the lot of the Nigerian rural dwellers.2 The rural areas were denied social services that were essential for rural development. The bulk of the social services went to the cities where the British administrators and “experts” lived.3
Although underdevelopment of the colonies, including Nigeria, is the view commonly shared by scholars such as Walter Rodney, Dupe Olatusun and T. Beinberg, it may be pertinent to state here that there was some semblance of development in some areas of colonial Africa. This semblance can be illustrated by the theory of unintended consequences by Prof. Ali Mazru who used the theory to explain rural development efforts made by colonial authorities. In the Eastern Region of Nigeria, for instance, the colonial government did set up a “democratic” local government system under the Eastern Region Local Government Ordinance of 1950 for development at the grassroots.
At independence, propelled by the quest for nation-building and the influence of the agriculture, Nigerian leaders set out a development plan. During this period, development tended to be urban centred to the detriment of the rural areas. The rural areas of the country, the dwelling place of over 70% of the population, did not catch the fancy of the national development policy-makers and policy implementers. Also, the strategic position of rural Nigeria as the source of the nation’s staple food and industrial raw materials; its prime lands; its advantages in terms of better environmental quality; home of tourist sites and the overall relationship with the urban areas did not attract the attention of national development policy-makers.
But, soon, like the proverbial impatient yam harvester who would not check out the position of a tuber before hurriedly applying the digger and who cuts the tuber in two and then kneels down in search of the missing half. “Nigeria today bends over backwards in frenzied quest to develop its neglected rural regions”.4 State/federal institutions, international agencies, governments and non-governmental organisations are all involved in this plan of developing rural Nigeria. Referring to this new awakening in rural development in Africa, Julius Nyerere, ex-President of Tanzania, averred that “while other nations try to reach the moon, we are trying to reach the village”.5 Before the 1976 local government reform, the Nigerian state passed through institutional process to the evolution of the local government, it was the era of districts, county councils (1954-1991) community council (1971-1975) latter in 1976 the local government councils.
In Nigeria, the above quest to reach the Nigerian villages, to replace rural poverty with rural prosperity, led to the 1976 Local Government Reform. By this reform, local governments in Nigeria were made the third tier of governmental activities in the country and charged to govern at the local level and to perform precisely rural development functions and services. Believing that local government held the master-key to rural development and transformation, the policy-makers created a total of 299 local governments for this rural developmental purpose with elected chairmen and supervisory councilors. A total of 774 local governments were created in the country in 1991.
In 1990 the World Bank estimated that about two-thirds of Nigeria’s 88.5 million citizens lived in an estimated 97,000 rural communities. It further said that the lives of the rural dwellers were characterized by “poverty, misery, morbidity and underemployment”.6 To Robert McNamara, “it is the quickening concern for the poverty of the poorest that has continued to reinforce the priority for rural development”7. Lele and Ndu Nyako rightly noted that “poverty in Africa is a rural phenomena”8. It may be added that it is also an urban phenomenon. Nevertheless, in the rural areas are found the Nigerian peasantry, the Nigerian poor, Frantz Franon’s typology of “the Wretched of the earth”.9 That is why the local government councils were established to address the problems of rural development of which Igbo-Eze north is one. The Federal Government of Nigeria has set rural development goals for the local governments as the provision of rural health services, rural electricity, feeder roads, and rural water supply. The performance of the Igbo-Eze North Local Government Council can be assessed in the above areas.
Although the rural development question has been noted globally, there are yet controversies among policy-makers and academics on the appropriate parameters for rural development. There is also some controversy on what constitutes development and measures of development. In the opinion of the World Bank, rural development is “a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of a specific group of people – the rural poor”.10 The World Bank sees rural development from the point of view of rural modernization and monetization of the rural society leading to its transition from traditional isolation to integration within the global economy. The World Bank also tries to differentiate rural development from development activities through community efforts which are referred to as community development. By this definition rural development constitutes; a process of planned change for which one approah or the other is adopted by government or international agencies for improvement and or transformation of the lot of the rural populace.11Diejornaoh defined rural development as process of not only increasing the level of per capita income in the rural areas, but also the standard of living of the rural population measured by food and nutrition levels, health, education, housing, recreation and security.12
Typical rural areas are characterized by lack of good roads, potable water, electricity and recreation outlets, inadequate health facilities, low life expectancy and over-populated households.
To Wraith, rural development is; a change which involves an advancement in the
provision of welfare services, mobilization of human and non-human resources for the improvement and increase in the provision of infrastructural disposition of the community, state or nation in the sphere of roads, water supply, health services, education and such like areas which are within the ambit of its resources.13
But Dudley Seers, in his “measuring Development”, posits that development is a normative concept which the people who are developing set for themselves. If the goals are being met, it could be said that the people are developing. If they are not, then they are either static or retrogressing.
Definition of the Concepts
The key concepts here refer to Local Government and Rural Development. The definitions are given below:
Local government is the third tier of the government directly responsible for the management of the affairs of the rural people or better put, people at the grassroots level. The idea here is to bridge the gap between the rural people and the urban people. Local government is government at the local level administered through representative council established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas. The local government complements the activities of the state and federal governments in their areas.
Rural development affects all aspects of the economic, social and political lives of the people who inhabit the rural areas. It is the process of alleviating all the conditions associated with the rural sector, i.e agriculture, education, employment, decent housing, medical care, electricity supply, roads, other means of communication, entertainment, facilities for social interaction etc.
Land and People
Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area is made up of two main towns, Enugu-Ezike and Ette towns. Enugu-Ezike occupies the northern most fringes of Enugu State of Nigeria. It is the headquarters of the Igbo Eze North Local Government Area and exactly 19.2 kilometers from the University town of Nsukka. Its land area is approximately 260 square kilometers.14.
The town shares boundaries with the people of Obollo Afor in Udenu Local Government Area on the eastern side, the people of Alor Agu in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area and Amaka, respectively, on the western side. The people of Ette, the nonIgbo speaking people in Enugu State is the second town that make up Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area. The people of Ihakpu Awka and Ekoyi Iheaka of Igbo-Eze South of Enugu State are in the south.
The town is located on a chain of hills running through the length and breadth of its land area. There are no rivers or streams, but a few springs that serve the people. The supplies of these springs are inadequate to the teeming population which had from time immemorial been faced with perennial water problem. The people are predominantly farmers and palmwine tappers. There abound in the area, tree crops such as the oil palm, kolanuts, Irvingia species, dennentia ripetala,15 among others. The oil palm is exploited for cooking oil, kernel, palm wine, brooms, baskets and as timber.
Enugu-Ezike is densely populated and has a population of over 92.213 people.18 The town comprises 33 villages, “the least among which compares favourably with any average rural town in old Anambra State both in size and in population.16 . The 1963 and 1991 population census of the area were 92,213 and 150,000 respectively. The population was projected at 24,758 in 2001.17
Statement of the Problem
Igbo-Eze North Local Government Authority as a third tier of government has not been assessed to know to what extent it has fulfilled the obligations of developing the rural communities under its jurisdiction. One does not even have a clear picture of the activities of this tier of government because of graft, corruption, poor management and destruction of records.
There has been complaints that things have not been done as expected. Staff complain of irregular payment of salaries, the communities complain of lack of infrastructure amidst the huge allocation from the Federation account. A careful study of the performance of this Local Government Authority is thus imperative. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate to what extent Igbo-Eze North Local Government Council has been able to develop its rural communities in terms of provision of social and infrastructural facilities vis-à-vis the finance at their disposal.
Purpose of the Study
The general objective of this work is to examine the extent to which Igbo-Eze North Local Government Authority has uplifted the standard of living of the rural populace under its jurisdiction through the provision of amenities and social welfare services as promised in 1976 Local Government Reform.
Specifically, the study seeks to assess what the Local Government Area has achieved judging from the revenue allocation it received from other arms of government in the period under study.
Significance of the Study
This study is an attempt to examine the achievements and failures of the Igbo-Eze North Local Government Council in the area of rural development and transformation during this period of study. Secondly, the work tries to identify and analyse the problems inhibiting Igbo-Eze North Local Government from achieving some of its rural development objectives. The identification of the problems of Igbo-Eze North Local Government Areas may serve as a guide for other and future Local Government Administrators in facing the problem of the rural development. Moreover, the information resulting from this study will contribute to existing literature on the contribution of local government in rural development and may stimulate further research.
Several studies have been done on Local Government and rural development in Nigeria. This study focuses on the achievements, failures and the problems inhibiting Igbo Eze North Local Government from achieving some of its rural development objectives.
In this study, the researcher has drawn from relevant records and books, both published and unpublished. Sunday Eze in his work entitled, Igbo-Eze Local Government Area: The Beginning of An Era, begins by highlighting the geographical location of the local government area, the people, their culture and occupation.18 The birth of the council area in 1991 followed, though very briefly. The work was, of course, more of an album of the veteran, practising politicians and influential traditional rulers of Igbo-Eze North Local Government.
Felix Okpara in his unpublished thesis, “The Role of Local Government in Rural Development: A Case Study of Igbo-Eze Local Government Area”, started by situating the council area as occupying the northern most portion of Enugu State. This is followed up with three operational definitions: Local Government, Rural and Development. At the end of the above definitions, the paper traces the birth of Igbo-Eze District Council in 1954 to the Eastern Region Local Government Ordinance of 1950. The 14 communities that made up the council area were highlighted, namely, Essodo, Ezzodo, Umuitodo, Umuozzi, Etteh, Ibagwa-Aka and Itchi. Others were Nkalagu-Obukpa, Ovoko, Unadu, Ihunaowerre and Alor-Agu19.
Okpara in his work discussed the role of Igbo-Eze Local Government in rural development from the point of view of mobilizing the rural masses for grassroot development. The paper was more of an essay on political mobilization, of the people i.e age grades, town unions, etc, by the government for development activities with the government acting as flag-bearers of such self-help efforts. Nevertheless, the writer fails to note that self-help community efforts exist to complement and not replace government efforts in providing socio-economic services to the people.
E.O. Awa’s paper “The Theory of Local Government” is relevant. It defines local government thus: “A political authority set up by a nation or state as a subordinate authority for the purpose of dispersing or decentralizing political power”.20 Awa’s sixteen-page essay is more of a work on leadership in local government. He concludes by warning that management should be careful in handling staff matters. However, Awa’s definition is relevant to this study particularly because he perceives the subject in the light of a government exercised through representative councils; a government which initiates and directs the provisions of services and also determines and implements projects so as to complement the activities of the state, the federal and international agencies in the council area.
- Oluwu in his work titled, Local Government and Rural Development in Nigeria, describes government approach to rural development as “a mere shame”21. According to him, government has succeeded in imposing developmental programmes on the rural masses. Such programmes, he argues, only benefit a few rich and powerful urban class. Olowu calls for a model of rural development, which involves the genuine parties’ participation of the rural people; such, he continues, would be relatively independent of centralised urban-oriented bureaucratic machines.
O.F.J. Ayaide in his work, Rural Development in Nigeria: The role of Government, argues that
Even though local government is a veritable vehicle for rural development, most local government has not made appreciable impact in this direction.22
He attributes this problem to the myriad of functions allotted to local government without commensurate financial backing.
Orewa and Adewumi in their work, Local Government in Nigeria: The changing scene, trace the historical evolution of local government administration in Nigeria from the Lugardian Native Authority or Indirect Rule to the modern local government system. The authors point out that the aim of the originators of Native Authority was “to evolve from their own institutions based on their own customs, the form of rule best suited to them and adopted to meet the new conditions”.23 They highlight the importance of local government staff in ensuring the efficient and effective management of the affairs of the councils.
A.E.C. Ogunna, writing on “One year of the New Local Government Councils in Nigeria”, traces the history of Local Government reforms in Nigeria from the British Colonial era to 1988. He concludes that for the local governments to serve as a powerful instrument for rural transformation, they should devise a plan in which:
The town improvement unions, age grades and social clubs of the area should be fully involved in the development of the local government whose primary purpose is transformation of the rural communities24.
In 1981, Ade Oladosu wrote a book entitled, Kaduna Essays in Local Government. In this work, he argues that “there is no other institution in this country more capable of bringing physical infrastructural facilities, than the local government”25. The writer is of the view that for any rural development programme to be strong, effective and purposeful for the provision of necessary facilities in this country, local governments must be granted substantial autonomy by the higher tiers of government. It is, nevertheless, an open secret that to grant the local governments such autonomy, freeing them perhaps from all forms of state control, would be granting the authority licence to run the councils as a private financial empire, thereby enthroning personal aggrandizement, fraud, and embezzlement.
M.S.O. Olisa and J.I. Obiukwu in their book, Rural Development in Nigeria: Dynamics and Strategies, regret that rural development activities and programmes of the past five decades of national independence have not transformed the country’s rural areas into the modern, well supplied and prosperous populations envisaged at the beginning of national sovereignty. They conclude that:
In terms of the number of programme identification pursued, rural development in Nigeria has made considerable progress, but lamented that it has made little transformatory impact.26
They cite basic social services, public utilities and essential infrastructure as still being woefully inadequate in almost all corners of the country.
Local Government Year Book (1998) asserts that “the 1976 reform made some effort to ensure that local governments have access to financial and consequently, other resources (personnel and equipment)”.27 Before this time, local government had no clearly designated revenue sources except those that were assigned by state regional governments. The exclusive local revenue sources include: property, rate, and a range of other licenses and fees. In addition, federal and state governments were to make annual statutory allocations to local government. Apart from local government share of State and Federal governments were expected to make monthly allocations of 10% and 20% respectively, out of their revenue to local government.