1.1 Background information
Local government (LG) administration is a government at the grassroots level of administration meant for meeting peculiar grassroots need of the people (Arowolo, 2008). The earliest type of (LG) administration existed in the form of clan and village meetings (Oviasuyi, Idada and Isiraojie, 2010). Regardless of nomenclature, LG is a creation of British colonial rule in Nigeria. It has overtime experienced change in name, structure and composition. Olanipekun (1988) states that the present LG system in Nigeria started with the 1976 LG reforms which aimed at restructuring the LG administration in conformity with modern society, and at best to make Nigeria’s LG administration an ideal in Africa. Following the 1976 reforms, LG became recognized as a tier of government entitled to a share of national revenue consequent on its constitutionally allocated functions (Imuetinyan, 2002). According to Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), (1976), the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides in section 7 (1) – (6) for the establishment of the local government system as the third tier of government in Nigeria as well as provides for powers, functions, composition and finances of the local government councils (LGCs) (which is the functional body of the LG system) to be established thereof. Thus, Nigeria operates three tiers of government, federal, state and local government. The LGC should ensure through devolution of functions the active participation of the people and their traditional institutions such that local initiative and response to local needs and conditions are maximized. This type of development strategy must be the one that taps the initiative of the people through their active participation in conceiving, planning and implementation of programmes to eradicate poverty. Local government councils are established worldwide to facilitate local development which could be economic, social and political (Madukwe, 2008). Funding of LGs comes from state and federal governments and some internal sources.
Local government as the third tier of government brings agricultural interventions closer to the rural farmers. The functions of a LGC in the area of agriculture as contained in the Fourth Schedule, Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution include establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slab, markets, gardens, parks; and participation in the development of agriculture and natural resources, other than the exploitation of minerals. Nigerian Agricultural Policy of 2001 stipulated the following as LGC agricultural roles, namely, provision of effective extension services, provision of rural infrastructure, mobilization of farmers for accelerated agricultural and rural development through cooperative organizations, local institutions and communities. The federal government also hoped to provide through LGCs the following services in LGAs : (1) the provision of an effective extension services; (ii) provision of rural infrastructure to complement federal and state governments’ efforts; (iii) management of areas irrigated with dams; (iv) mobilization of farmers for accelerated agricultural and rural development through cooperative organizations, local institutions, and communities; (v) provision of land for new entrants into farming in accordance with the provision of the Land Use Act; and (vi) coordination of data collection at primary level (Manyong, Ikpi, Olayemi, Yusuf, et. al., 2005).
A study carried out in Anambra State by Nwalieji, Igbokwe and Nsoanya (2012) identifies different roles of LGCs that were accomplished. They include establishment of demonstration plots, provision of slaughter houses and slabs, establishment of market gardens, provision of health centres and clinics, mobilization of farmers for cooperatives organizations and formation, procurement and distribution of fertilizers, improved seeds, improved seedlings, tractors and implements and awareness creation through exhibition of agricultural products and agricultural shows among others. Oviasuyi, Idada and Isiraojie (2010) report that provision of earth and tarred roads by LGCs facilitated rural transformation in Nigeria to some extent. The authors also report provision of market stalls, health centres just to mention a few. The LGCs in Anambra State that participated in Fadama III Project assisted in the project by providing training facilities at LG and farmers’ levels, assisting in defraying local transport and travel costs in Anambra State (Mojekwu, 2012). The author also reports that in Anambra State, LGCs in collaboration with the state government, paid Government Cash Counterpart Contribution (GCCC) of over N385, 000,000 to the Fadama III Project which led to the following achievements: increment of average real income of beneficiary households by 9.7%, average of 5% increase in the yield of major agricultural produce in the state, about 15% increase in the hectare of land under cultivation as witnessed in 2011 cropping season, etc. Mojekwu (2012) also reports that LGCs and NGOs assisted farmers by empowering their groups through the provision of training facilities at local government and farmers’ levels. Agbo (2009) affirms that LGCs in Enugu State helped local farmers to form cooperative societies. Okafor (2007) reports linkage between LGCs and farmers in the implementation of Presidential Initiative on Rice (R-Box) and Presidential Initiative on Cassava Production and Export Initiative of 2002.
Nwalieji, Igbokwe and Nsoanya (2012) affirm the existence of strong linkages between LGCs, ADP, National Special Programme for Food Security (NSPFS), Fadama projects and avian influenza programme in Anambra State.
Inasmuch as the LGCs have achieved much in the area of agriculture, there are still many agricultural functions assigned to LGCs by the federal government that were not accomplished yet such that rural farmers are still having difficulties in agricultural activities because of non provision of these services by LGCs. Local government has not lived up to its expectations in achieving its agricultural roles. Improvement in agricultural production and increase in income across farmers in rural areas in Nigeria is still an illusion. Generally, wide-scale embezzlement by officials of the grassroots has made the needed development of the grassroots a tall dream and has rendered them financially incapable to discharge their constitutionally assigned responsibilities (Arowolo, 2008).
1.2 Problem statement
Considering the agricultural roles assigned to LGs by the FGN, LGs have critical roles to play in national agricultural development to ensure self-sufficiency and sustainable food production in Nigeria. Some assessment studies on the effectiveness of LG governance in agricultural production show that things have not changed for the better in the quality of governance at this stratum of government (Ejekwumadu, 2009, Essien, 2010) hence many Nigerians are still calling on LGs to step up their agricultural activities. Local government councils have not adequately provided services that can help farmers produce enough food in Nigeria to achieve food security for Nigerians. Akinsuyi (2011) calls for mobilization and training of farmers by providing modern farming tools as well as training them on how to use them, provision of extension services and rural infrastructure, in terms of good road network, markets, micro finance, as well as encouraging women in agriculture, who are the main farmers in this part of the world. He, also, calls for availability of farm inputs, which include good quality planting materials that are early maturing, high yielding, pest and disease resistant, etc. and availability of fertilizers, chemicals for weeding or control pests and diseases at the time of need which are essential for good harvest likewise in fish and livestock farming. The author suggests that LGs need to become more aware of their role in economic development, which is not always that obvious to them, and they have to interact with the range of private sector actors in their territory, farmers, informal businesses etc.
Series of Nigerian government agricultural and rural development interventions have failed to noticeably affect the lives of rural farmers in terms of increased agricultural production. Most of the LGCs do not perform even basic agricultural responsibilities such as provision of effective extension services. Essien (2010) lists non-delivery of needed services as one of the three specific areas LGCs have failed. Ejekwumadu (2009) also reports that outside late payment of workers’ salaries, many of the LGCs cannot show any meaningful projects executed between 1999 to date notwithstanding the monumental inflow of allocations from the federal government. He notes that in spite of increased funding of the LG system from the federation account, the hope for rapid and sustained development has been a mirage as successive councils have grossly under-performed in almost all the areas of their mandate.
With unfavorable reports about the performances of LGCs in agricultural development, it is apt to ascertain the present roles of LGCs towards the implementation of national agricultural policy which lists the roles of LGCs as follows : (1) the provision of an effective extension service; (ii) provision of rural infrastructure to complement federal and state governments’ efforts, to mention but a few. At this point it is necessary to ask the following questions: what are the perceived expectations of the staff of LG agriculture/veterinary department and farmers of the LGCs in agricultural development? What have LGCs achieved in agricultural development as perceived by LG agriculture/veterinary department staff and farmers? What is the level of funding for agricultural development? What linkages exist between LGCs, agricultural development agencies/programmes/projects and farmers? And what are the factors that militate against the achievement of LGCs’ agricultural development roles?
1.3 Purpose of the study
The general purpose of the study was to assess the role performance of local government council in agricultural development in south-east Nigeria. Specifically, the study was designed to:
- ascertain role expectations of LGCs’ agriculture departments as perceived by LG agriculture/veterinary department staff and farmers;
- determine agricultural roles achievement of LGCs as perceived by LG agriculture/veterinary department staff and farmers;
- analyze LGs’ funding for agriculture for the past few years (2007-2011);
- identify linkages that exist between farmers, the Department of Agriculture/Veterinary of LGCs and agricultural development agencies/programmes/projects such as ADP, NSPFS, RTEP and CADP; and
- identify factors that militate against performance of LGCs in agricultural development.
1.4 Hypotheses of the study
The following null hypotheses were tested:
- there is no significant difference between LG agriculture/veterinary department staff and farmers’ perceptions on the role expectation of LGCs in agricultural development;
- there is no significant difference between LG agriculture/veterinary department staff and farmers’ assessments on the role achievement of LGCs in agricultural development;
- there is no significant difference in fund allocation to LGs in various states in south-east, Nigeria; and
- there is no significant difference in fund allocation and expenditure to agriculture in different LGs of various states of southeast, Nigeria.
1.5 Significance of the study
Some of the findings of this study such as general inadequacy of sufficient number of trained staff in agriculture departments of most of the LGs will enable the incoming LG administrations understand one of the reasons for low output of the LG staff of agriculture/veterinary departments which contributed to the failure of rural and agricultural development interventions to effect desired changes in the LG system in the past.
The findings that small percentages of funds allocated to LGs were allocated to agriculture department and the small percentages of funds allocated to agriculture department were not completely spent for agriculture except in few cases will enable the LG administrators understand the causes of non accomplishment of agricultural functions of LGCs as observed in this study and reported in other studies. Considering these findings, the LG chairmen may re-appraise their method of fund allocations to different projects and closely monitor expenditure of such funds in the LGs for achievement of the set objectives of the developmental activities.
Checking the list of agricultural roles expected the LGCs to do as stated by the farmers; will direct the attention of the administrators to felt needs of the farmers and other rural dwellers needed for agricultural development which will improve the livelihoods of people in the rural areas. When the living standard of rural areas is improved through rural and agricultural development, it will definitely reduce high rate of rural-urban migration