An efficient urban local governance system is central to achieving inclusive and sustainable urban service delivery and, by extension, the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Agunbiade & Olajide, 2016). Local governments are generally modelled to serve three purposes. First, they are a mechanism for democratic participation and inclusive governance. Second, they are an essential tool for providing municipal services, including social services and basic infrastructure. Third, they are a tool for national development and a medium through which ordinary people can share in the national wealth (Osasona, 2015).
However, despite being recognized in the 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian local government system is generally plagued by gross inefficiency and often incapable of achieving the goals of its establishment. Largely to blame is the usurpation of local government functions by the fiscal control of state governments, which leaves local governments across the country commonly functioning as mere administrative extensions of state governments (Khemani, 2001, p. 24). The Constitution makes both local and state governments responsible for the provision of basic services, with no clear legal delineation of the relative roles of these two sub-national tiers of government.
The lack of municipal capacity has meant that local communities often find themselves stepping in to provide ground-level governance structures to ensure that basic services are provided, even if under sub-optimal conditions (Lawanson et al., 2021). They do this through their community development associations and/or traditional institutions. The three case study communities in this series amplify this profoundly, especially with regards to urban water provision – a key deliverable of the SDGs.
Kano, Onitsha and Lagos are major Nigerian cities and commercial hubs. Their high migration and urbanization rates bring extensive infrastructure deficits, manifesting as a vast array of informal settlements lacking basic infrastructure. In these cities, we can see the realities of local governance processes and structures at the local community level and how various stakeholders attempt to negotiate both the complex water-provision process and endemic power structures.