1.1     Background of the Study

Nigeria is a country with a federal system of government where there is constitutional division of powers among the levels of government that is the central, state and local governments. Local government is the third tier of government in the country. It is often referred to as the government at the grassroots level. Good management would not be meaningful if it does not affect the rural dwellers, it is as a result of this that local government was created to ensure effective and efficient service delivery to the people at the grassroots level.

Local government management (LG) globally vary in size and structure and operate under different arrangements based on the system of government in different nations. However as observed by Mello, (2012) local governments globally strive to meet peoples’ demands for goods and services in a cost effective manner particularly at the lowest level of government or government at the grass root. Among the characteristics generally manifested by local government include that it is a subordinate system of government or subunit of a federal/central or state government and charged with powers to perform legislative, administrative and quasi judicial functions as the case may be. It also has the power to formulate policies, prepare budgets and a measure of control over its own staff, with a view that it is rightly position to ensure unhindered and efficient service delivery (Chukwuemeka et al, 2014, Otinche, 2014, Ezeani, 2012 and Tumini 2011).

Among the notable feature of local government in Nigeria is that it operates a unified administrative system and expected to have an elected. The 1976 Local Government Reform fixes the population of a local government not less than 150,000 and not more than 800, 000. In all, there are 774 local governments in Nigeria including the four area councils in Abuja. The Local Government Service Commission has been empowered to handle staff matters particularly those in senior category while the State Assembly has oversight functions on its operation. In addition, Governor’s office, the Ministry of Local Government and Finance Ministry exercise authority in respect of establishment matters. The Office of the Auditor General of the state among other performs some regulatory functions over the operations of local government.

Ajayi (2000), Kolawole (1997) and Adewale (1990) argued that among other reasons for the existence of local government are the needs to toy in line with modern administrative practices. This position finds expression in the need for decentralization, democratic participation, speedy socio-economic development at the grassroot, bridging of communication gap and serving as a platform for training of future leaders. As noted by Ovaga (1994) and Onah (1995), in spite of the fact that the 1976 local government reforms granted greater autonomy, powers and functions to local governments, they still have a long way to go towards the satisfactory performance of their functions in many areas. The above statement is in consonant with the state of affairs in the local government system in Nigeria.

Among previous related studies is Kyenge (2013) that focused on reasons for poor performance. He listed indiscipline, misplaced priority, unskilled staff, financial challenges and autonomy. On the other hand, Ejike, (2014), Adeyemi, (2012), Aina (2006) and Aluko (2006) partly focused on corruption while Gboyega (2001) among others concentrated on undue interference by the state Government and the personnel challenges. Ibok (2014) argued among other reasons that inadequate funding constituted a huge challenge.

In effect, the paper set as its objectives to examine the challenges of managing Ikot Ekpene and Essien Udim local governments, previous efforts by the governments in Nigeria to address the challenges and lessons that could be learnt from other workable systems.

Essien Udim and Ikot Ekpene are Annang speaking local government areas in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Essien Udim Local Government Area was created on the 8th of may, 1989, by the Ibrahim Babangida administration with its headquarter at Afaha Ikot Ebak. The name is a combination of the two units that constitute it namely: Essien Annang and Udim groups of villages. The area has seven clans, 11 wards, and 136 villages with a population of 192,668, residents according to the 2006 Census. Details of the population show that there are 102,012 males and 90,656 females in the local government are. This makes Essien Udim one of the largest Local Government Area in the State while Ikot Ekpene, also known as The Raffia City, is a historic town in south-southern state of Akwa Ibom. It is the political and cultural capital of the Annang ethnic group in Nigeria (Nair, 1972). The town is located on the A342 highway that parallels the coast, between Calabar to the south east and Aba to the west, with the state capital, Uyo, on this road just to the east. Each of the local government encounters challenges in carrying out administrative management due to reasons stated above.

1.2     Statement of the Problem