This study investigated the Local Government Legislative Council and Accountability in Nigeria’s local Government system with focus on Imo state. It utilized the qualitative and quantitative methods in data collection and analysis; with the theory of post-colonial state serving as the theoretical framework of analysis. The findings indicate that poor oversight functions of the local government legislative council over budget implementation, investigation of the executive, use of impeachment clause and legislative hearings as well as struggle for wealth accumulation, inexperience and bid for re-election have undermined public accountability in Imo state local government councils. It also revealed that state interference in local government finance, elections, appointment of principal officers, imposition of caretaker committees and constitutional ambiguity on the autonomy of local government in Nigeria further impeded public accountability at the third tier of government in Imo state. The study therefore recommends the local government legislative council should perform proper oversight functions over budget implementation, investigation of the executive, legislative hearings and impeachment clause.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The purpose of the legislature all over the world is to make laws and ensure public accountability through its oversight functions. The local government legislative council was established for this purpose. In Nigeria, we have the national assembly at the federal level, the state house of assembly at the state level, and the local government legislative council at the local level. The local government legislative council is the legislative arm of the local government which consists of councilors who under a democracy are popularly elected from their wards. The council, in the Nigerian presidential form of local government was presided over by the leader. The council is charged with the responsibility of making bye laws and policies, authorization of annual budget control of the executive and representing the opinions of the local people.
The local government legislative council was established to ensure public accountability at the local level through their oversight functions; these oversight functions refer to the crucial role of the legislature in monitoring, supervising, and reviewing the actions of the executive using such mechanisms as hearings and investigations, legislative veto and impeachment to engender accountability. It is in this vein that Nwachukwu (2000:45) conceptualized “accountability as being placed in a stead to give account of one’s action or stewardship”. The local government legislative council has in recent times abandoned their oversight functions and thereby making it difficult to engender accountability at the local level, and as a result paving way for corruption to thrive. Igwe (2002: 246) posits that an active legislature ensures effective checks and balances and at the same time ensures accountability on the part of the executive. Oversight is the key for a meaningful representative body, and the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control their government. Today, the legislative monitoring role of the local government legislative council is more important than ever before, yet these monitoring roles which are achieved through legislative oversight remained poorly performed by the local government legislative council, making it difficult to achieve public accountability at the local level. The oversight functions of
the legislature over the executive in Nigeria is one of the primary functions of the elected law makers, but these oversight functions are easily sacrificed in the altar of greed at the local level.