Since their creation, territorial districts have been related to local affairs, such as development, creation or management of communal interest services or community equipments, public hygiene and sanitation, state property and real estate. Since 2014, significant wider authority has been granted by the State : education, health, hydrology, environment and vocational training.
Decentralisation in Niger
Following the country’s independence in 1960, Niger inherited from the colonial days a centralized administration and authoritarian governship.
The decentralization process was impelled early in the 1960’s, then stopped during the emergency government, was revived from 1990 onward, at a time of important political changes and of a mounting sense of exclusion in a section of the population (Tuareg rebellions). An ambitious project of devolution of competency, from the State toward new regional governments, offered an opening to new government stakes, particularly between local government, traditional chiefdom and the central State’s local representatives.
After the advent of the 5th Republic, the ‘2000 decentralization chart’ was adopted by the government on July 7th 2000. The chart opted for regionalization and departmentalization, based on ancient administrative entities (the departments became regions, and the arrondissements became departments), and it adopted a total communalization of the national territory, based on the unwritten common law (cantons and some groups). In 2004, municipal Council election took place.
Presently, Niger consists in 7 regions ((Agadez, Diffa, Dosso, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabéry et Zinder), and the Niamey urban community, which is granted the status of region. The regions are divided in departments which amount to 63, which are themselves divided into urban or rural communes (265 communes in the country, 52 are urban, 213, rural), to which are added 4 urban communities (Niamey). The Republic of Niger devolves to the territorial collectivity a legal status, financial autonomy, and its own domain. Regions and communes are territorial, whereas departments are only administrative constituencies, i.e. a framework of state representation rather akin to a decentralization process. Nigerien territorial boards are directed by an elected deliberating body (town council, regional council), which will later name the executive body – town mayor, regional council). Moreover, a region is both a territorial collectivity and an administrative constituency managed by a governor named by the state. One of the specific points of the decentralization process in Niger is the inclusion of traditional chiefdom within the administrative organization of territories. The common law communities (canton, tribe, village) actively participate to the administrative organization of the constituency they live in. These common law communities are governed by their own texts.
The stake of new governance
By stating the challenge of a new form of self-governing territories, between local and decentralized state services, the whole of Niger develops a genuine local democracy system with its diverse territories. Moreover, decentralizing also led to developing local services as well as better involvement of citizens in local affairs management.
Decentralisation also leads to international cooperation. Creating local territorial communities allowed nigerien districts to work with foreign territorial communities within the framework of decentralised cooperation projects
This article is based on an article by Eliot Martin, written during his internship with AESCD in September 2020.