Local Government Reform 1976
The Local Government Reform 1976 was a nationwide undertaking by the military government as part of its intention to return power to civilians, sort of a precursor to active comprehensive political action, it was also designed to spread government programmes to the grassroots and to institutionalize the local government system in Nigeria. The reform resulted in the creation of 301 local governments across the country of varying populations between 150,000- 800,000.
Prior to the 1976 reform, the local government system in the country was less autonomous with the colonial era Native Authorities serving as an avenue of policy implementation directed from Lagos. Towards independence, a system of elected councils was created but after independence the power of the system was minimal.
A few statutory measures were included in the reform package to strengthen the system and make it an independent third tier government. These measures included the election of the option of local government instead of administration, the result was the election of local government representatives into the local government councils and internal revenue generation for self reliance. However, by law, the local governments were given a percentage of the revenue generated federally or under the national account; under the 1979 constitution, the local government was to receive about 10% of the national revenue. Within the same constitution, some sections were inserted to ensure the political independence of the local governments with stipulation that government officials should be elected and the establishment of an intergovernmental body composed of federal, state and local government officials that would ensure the smooth transfer of federal funds to the local government as stipulated by law. The local government was given functions specific to areas such as primary education, public health services, and natural resources excluding minerals.
Though, the intention of the reform was the institutionalization of the local government system, during the short-lived democratic republic from 1979-1983, the system became more vulnerable to federal and state control of designated functions and sometimes the revenues of the local government were diverted by the state governments. In 1983, partly for political reasons, the number of local governments in the country was increased to ensure further electoral support for the state or federal government. A military coup in 1984 brought in another military government led by General Muhammadu Buhari. The military government then created a panel to review the local government system, however, the panel's report presented a case for local government administration where the various local governments would be placed under state control and state appointed sole administrators. However, another military coup in 1985 led to the overthrow of the Buhari regime. In 1989, a Local Government Decree was established by the administration of President Babangida, the changes was part of the preparation for the inconclusive third republic where an executive presidential system of government was to have taken root and an elected chairman with an independent local government council which had the power of impeachment.