The Status of Local Government Under The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria: A Critical Appraisal

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Journal Title: Journal of Legal Studies & Research
Author(s): Dennis Ekumankama
Published On: 25/05/2023
Volume: 9
Issue: 3
First Page: 28
Last Page: 51
ISSN: 2455-2437
Publisher: The Law Brigade Publisher

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Dennis Ekumankama, The Status of Local Government Under The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria: A Critical Appraisal, Volume 9 Issue 3, Journal of Legal Studies & Research, 28-51, Published on 25/05/2023, Available at


Agitation for a democratically elected local government council in Nigeria gained prominence and momentum between 1974 and 1979. Firstly by the Udoji Public Service Review commission in 1974, followed by the nation wide local government reform headed by Dasuki in 1976 and lastly the 1979 Constitution, the makers actually canvassed and advocated the establishment of democratically elected local government system. The provisions of section 7 of both the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions are in pari material on the subject. Thus, both Constitutions provided for democratically elected local government council. Efforts had been made by some State governments to erroneously hide under the powers given to the House of Assembly by Section 7 to venture into creation of new local governments without recourse to the National Assembly. Furthermore, from all indications State governments are not disposed to granting local government autonomy as third tier of government. For instance, monies meant for local governments as revenue allocated from the Federation Account are still paid direct to the State governments who apply their discretion in the distribution. The State also established what is called “State and Local Government Joint Accounts” for deposits and utilisation of certain sums as the Governor may deem fit. This paper has in very clear terms advocated for financial autonomy of local governments and little or no interference. We believe that it is only when that is done that Nigerians can beat their chest and say there is a third tier of government. Another most critical issue is the lacuna created in the Constitution by not providing the tenure of local government councils unlike the 1995 Draft Constitution which specifically stipulated a term of three (3) years. Unfortunately, not being definitive on the term, the Constitution has left tenure issues to the whims and caprices of the States Governments which negatives uniformity. Consequently, in Nigeria States decide on what tenure to adopt. The corollary of these inadequate provisions of the Constitution is that State governments are at liberty to regard local government as their appendages. Indeed instead of taking a posture of supervisory role, the State government assume the derogatory posture of total control over local governments. The State governments also established Local Government Services Commission which is not recognized by the Constitution. This is an instrument through which the activities of local government are put under control and litmus test by state governments. We are of the firm view that local governments should be effectively positioned and managed being close to the grassroot. This can be achieved by putting a machinery in place for effective control of corrupt practices thereby making them to develop resilience to appropriately cope with enormous socioeconomic challenges. Rather than advocating dissolution of local governments efforts should be garnered to strengthen and sustain local governments as third tier of government in Nigeria.

Keywords: Local government; the constitution; structure; powers and functions; revenue; tenure

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