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nigeria_mapPopulation: 206.1 Million

HDI ranking: 161/189

HDI score: 0.539

Nigeria is one of the most decentralized countries in Africa. The country is working toward a more transparent government and many civil society organizations are committed to moving the decentralization process forward. However, local governments face difficulties delivering social and economic services due to a “mismatch between local government revenue powers and their expenditure responsibilities” (IFPRI, 2009).

Local governance at a glance

  • Nigeria is divided into 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. The states compromise 768 local government authorities and 6 area councils of Abuja (CLGF, 2013).
  • Local councils are directly elected and consist of 10 to 13 councilors (CLGF, 2013).
  • The Ministry of Local Government is responsible for developing and maintaining responsive local government, managing budget proposals, and promoting capacity-building initiatives (Ministry of Local Government, 2013).
  • Traditional leadership is prominent in Nigeria, and the relationship between local and traditional leaders varies depending on the state (CLGF, 2011).
  • Nigeria does not have legislated gender quotas (British Council, 2012).

Fiscal control

  • Taxes are raised and collected by both federal and state governments. Local governments are able to collect some local taxes (i.e. haulage, hawking, and markets) and they receive funding from the state government and a federal account allocation (CLGF, 2013).
  • “20% of federal government revenues and 10% of state revenues are transferred to local government areas every year. Another source of income for the local government areas is the revenue from the Value Added Tax, 35% of which goes to the local government areas. This share of the VAT is distributed to local government areas according to transparent criteria. Furthermore, Nigeria has adopted the principle of derivation, under which 13% of oil revenues are retroceded to the producing states. Thirty percent of this 13% of oil revenues is then distributed among the local government areas according to well established criteria” (UCLG, 2015).

    “In Nigeria, local government areas have their own revenues, determined either by the federal government or by the states. Local government areas collect their taxes and levies, although these taxes and fees are set by the federal government or the states” (UCLG, 2015).

  • States and local governments control approximately 50% of the government’s total revenues; approximately 20% is allocated to local governments (CLGF 2013).

Civil society actors include

Capacity building institutions

  • The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) represents all local governments and provides them with services and support to ensure that participatory development approaches are adopted in urban and rural local government areas for effective local development (CLGF, 2013).
  • The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is a platform for governors to share ideas and promote good governance, democratic values and sustainable development (NGF, 2013).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • The 1976 Local Government Reform was a turning point, paving the way for a local government system in the country. It conceptualized local government as a third tier, which was also enshrined in the 1979 Constitution (Okafor and Orjinta, 2013).
  • The 1999 Constitution, passed after the end of military control, recognizes local government as a third tier. However, local government remains under the control of the state government (Okafor and Orjinta, 2013).
  • In 1999, Nigeria elected its first president able to complete a full term, though recent elections continue to be marred by violence (World Bank, 2009; NDI, n.d., 2013).
  • In 2003, the Government instituted a series of governance reforms, including severing the direct link between the Government’s budget and oil revenues (World Bank, 2009).
  • Nigeria was one of the first countries to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Index, which requires public disclosure of revenues from extractives industry sales, becoming compliant with the standard in 2011 (World Bank, 2013).
  • In 2011, Nigeria enacted the Freedom of Information Act to improve government transparency. However, access to information is often denied (Freedom House, 2014).
  • “In 2004, the Government prepared a National Empowerment and Economic Development Strategy (NEEDS) to respond to the persistent widespread poverty, low human development outcomes, weak government capacity and lack of engagement of citizens in development initiatives. “Empowering people” was one of the three major pillars of the NEEDS. The document recognized people’s rights to government services and the need for a grassroots-level mechanism to empower youth, women, the aged, and children in the effort to fight poverty” (World Bank, 2022)
  • “Overall, the Community and Social Development Project surpassed all Project Development Indicator (PDI)- level target; there had been significant improvement in access of the poor and vulnerable to social and natural resources infrastructure services in all sectors across and beneficiary communities in the 29 active States and the FCT. The World Bank helped the GoN increase access of poor and vulnerable beneficiaries to community-level social and economic services. At least 3 million households in 30 States and the FCT benefitted from the CSDP, which facilitated increased access to social, natural, and livelihood support services well beyond the targeted 50 percent increase” (World Bank, 2022).
  • “PDO indicators showed that close to 12.4 million individuals had directly benefited from the Project, 10.5 percent of whom were IDPs and vulnerable groups, in 5855 communities. Another 965 new communities (about 620,000 households) benefitted from natural resource management services, the largest part of which were community-based micro-project investments. More than 52 percent of beneficiaries were female. Data from the FPSU shows that 196,828 IDPs benefitted from the project in the North East states. As many as 17,180 micro-projects were completed across participating communities—16,167 still operational one year or longer after completion—significantly above the end target of 8,500” (World Bank, 2022).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Only 157 of the 774 local governments are run by elected local councils. Contrary to the 1999 Constitution, the remaining local councils are replaced by “caretaker committees”, which are appointed by the state governor (Okafor and Orjinta, 2013).
  • State and local governments fail to provide citizens with public service (IFPRI, 2009).
  • Local elections do not occur on a regular basis (Nigerians Talk, 2013).
  • Women account for less than 10% of elected local government councilors (CLGF, 2013).
  • A 2009 World Bank report identifies several challenges for decentralization, including (World Bank, 2009):
    • Limited transparency and accountability in the management of public resources at all levels of government, which is exacerbated by weak sanctions;
    • A low capacity of the civil service to implement government programs and the need for wide-ranging civil service reform;
    • An ineffective judiciary system;
    • A limited ability of state houses of assembly to play an effective role and an absence of social accountability mechanisms that ensures citizens’ feedback on government performance and service providers.
  • “Nigeria’s LGAs are unable to generate sufficient revenue to enable them discharge their responsibilities. Consequent- ly, access to important socialand economic services remains low, particularly for rural populations” (World Bank).
  • “The state of transport infrastructure is generally poor, as road, rail, air, and water transport systems have for several years been characterized by deplorable conditions. This means that most rural areas cannot link up with the rest of the country. Moreover, the different transport modes are not properly linked to serve the socioeconomic needs of the people” (IFPRI, 2009)
  • “The current federal arrangement is a direct legacy of military rule, with the attendant risk that states and LGAs were created to behave more as agents of the center, and perhaps for the primary purpose of political distribution of national resources, and not for effective delivery of public services.” (World Bank, 2001).
  • In the most recent presidential election, “International observers noted serious irregularities when the election was held, including election-related violence, vote buying, and the intimidation of election officials and voters. Turnout was among the lowest seen in Nigeria, at 35.7 percent” (Freedom House, 2022).
  • “Nigeria’s ongoing battle with insurgent groups and continued government corruption threaten the stability and political integrity of Africa’s most populous state” (CFR, 2022).
  • “The conflict has been primarily contained in the Muslim north, particularly in Borno state, but has displaced millions of people in the region” (CFR, 2022).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources:

British Council, 2012: “Gender in Nigeria Report 2012.”

Centre for Constitution and Demilitarization (CENCOD), n.d.

Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), 2012.

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), 2014.

Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), 2013: “The Local Government System in Nigeria.”

Female Leadership Forum, 2012.

Freedom House, 2014: “Nigeria.”

Freedom House, 2022: “Nigeria”

Information Nigeria, 2013: “ALGON calls for LG Autonomy.”

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2009, Okojie, C.: “Decentralization and Public Service Delivery in Nigeria.”

Ministry of Local Government, 2013.

Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), 2013.

Nigeria Embassay Berlin

Nigerians Talks, 2013, Amaza, M.: “Do we need local government autonomy?”

Okafor, J and I. Orjinta, 2013, Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance: “Constitutional Democracy and Caretaker Committee in Nigeria Local Government System: An Assessment.”

State Partnership for Accountability, Responsiveness and Capability (SPARC), 2014.

UN Human Development Index, 2012: “Nigeria.”

United Cities and Local Governments, 2015: “Assessing the Institutional Environment of Local Governments in Africa”

World Bank, 2001: “Fiscal Federalism and Service Delivery in Nigeria: The Role of States and Local Governments”

World Bank, 2009: “International Development Association Country Partnership Strategy for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

World Bank, 2013: “Nigeria Overview.”

World Bank: “Decentralising governance in Nigeria for improved local government administration and service delivery”

World Bank, 2022: “Nigeria – Community and Social Development Project”

Global Conflict Tracker, 2022: “Conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria”