ANALYSIS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN NIGERIA’S LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM: THE CASE OF IMO STATE
This study investigated the Local Government Legislative Council and Accountability in Nigeria’s local Government system with focus on Imo state. It utilized the qualitative and quantitative methods in data collection and analysis; with the theory of post-colonial state serving as the theoretical framework of analysis. The findings indicate that poor oversight functions of the local government legislative council over budget implementation, investigation of the executive, use of impeachment clause and legislative hearings as well as struggle for wealth accumulation, inexperience and bid for re-election have undermined public accountability in Imo state local government councils. It also revealed that state interference in local government finance, elections, appointment of principal officers, imposition of caretaker committees and constitutional ambiguity on the autonomy of local government in Nigeria further impeded public accountability at the third tier of government in Imo state. The study therefore recommends the local government legislative council should perform proper oversight functions over budget implementation, investigation of the executive, legislative hearings and impeachment clause.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The purpose of the legislature all over the world is to make laws and ensure public accountability through its oversight functions. The local government legislative council was established for this purpose. In Nigeria, we have the national assembly at the federal level, the state house of assembly at the state level, and the local government legislative council at the local level. The local government legislative council is the legislative arm of the local government which consists of councilors who under a democracy are popularly elected from their wards. The council, in the Nigerian presidential form of local government was presided over by the leader. The council is charged with the responsibility of making bye laws and policies, authorization of annual budget control of the executive and representing the opinions of the local people.
The local government legislative council was established to ensure public accountability at the local level through their oversight functions; these oversight functions refer to the crucial role of the legislature in monitoring, supervising, and reviewing the actions of the executive using such mechanisms as hearings and investigations, legislative veto and impeachment to engender accountability. It is in this vein that Nwachukwu (2000:45) conceptualized “accountability as being placed in a stead to give account of one’s action or stewardship”. The local government legislative council has in recent times abandoned their oversight functions and thereby making it difficult to engender accountability at the local level, and as a result paving way for corruption to thrive. Igwe (2002: 246) posits that an active legislature ensures effective checks and balances and at the same time ensures accountability on the part of the executive. Oversight is the key for a meaningful representative body, and the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control their government. Today, the legislative monitoring role of the local government legislative council is more important than ever before, yet these monitoring roles which are achieved through legislative oversight remained poorly performed by the local government legislative council, making it difficult to achieve public accountability at the local level. The oversight functions of the legislature over the executive in Nigeria is one of the primary functions of the elected law makers, but these oversight functions are easily sacrificed in the altar of greed at the local level.
The responsibility of the local government legislative council in ensuring accountability cannot be overemphasized because accountability promotes effectiveness and efficiency. Frederickson (1993:251) upheld the view that “central to the practice of government administration is the issue of accountability”.
This study examines the poor performance of legislative oversight functions by the local government legislative council, its impact on accountability and the factors responsible for the poor performance of the legislative council.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
There is a problem between the local government legislative council and public accountability in Nigeria, at the local government level. This emanates from the fact that the local government legislative council is supposed to use their oversight functions to ensure accountability but this is not so. Anyanwu (2003: 32) argued that oversight is most effective when it results in concrete politically feasible, administratively workable suggestions for addressing the problem of accountability. Obikeze and Obi (2003: 328) argue that men and women elected to make laws for the good governance and accountability easily sacrifice their constitutional duties in the altar of greed. Obiora (2006:6) posits that the legislature is the fundamental pillar of any integrity system and their oversight functions promotes accountability. Obikeze (2003:9) states that the legislature is the biggest disappointment because of the poor performance of their oversight functions characterized by corruption and thus unable to entrench good governance. Nnoli (2003) states that the legislature has been weak to the extent of being unable to check the action and inaction of the executive except when such action affects their individual interest. Oyemo (2013:5) explains that the legislative oversight function is not a political sentiment or personal vendetta against the executive but rather to expose corruption and enhance efficiency so as to deliver democracy to the doorsteps of the masses. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the legislative councils have been found wanting in delivering their platforms.
However, there are two strands of analysis to explain this problem. First, poor oversight functions of the local government legislative council undermines public accountability at the local government level. The local government legislative council is created to use their oversight function to ensure public accountability at the local government level through allocation, power of appropriation and supervision of the departments and the executive, but these oversight functions remained poorly performed due to lack of transparency in their functions, internal conflicts which results in disagreements over financial benefits and inexperience of some council members over legislative duties. These factors invariably lead to corruption, financial recklessness of the chairmen and negligence of duties on the part of the local government staff.
Secondly, state government interference in the administration of the local government impedes public accountability: This is because there is an ambiguity in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that allows state governments to interfere with the functions of the local government legislative council. Again state government interferes in finance and appointment. Financial interference manifests in the control of the local government federal allocation by the state government, and as a result, the state government controls the local government funds, and as such the local government legislative council becomes responsible to and controlled by the state government in discharge of those functions assigned to them. The state governments use their powers to dissolve elected local governments and in their place appoint caretaker committee to take over the local government administration. With this development, the local government legislative council is dissolved and public accountability is threatened. Such interference excludes the local government legislative council from performing their oversight functions to achieve public accountability.
It is against this background that the following research questions are raised.
- Does poor oversight function of the local government legislative council undermine public accountability?
- Does state government interference in the administration of the local government impede public accountability?
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
This study has broad and specific objectives. The broad objective of this study is to identify the factors that are responsible for the poor performance of the legislative council over its oversight functions . The specific objectives are to;
- Explain how poor oversight functions of the local government legislative council undermine public accountability in Imo State Local Government System.
- Analyze how the state government interference in the administration of local governments impedes public accountability in the Imo State Local Government System.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, this will ultimately add to existing literature in the Department of Political Science and to students of public administration on how the problems of oversight functions of the local government legislative council undermines public accountability in Nigeria.
Practically this study will enable policy-makers such as the state government to appreciate the importance of oversight functions of the legislative council at the local level, because proper oversight at the local level promotes development and accountability.
Balley (1978:35), states that a hypothesis is a proposition that is stated in a testable form and predicts or suggests a particular relationship between two or more variables. In the course of this work, the following hypotheses were raised.
- Poor oversight functions of the local government legislative council undermines public accountability.
State Government interference in the administration of the local government impedes public accountability.