Historical Analysis of the Local Government Institution in Urhoboland, 1916-1999

Ashe, M.O (2017)

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos

Thesis

The work analyses the intricacies, complexities and trends in local government administration in Urhoboland commencing with the pattern of colonial grassroots system in the 1910s, as well as the reforms carried out to refine the system between 1930 and 1950 in the area. Further reforms were embarked upon from the 1950s to the 1980s with varying impacts on Urhobo communities. These embraced the use of traditional rulers. Urhoboland is among the places where local government reforms have been most contentious. Therefore, in spite of the reforms, by 1990 Warri, one of the most important cities in this coastal society had become a proxy or actual battle ground for all groups in the area in their demand for equity, fair play and justice with regard to the sharing of resources. This resulted from the failure of the reforms to address the peculiarity of these groups and respond to what most of them considered their most crucial grassroots demand. In collation and analysis of data, the study relies on secondary sources but more on primary source materials. The study employs the relative efficiency theory and the theories of grassroots democracy and autonomy primarily to refine the understanding of local government administration in Urhoboland. These theories highlight the relevance and importance of efficiency, democratic government and autonomy to the success of local government administration. The research problem is conceived within the context of the conflicts associated with the local government institution in this part of the Western Niger Delta vis-à-vis the inability of studies at the national and regional levels to capture the index details of each locality. The Urhobo situation demonstrates that the local government system produced some positive impact in the area even though on a general note it has performed below expectation. It reveals that grassroots policies framed at the federal and state levels of government are sometimes hijacked by political parties and individuals to achieve their selfish ends at the expense of grassroots development. It has shown that the existing reforms and local government policies were not comprehensive enough to ensure peace in all parts of the country by identifying and addressing the relative peculiarities of each area. The study establishes that local government administration compounded the pattern of inter-group relations and accelerated the rate of intergroup land disputes in Urhoboland. These factors partly account for the sporadic conflicts in the operation of the system in the area. The work indicates that apart from conflicts, the system encountered the challenges of corruption, administrative ineptitude and excessive use of management committees. It concludes that the ability of the existing local government institution to record some noticeable achievement in spite of the enormous challenges indicates that it could be transformed and utilised for national development if appropriate steps as those recommended in the concluding chapter of this study are taken.

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