Decentralization and public service delivery in Nigeria

Type Book
Title Decentralization and public service delivery in Nigeria
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Publisher International food policy research institute (IFPRI)
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. The 2006 provisional census counted over
140 million people (United Nations 2007), 64 percent of whom live in rural areas. These
rural areas are undergoing radical, noticeable change, particularly in the agricultural sector.
The agricultural sector is increasingly market-oriented and has seen a diversification of
income opportunities and an increasing division of labor. It is therefore important to have a
highly efficient rural service sector that fosters agricultural productivity and development
outcomes. However, access to rural services, has only had marginal impacts in the
agricultural sector. Rural households, therefore, continue to face poor access to agricultural
and social services. These gaps in rural service provision need to be closed in order to
enable the countryside to mobilize its development potential.
To distinguish rural from urban development, one must define “rural.” Demographers
classify a population as rural based on the size or occupational distribution of residents and
the geographical characteristics of the area. Most definitions consider an area rural if people
work or live on farms. The number of residents in a population considered rural differs from
less than 2000 (Reardon et al. 2001) to less than 5001 (Acemoglu et al. 2001) to less than
10,000 people (International Fund for Agricultural Development 2001). In Nigeria, areas with
populations above 20,000 are considered urban, meaning that rural areas have sizes below
this cut-off (Onokerhoraye 1984).
Decentralization has become a key issue in development policy in the last two decades.
Decentralization is a process of transitioning from a governance structure in which power is
concentrated at the central or national level to one in which authority to make decisions and
implement them is shifted to lower level governments or agencies. It consists of a transfer of
public functions from higher tiers to lower tiers of governance.
Governments can have many different reasons for decentralizing—to increase the efficiency
of public services, for example, or to allow for greater local participation. But in most
countries in recent years the principal motives seem to have been political—to try to quell
regional discontent from provinces wanting greater autonomy. In Latin America and Africa,
for example, decentralization has been a part of the democratization process as military or
autocratic regimes have been replaced by democracies. Similarly, in the transition
economies of former socialist states, the disappearance of the central government has given
a much stronger say to regional administrations. In East Asia some governments have also
chosen this route as a better way to deliver services to large populations.

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