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.
Statement of the Problem
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?