Local government areas are supposed to be the engines of national development. A quiet rural community grows into a bustling city, and the local leader makes this possible. However, in developed societies, when people are tired of living in the cities they relocate to rural communities where life is less strenuous. However, the opposite is the case in Nigeria ; living in a rural community is difficult, because nothing works, as it should. The local government administrators are part of the problem. Like their counterparts at the federal and state levels, they are mired in pursuit of personal goals at the expense of broader community interests. Any person, who wants to know why the nation is not developing as rapidly as it should, should visit any of the local government areas. Life is pressed out of almost everything. The people are financing varied development projects (community hospital, road construction, rural electrification, water projects amongst others), because monthly allocations to local councils are not properly utilised.

Local governments, at least in principles, deal with grassroots politics (keeping law and order, basic sanitation, constructing and maintaining local roads, supplying water, administering local schools, providing skill training and employment for residents amongst others. However, community development is "the process or effort of building communities on a local level with emphasis on building the economy, forging and strengthening social ties, and developing the non-profit sector." Therefore, community development programmes are aimed at improving the quality of life of the people in the community. Macpherson constitution of 1948 initiated some remarkable changes; the regions introduced some reforms in their local administrations in the 1950s which aimed at enhancing performance. Though, the reforms gave local administrations to collect rates and levy pools and income taxes to finance their activities, the regions had overall control of the taxes. Local administration lacked self-determination, hence their resource were inadequate. Though, the local authorities were partially successful in the North but unsuccessfully in the Eastern and Western regions.

 

It was blamed that the ineffectiveness of local administration on the following

Reasons: Lack of mission or lack of comprehensive functional role, Lack of proper structure (i.e. the role of local governments in the development process was not known), Low quality of staff; and Low funding. According to research, these problems led the local governments into a vicious circle of poverty because inadequate functions and powers lead to inadequate funding which result in the employment of low skilled and poorly paid staff.

 

Local government administration in the country experienced fundamental changes in 1976. The 197 local 6 government reform created for the first time, a single-tier structure of local government in place of the different structure in the various states. Our interest in the 1976 reform hinges on the restructuring of the financial system. The reforms instituted statutory allocation of revenue form the federation account with the intention of giving local government fixed proportions of both the federation account and each states¢ revenue. This allocation to local government became mandatory and was entrenched in the recommendations of the Aboyade Revenue Commissions of 1977. The 1979 constitution empowered the national Assembly to determine what proportion of the federation account and revenue form a state to allocate the local government. In 1931, the National Assembly fixed these proportions at 10percent of the federation account and 10 percent of the total revenue of a state. In 1985, the states proportion was reduced to 10 percent of the internally-generated revenue, local governments ¡allocation from the federation account was later adjusted to 20 percent. It was further increased to 25 per cent with the arguments that local governments are expected to take on larger developmental responsibilities. The revenue allocation has continued to vary in proportion over time.

 

At present, local government receive 20 per cent of the federation account. In

addition, proceeds from the value added tax (VAT) are also allocated to them.

Presently, VAT allocation is 35 per cent based on equity of states (50 per cent),

population (35 percent) and derivation (2 percent).

 

The 1976 local government reforms state the internal revenue sources of local governments to include: Rates, which include property rates, education rates and street lighting, Taxes such as community, flat rates and poll tax, Fines ad fees, which include court fines and fees, motor park fees, forest fees, public advertisement fees, market fees, regulated premises fees, registration of births and deaths and licensing fees; and Miscellaneous sources such as rents on  council estates, royalties, interest on investment and proceeds from commercial activities. Despite this clear demarcation, states and local government still clash over sources of internal revenue.

 

There has been a significant increase in the number of local Governments over the years. There were 96 divisions in 1967. By 1976, they had increased to 300. The number was increased to 774 after five years, emphasis here showed the rise in the number of local Governments as implications on the assignment of public revenue responsibilities among the tiers of government. As noted earlier, life in the local areas is a bit more difficult than that in the cities, partly, because some of the council administrators lack the skills and knowledge to perform their duties. An administrator should understand what community development is, and what it takes to develop an economically distressed community. Like a business manager who determines what should be produced, an administrator directs and determines the pace of community development. But, an individual cannot give what he/she does not have.

To develop and implement good policies, an administrator must have the skill to develop and analyse social and economic data. Although data collection and analysis is a serious problem in government agencies in Nigeria , it is more problematic at the local areas. One cannot over-emphasize the importance of reliable data. In particular, demographic data helps to identify the buying power and market size of a community and provides investors with information about the economic health of an area. There are inconsistencies and organised chaos in local government administration in Nigeria . The system has elected local government chairs and appointed administrators, and some states are creating 'development centers' in the local government areas. All these are conducts to channel public funds to cronies of state governors. As mentioned earlier, some of the individuals who administer these 'looting centers' are dangerously lacking in the skill and knowledge to develop a community. As it were, 'you cannot give a backbone to an invertebrate.' One of such 'administrators' in Imo State who parades himself as "Dr" (and other bogus titles) does not even posses a high school diploma. What type of leadership would such a fraudulent and hollow individual provide a community?

There are business opportunities in rural communities, but they lack requisite infrastructure to lure entrepreneurs and investors. For any community to attract new investment and foster economic growth and development it should have basic social infrastructure, effective leadership, and an environment conducive for human habitation, because bad environment causes health problems and negatively impacts property values. To improve their "bad image" local government administrators should change the way they perform their duties. For instance, they (with their officials) should educate property owners of their responsibility to build and maintain access roads to their properties. It is no longer news that there are no access roads to many of the million-dollar residential and commercial buildings across cities and communities in Nigeria . The government (local, state, federal) should also define (zone) residential and business districts, establish building standard (there have been spate of building collapses lately) and ensure proper enforcement. Oddly, people are known to live in business zones, set up structures without approval, and when disasters strike, families are affected.

A community needs financial resources for development purposes. Nigeria 's skewed federalism is an obstacle to development: Thus, Nigeria should restructure into a true federal state to enable communities manage resources in their domain. Local government administrators should device effective methods of raising funds (e.g., through property tax, business and personal tax, amongst others). The federal government should ensure that monthly allocations to local governments reach them directly, instead of going through the states. It should provide annual grants to communities for development purposes, and loans to serious individuals and businesses to enable them invest in economically distressed communities. However, local politics is the bedrock of corruption in Nigeria mismanagement of available meager resources hinders development at the grassroots. While the proliferation of states and local governments ordinarily should have the desired effect of bringing development closer to the people, the present 36 states and 774 local governments structure are too weak to support our claim for federalism and financially impoverished to undertake meaningful development. The federal government has consequently become dictatorial and therefore an attraction for power-seekers and political opportunists. And, this leads to rising unemployment, poverty, and crime. Therefore, the government should ensure that any funds allocated for community development are properly utilised.

Since the local communities are the engines of national development, they should be managed by "transforming leadership"-leadership that builds on man's need for meaning, leadership that creates institutional purpose,' and, thus, leadership that can get things done. However, governments (state and federal) should assist local area administrators by giving them training (conducting seminars, conferences) in general administration (community development, social service delivery, human resource management, monitoring of resources, and so on. They should empower the citizens by creating employment for the rural dwellers and improve their living standard. More important, there should be continuing investment in, and maintenance, of social infrastructure, which is the foundation for economic growth and community development.