The local government systems of each state is governed by the local government administration law made by the House of Assembly of that state. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave such power to the government of each state to ensure the existence of a local government system by democratically elected local government councils. We cannot examine all the local government administration laws in force across Nigeria, but we can use the Lagos State Local Government Administration Law as sample of what is required to hold the office of a local government chairman in Nigeria.
Who is eligible to become a local government chairman in Nigeria?
Each local government must have a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman. In Lagos State, for a person to be qualified to hold office as Chairman of a local government, he must:
- be a citizen of Nigeria
- have attained the age of 30 years
- be educated up to at least the School Certificate (WASSCE) level or its equivalent
- Be a member of a political party and must be sponsored by that party.
These conditions are conjunctive and must all exist for a person to be qualified to be the chairman of a local government in Lagos State.
A person is disqualified from holding the office of Chairman of a local government in Lagos State where:
- he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country other than Nigeria or has made a declaration of allegiance to that other country in cases not permitted by the National Assembly
- he is declared to be a lunatic or of unsound mind by a law in force in any part of Nigeria
- he has been sentenced to death by a court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or has been sentenced to imprisonment for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud
- he is an *undischarged bankrupt having been declared bankrupt under any law in force in any part of Nigeria
- he is employed in the civil service or public service of the Federation or of any state or any local government and he has not retired, resigned or withdrawn from that employment thirty (30) days before the date of the election
- he is a member of a secret society
- he has been accused/charged for embezzlement or fraud by the Judicial Commission of inquiry or a tribunal under the Tribunals Inquiry Act or any other law set up by the Federal, state or local government.
How are the elections conducted?
Elections to this position are conducted by the State Electoral Commissions. This should be distinguished from the Independent National Electoral Commission which is the electoral body for most elections conducted into public offices in Nigeria. The State Electoral Commission renders advice as it may regard necessary to the Independent National Electoral Commission on the compilation of and register of voters in relation to local government elections in the State.
What are the responsibilities of a local government chairman?
The local government chairman basically supervises the activities of the local government and presides over the meetings of the local government council.
Some of these activities of the local government which the local government chairman supervises are:
- administration of maternity centres, dispensaries and health centres
- construction and maintenance of roads and drains excluding federal and state roads
- rural water supply and extension of urban water supply
- town planning
- care of markets, motor parks and gardens
A person holding the position of a Chairman of a local government in Lagos State must not during his term as Chairman hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.
The tenure of a local government chairman lasts for three (3) years. Generally, a person can only serve one term as a local government chairman. This means that the Chairman of a local government must vacate his office at the expiration of three (3) years starting from the date when he took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office.
A local government chairman may be required to leave office before the end of his tenure where:
- He becomes a member of a legislative house
- He becomes President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy-Governor or a Minister or Commissioner
- He resigns from the political party which has sponsored his election or becomes a member of another political party before the end of the period for which he was elected as local government chairman
- His resignation from office takes effect
- He becomes a member of a secret society or does anything that disqualifies him from being the chairman of a local government.
Currently, there is a bill to amend the Lagos state local government administration law. It has also been forwarded to the state governor for assent. An important modification in the bill is that it extends the tenure of council chairmen and councilors by one year. This makes four years being spent in office by those elected officers rather than the previous three years.
*Undischarged Bankrupt means the person who has been declared bankrupt by a competent court is still going through the process of bankruptcy. He has not been granted an order of discharge by a competent court.