The 1976 Local Government Reform and Physical Planning Development in Nigeria

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S. A. Ifaturoti, Department of Estate Management, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Email: Mobile Number: +234 706 270 9658


Local governments are an integral part of government. It is similarly the tier of government that is closest to the people being governed, and so the most effective means through which higher governments- state and federal- institute their policy actions and monitor the developmental process. In Nigeria, there are 774 local governments spanning across the 36 states in the federation. Local government, which can be simply described as government at the local level has been defined by various scholars in different ways. In Ola (1984) the United Nations Office for Public Administration defines local government as: A political subdivision of a nation or (in a federal system) State, which is constituted by law and has substantial control of local affairs including the powers to impose taxes or to exact labour for prescribed purposes. The governing body of such an entity is elected. Redmond (2007) defines Local Government as an agency organized to provide and supervise administrative, fiscal, and other services to the people who reside within its territorial boundaries. It is the level of government most directly accountable to the public. In the US, for example, local governmental units consist of five major types: county, town and township, municipality, special district, and school district.

Physical planning, on the other hand, has one secular definition provided by Lewis Keeble, as “the art and science of orderiing the use of land and the character and the siting of buildings and communication routes so as to secure the maximum practicable degree of economy, convenience and beauty.” Similarly, Luning defined it as “the systematic assessment of land and water, alternative patterns of land use and other physical, social and economic conditions, in such a way as to encourage and assist land users in selecting options that increase their productivity, are sustainable and meet the needs of the society.”

A reconciliation of the two definitions connotes that planning seeks the: promotion of accessibility; rationalization of resources; mitigation of incompatibility of uses; and enhancement of aesthetics. However, the consideration here is for local governments in Nigeria, in terms of the reform of the 1970s and the implication of it for physical planning which is hereafter discussed.


It is doubtful if local governments had well defined roles in physical planning before the 1976 reform came to being. Over the years, various governments have embarked on several strategies to manage the physical environment. Such are in the like of Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs), River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs), Better Life for Rural Women, Directorate for Fooods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI); each, however with its own measure of failure. But these were nevertheless attempts by government to revitalize local governments and enhance local planning.

In the opinion of Mabogunje (1976), the point that is being made here is that for a more realistic development process, local governments must be further broken down into more manageable fragments. In Britain, for instance, before its local government reform of 1974 and with a population of just about half of Nigeria’s had over 14,000 local governments; while the United States had over 35,000. But the Federal Government did not begin to address the problems of haphazard internal arrangement of settlements until the dire need surfaced. It merely focussed on the national and regional development plans which did not always reach the grassroots.

In the aspect of planning, local governments are to regulate the kinds of land uses...
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