Governance Institutions: Local Government in Lagos

 In Analysis, CPPA Research, Featured, Governance & Political Economy

CPPA’s series on Nigerian Institutions of Governance continues with a look at local government in Lagos, courtesy of Tosin Osasona.


States and governments across the world irrespective of their nomenclature use the concept and practice of local government as an effective strategy for ensuring good governance at the local level. Local governments are modeled to serve three purposes: first, as a mechanism for democratic participation and inclusive governance; second, as an efficient service delivery tool that is tasked with the provision of social services and basic infrastructure; and finally as a tool for national development and a medium through which the grassroots can share in the national wealth.

Local Government Areas (LGAs)/ Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) as presently constituted in Lagos State are facing challenges in meeting these objectives. LGAs/LCDAs in Lagos State are currently led by unelected appointees of the State governor in violation of Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees a “system of local government by democratically elected government councils”. Government management policy and laws in Lagos are encroaching on constitutional preserves of LGAs and public perception of LGAs/LCDAs in Lagos tends towards negative.


There are 20 constitutionally recognized LGAs in Lagos State and 37 LCDAs as provided for in the relevant enabling laws of the State. The Supreme Court in the case to determine the legality of the 37 local government entities created in 2003 by the Lagos State government, declared the newly created local governments as validly created but inchoate entities until a subsequent amendment of the constitution by the National Assembly that lists the newly created LCDAs in the schedule of the constitution like other LGAs, hence the designation of those 37 local government entities as LCDAs by the Lagos State government.

The functions of local governments are listed in the fourth schedule to the 1999 constitution and Section 1 of the Lagos State Local Government (Administration) Law, 2003 echoes these constitutional provisions but adds further obligation in section 38 which includes the construction and maintenance of at least four roads and demands that at least 60% of LGA budget is expended on of capital projects.

According to the enabling Law creating the LCDAs, LCDAs are distinct and separate entities and are clothed with legal capacity. The Lagos state government funds the LCDAs and LGAs have supervisory control over LCDAs falling within the territory of the LGAs. Aside from statutory allocation to LGAs in Lagos State from federation accounts and subventions to LCDAs from the state governments, the Lagos State Local Government Levies Law restrict the sources from which LGAs/LCDAs can raise funds in Lagos State to the listed 16 sources (less than what the federal constitution allows for LGAs).

The LGAs and LCDAs in Lagos State are classified into urban, semi-urban and rural areas. And there is a fourth classification, based on levy collectibles, called the ‘very urban’. The institutional and organizational structure of LGAs/LCDAs in Lagos State is based on the presidential system and it mimics what operates at the federal and state levels. LGAs/LCDAs in the state have three branches, which are: the executive, the legislative Council and Departments/Units. These three branches have statutory responsibilities and independence as well as budgetary allocations directly allocated to them under the various enabling Laws of Lagos Sate.

Elections into the 20 LGAs/ 37 LCDAs across the 377 wards in the five divisions Lagos State was last conducted on October 22, 2011. According to the Lagos State Local Government Law, 2001, the tenure of elected LGAs/LCDAs representatives is fixed at 3 years and by implication, another election was due before October 22, 2014. No election has been held and caretaker committees appointed by the State governor currently head the LGAs/LCDAS in Lagos State. The reason adduced by the state government for non-conduct of election is the absence of an updated voters register in the state.


The four identified governance issues around local government administration in Lagos State are highlighted bellow.

Firstly, the Supreme Court in the case to determine the legality of the 37 local government entities created by the Lagos State government, declared the newly created local governments as validly created but inchoate entities until a consequential amendment of the constitution by the National Assembly that lists the newly created LCDAs in the schedule of the constitution like other LGAs, hence the designation of the local government entities as LCDAs. The Creation of these LCDAs stirred a constitutional dilemma and brought to the fore the crisis of constitutional federalism in Nigeria. Does the rebranding of the 37 inchoate LGAs as LCDAs solve the constitutional problems that bedevil the inchoate LGAs? If the Constitution does not allow a State to create LCDAs under what authority do they exist and operate? Will the creation of these new LCDAs enhance service delivery in measurable ways or are they tools of political patronage and reward?

Secondly, elections into the 20 LGAs/37LCDAs across the 377 wards in the five divisions of Lagos State were last conducted almost four years ago, in contravention of the establishing legislation requiring elections every three years. Does appointing caretaker committee chairmen into LCDAs without any Law of the State House of Assembly to that effect not violate the laws establishing them and negatively affect accountability in governance?

Thirdly, does adapting the institutional and organizational structure of LGAs/LCDAs in Lagos State to imitate state-level institutions necessarily enhance service delivery?

And finally there is a question on the capacity of civil servants in LGAs/LCDAs to efficiently deliver service at the grassroots. According to an institutional self-assessment conducted by the partnership for good governance (PaGG) in selected LGAs in Lagos State, critical manpower challenges were noticed in local governance in the state. These include: lack of uniformity in mandate and organogram and uncertainty of the right custodian of data; overlapping of functions between various departments/unclear definition of roles; inadequacy of resources, office equipment and facilities to perform duties; shortage of professional staff and other cadres; adverse and irregular of posting and transfer of personnel and lumping of many functions or job roles in one department.


According to the enabling statutes creating the LCDAs, they have the legal capacity to sue and be sued, and are distinct legal entities. LCDAs in Lagos State by implications of the Law establishing them are not administrative units or governing arms of LGAs but legal entities with a life of their own. Although LCDAs are funded by the Lagos state government and LGAs have supervisory control over LCDAs falling within the territory of the Local Government Area, they still are still self-governing entities.

The Supreme Court declared the processes leading to the creation of the termed ‘inchoate LGAs’ as valid and constitutional but that they remain embryonic until the National Assembly completes the creation process by amending the constitution to reflect their creation. As it currently stands, LCDAs are embryonic entities, therefore, reverting the ‘inchoate LGAs’ into ‘LCDAs’ does not cure these units of their glaring legal defects and as suggested by the Supreme Court nothing than the scheduling of these LCDAs in the Constitution validates their existence. Reverting inchoate LGAs into LCDAs will not suffice because the appellation is unknown to the Nigerian constitution and if the constitution does not give the powers to states to create LCDAs nor allow LGAs to delegate responsibilities to LCDAs, then the legal basis of the LCDAs is shaky. Secondly, it is not clear that LCDAs can be referred to as administrative units even when the Law creating them referred to them as distinct legal entities.

Has the creation of these new LCDAs enhance service delivery in measurable ways? Well in light of national experience and by the admission of the current government in Lagos State, the answer is NO. The steady increase in poverty and decline in the general standard of living since new Nigerian states were created in 1991 and 1996 suggests that increasing governance units does not necessarily improve service delivery.

The second issue is the appointment of caretakers to administer LGAs/LCDAs in Lagos State. Not conducting elections for elective positions in the LGAs/LCDAs violates Section 7 (1) of 1999 Constitution, which expressly emphasized that “the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed […]”. Furthermore, the Supreme Court in Chigozie Eze & Ors v. Governor of Abia State & Ors declared as ‘Executive recklessness’ the sacking and replacement of elected local government councilmen with unelected caretaker members. Choosing caretakers irrespective of the rationale for the choice violates the democratic order espoused in the 1999 constitution and excludes people in the grassroots from electing leaders that represent them. As presently constituted, LCDAs are merely tools for patronage and reward for acolytes of the political interests that govern Lagos State.

It is not clear that saddling the same institutional and organizational presidential structure at the state level to administer LGAs/LCDAs in Lagos State is productive or efficient. The overhead cost of maintaining these structures do not necessarily impact on the quality of service rendered by these LGAs/LCDAs and this is one of the factors that necessitated the current administration in Lagos to setup a 18-man committee on June 29, 2015 to review why “citizens have not felt much impact from their local governments.”


Constitutionality of LCDAs

While the creation of LCDAs by the Lagos State government underpins the yearning of the government of the state to solve local governance challenges (insecurity, urban decay, waste disposal, infrastructural deficits) worsened by an unsustainable population growth, but that aspiration must not in itself undermine the Nigerian constitutional order. The best alternative to the current policy of reversion of inchoate LGAs to LCDAs would be a policy of collaboration and influence. Lagos State has to elaborately tap into the networks that its cosmopolitan status confers and engage with the National Assembly in order to effect the necessary constitutional amendments required to completely create a local government. There is a need for a definite government policy on engagement with legislative and political institutions at the national and sub national levels in Nigeria by the Lagos state government around this theme.

Service Delivery

A look at local government administrations in other megacities across the world reveals a diversity and variation in the distribution of municipalities. Jakarta, Indonesia, despite being one of the largest megacities in the world is governed by 6 Municipalities. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi, India, which provides service to more than 11milion people have just 3 local government units and the same can be said of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Pakistan with just 6 units. The Keihanshin Metropolitan Region in Japan with a population of more than 18million has 5 metropolitan areas. However, London has 24 boroughs and Kinshasa, DRC, has24 communes. All these megacities with the exception of Kinshasa have greater GDP than Lagos and global centers of economic and political systems. Thus, the link between the number of municipalities and effectiveness of service delivery is a tenuous one and one can conclude that creating more LGAs does not necessarily lead to improvement in the quality of service delivery. The increasingly huge cost of governance in Nigeria and the continuous encroachment of state governments on the constitutional duties of local government undermine the argument of ‘more is better’.

Governance structure

The failure to conduct elections in LGAs in Lagos state has been hinged by the state on the inability of the State’s electoral agency to conclude requisite preparations for such and this raises a fundamental question on the necessity of replicating the same democratic process used in the state at the LGA level. The state needs to engender an electoral process that is more participatory, less rigid and cheaper. The Rwanda System of local government administration offers an example of a more community-friendly participatory governance at the local level. In Rwanda, the local government is structured in four tiers: districts, sectors, cells and villages. Elections at the village and cell levels are held directly, while elections to the sector and district level are done through indirectly with a secret ballot. Special groups (women, youth and people living with disabilities) elect their representatives to the council through indirect election. All candidates are independent candidates with the party sponsoring none.

Lagos should develop a similar system that makes the communities and CDC the hub of the electoral process. Elections at LGAs/LCDAs allows citizens to participate in making decisions that are locally appropriate and serve the needs of their local community and elections that do not promote accountability in governance undermines its very purpose.


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