BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The expediency for the creation of local government anywhere in the world stems from the need to facilitate development at the grassroots. The importance of local government is a function of its ability to generate sense of belongingness, safety and satisfaction among its populace. All forms of government, regimes or political systems have so far ensured the attainment of this goal. Such strategy for ensuring national administrative development and political efficacy is found in the concept and practice of local government. Whatever is the mode of government, local government has been essentially regarded as the path to, and guarantor of, national integration, administration and development.
In Nigeria’s socio-political context, with multiplicity of culture, diversity of languages and differentiated needs and means, the importance of such an organization in fostering the needed national consciousness, unity and relative uniformity as well as preservation of peculiar diversities cannot be over-emphasized. Central to the creation of local government, however, is its ability to facilitate an avenue through which government and the people intermix, relate and more quickly than any other means resolve or dissolve issues that may have heated the system. Local government has been perceived as a panacea for the diverse problems of the diverse people with diverse culture.
As important as this tier of government has been, there seems to be some impediments that have been infringing on its performance and functions in recent times. These impediments range from political but undue interference of the higher levels of government i.e. federal and state governments, bribery and corruption to embezzlement and gross inadequacy of well-trained and qualified personnel to mention a few.
According to Nnoli (2011) and Rodney (2012), all people have shown a capacity for independently increasing their ability to live more satisfactory life than before. This is then a progressive process that has no end.
A local government is semi-autonomous territorial unit created by the constitution or general laws of a state to undertake certain functions within specified or limited geographical area. According to Agbakoba (2004), a local government is a political and administrative unit that is empowered by law to administer a specified locality. It involves philosophical commitment to the idea of community participation in government at grassroots level.
There is general assumption among scholars and practitioners, that local government are not only established as representative organ but also as a channel through which goods and services are delivered to the people within the framework of laws establishing them.
In fact, democracy itself originated and developed along the line of local government initiatives. This is why the executive, legislative and judicial arms of these governments are elected or appointed as the case may be. In Nigeria, local government is created to bring government closer to the people. The definition of local government by the Nigerian Federal Government leaves one with no iota of doubt that it is largely both theoretically sound and service oriented to the people. It talks of representative councils with substantial control over local affairs, for the provision of services and implementation of projects in their areas, to complement the activities of both the State and Federal governments. The definition also amply recognizes the need for local government autonomy as the substantial control of local governments is aimed at staff, institutional and financial matters, among others (Nigeria, 1976). In addition to the above, the Nigerian Federal Government is one of the few governments in the world perhaps in addition to Brazil (Erero, 1998) that have elevated LGs to a third tier of government. By so doing, the State governments do not exercise absolute controls over local governments.
Therefore, the work seeks to contribute in illuminating the actual status of ikere local government as regard community or rural development which it purports to be raison d’etre of its existence. The empirical analysis will show whether creation of local government is really for the sake of ensuring grassroots development or mere political compensation for the government loyalists. It is in this light that we chose to study the topic.
Specifically, the paper carefully, critically and objectively examines operational definitions, local government, and development and opinion of the people expressed through the print media about the impact of the ikere local government council in their areas. And of course, germane recommendations which emanate from the study are provided for the improvement of local government in the development of the localities/communities.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The need to catalyze balanced development, maximize citizens’ participation, and arouse government response necessitates the creation of the local government. The local government serves as a form of political and administrative structure facilitating decentralization, national integration, efficiency in governance, and a sense of belonging at the grassroots. The local government is a unit of administration all over the world (Agagu, 2004).
Local government has been the root of development in terms of dealings with the people which democracy is centred upon. Hence, local government is visibly seen as co-agent of rural development and as partners in progress with both states and federal governments in rural developments.
To this end, this study sets out to investigate the impact of local government on rural/grass root development with emphasis on ikere Local Government of Ekiti State. Knowing the roles the government needs to play in development of any society and the obvious inability of the national and state governments in the task of rural areas, Local government has been created essentially to compliment the efforts of the states and national government in the task of rural development. Nevertheless, abject poverty and underdevelopment remains a common feature in these rural communities.
Thus, in pursuance of the central problem in this research a number of questions have been raised (posed) for this research purpose. They are:
i) Has ikere local government Area contributed substantially to rural development?
ii) Does Inadequacy of Skilled Workers (like qualified engineers of all types, medical doctors etc) affect the ability ikere local government council in carrying out rural development programme?
iii) Does inadequate financing of the local government by the state and federal government affect the ability of Warri North local government council to contribute to rural development?
1.3 Objectives of Study
1. To ascertain whether ikere local government has contributed substantially to rural development.
2. To find out if inadequacy of skilled workers (like qualified engineers all types, medical doctors, etc) affect the ability of ikere local government council in carrying out rural development programme.
3. To verify whether inadequate financing by both state and federal governments hinders the council in carrying out developmental programmes.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the
study provides a theoretical framework for the understanding of the role of local government in rural development in Nigeria. Therefore considering the pivotal role of local government in development in general, such information will be of immense help for policy formulation on the development of grassroots. The result of the study will equally be of help to other researchers who may want to research on such topic or related topics on development in the academia in the future.
On the practical significance, the study will draw attention of, and enlighten both the stakeholders and those who implement policies on rural development in Nigeria who may not really understand the central role of rural development on the crucial and inescapable role of local government system. As a result, the rural dwellers will endeavour to participate full in grassroots democratization and development, while those who implement policy on development in Nigeria will become dedicated to policy formulation, recommendations and implementation.