Small Government: Kaduna State restructures districts and village units, eases burden on local councils

As Nigeria continues to grapple with the effects of a global slump in oil prices and navigate out of an economic recession that has spanned three quarters, the need to make governments at all levels smaller, less costly and more efficient has taken centre stage in public discourse. At the forefront of the implementation of progressive and commendable small government policies is Kaduna State, led by Harvard Business School alumnus Nasir El-Rufai.

Kaduna State under El-Rufai has become the model for lean and efficient governance in Nigeria where duplicity of roles and bureaucracy thrives. As one of the first steps after he was sworn in as Governor, El-Rufai reduced the number of commissioners from the usual 24 to 13, and also placed strict limits on the number of aides that the 13 commissioners can recruit to support the discharge of their duties. Ministries were also restructured from 19 to 13, all in a bid to cut the cost of running government and direct the state’s resources to the delivery of public services to the people.

In its latest move, the Kaduna State Government is restructuring the districts and village units in the state to reduce the burden that a bloated payroll imposes on local government councils, and empower the councils to be able to undertake capital projects and deliver public goods. According to a statement released, the state has therefore reverted to the 77 districts and 1,429 village units that existed prior to 2001. The government said it has consulted the state Council of Chiefs which has endorsed the restructuring of districts.

Alhaji Jafaru Ibrahim Sani, Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, said that the creation of 313 more districts from 2001 increased the number of district heads to 390, which along with personnel in the district office, added more than 2700 employees to the payroll of the local government councils. He revealed that a committee set up to address the administration of districts concluded that he proliferation creates a financial burden for local government councils.

The commissioner observed that while the state government is comfortably discharging its obligations to the 32 chiefs, the local government councils are not able to do the same for their district heads. By the provision of the Local Government Administration Law (2012), it is the responsibility of the local government councils to cater for the 390 district heads.

“One of the problems this government inherited is the practical insolvency of many local government councils. Some local government councils are unable to pay their bills, especially salaries, without support from the state government. The bloated wage bills of these councils indicate that they are carrying more than they can bear. That is why for two years many local government councils were unable for two years to pay their district and village heads. Due to the Governor’s kind intervention, at least 85% of these district and village heads have now being paid two years’ salary en bloc.”

Before 2001, Kaduna State had only 77 districts and 1,429 village units. With the creation of 313 additional districts in 2001, the state now had 390 districts and 5,882 village units. Consequently, the number of district heads for the six oldest first class chiefdoms more than tripled. This meant that the cost to the local government councils of maintaining the district heads automatically tripled as well. All the 23 local government councils in the state have since then had to bear this imposed burden.

This restructuring is expected to boost the functioning and performance of the local government system in Kaduna State. Read more on this here.