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1.1 STATEMENT OF THE INTRODUCTION
Citizen participation in community development is a process which provides private individuals an opportunity to influence public decisions and has long been a component of the democratic decision-making process. The roots of citizen participation can be traced to ancient Greece and Colonial New England. Before the 1960s, governmental processes and procedures were designed to facilitate "external" participation. Citizen participation was institutionalized in the mid-1960s with President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs (Cogan & Sharpe, 1986 p. 283).
Citizen participation seeks to engage local population in development projects. It has taken a variety of forms since it emerged in the 1970s, when it was introduced as an important part of the basic needs approach to development. There is universal acceptance of local government as vital instrument for rural and urban development, irrespective of the ideological differences of societies and levels of development.
One of the major reasons for establishing local government is to bring government to local communities so that the local people can participate fully in the process of governance, in order to provide essential local services and this speed up the pace of social, economic and political development (Ogunna 1996).
Most manifestation of citizen participation in community development seek to give the poor a part in initiatives designed for their benefit in the hopes that development projects will be more sustainable and successful if local populations are engaged in the development process. Citizen participation has become an increasingly accepted method of development practice and is employed by a variety of organizations such as town unions, women organization, youths, age grades, formal groups and social groups. It is often presented as an alternative to mainstream “top down” development.
The in ability of government sponsored programmes to induce expected development, particularly in rural communities of developing counties, brought about the thinking by the people of helping themselves, inform of above mentioned strategy.
Finally, this principle in based on the people proper understanding of the fact that governments resources are limited, hence the need to help themselves by coming together as group, age grade and to union will better their living condition and increase the chance of development.
In Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, Ibeku the study area had embarked on self-help projects and there is the need to ensure that community groups such as age grades participate fully in the development efforts.
1.2 RESEARCH PROBLEM
Generally, it has been observed that rural areas of the world have been neglected in terms of development. However, this general neglect has led to problems to rural areas in the development of infrastructure, housing utilities and services etc.
There is also the problem of inadequate communication between the local government and various communities. The local government authority has the important function of encouraging community cooperation through frequent visits and advisory services in its area of authority. Communication gap can make citizens ignorant of the roles they are expected to play in the developmental process.
Also, shortage of skilled manpower within the communities to assist in the maintenance of development projects services also militates against effective community participation. Maintenance of some of the community welfare facilities such as electricity, health centers and even pipe-borne water require skills, which may not be readily available in rural communities.
Insufficient fund arising from widespread poverty and biting economic conditions militate against effective government community co-operation in programme implementation. Experience has shown that members of various communities are finding it increasingly difficult to pay levies imposed on them for the maintenance of existing community welfare services. For instance, occasionally, electricity transformers break down and water pumping machines develop faults. These cost a lot of money which may not be readily available, hence the common sight of such facilities lying unprepared for years.
Corruption is another obstacle to effective community participation in development projects or programmes for instance, town union or community development committee officials sometimes misappropriate funds meant for financing community welfare programme. This act aggravates the problems of shortage of fund.
Finally, party politics has also created decision with communities. This has militated against effective community mobilization. The political elites and fanatical party members always disagree among themselves over sharing of available few resources. Consequently, due to politics, they refuse to cooperate in any venture spearheaded by a person from the opposing part. Even where a political opponent is the head of the town union, they refuse to see anything good in what he does. In the same way, such party fanatics discourage unsuspecting citizens from supporting community welfare programes not organized by their party members. For instance, where citizens are levied for the hire of bulldozer for road rehabilitation, they may dissuades them from paying by making them feel that the government had provided the services free of charge and that the organizers were merely extorting money from them, which they would embezzle.
1.3 AIM/OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
The aim of the research is to assess the impact of citizen participation in rural development in Ibeku in Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State.
a. To examine the level of enlightenment of the citizens.
b. To identify the projects embarked on by the citizens in the study area.
c. To investigate the level of participations of the citizens in the projects.
d. To examine the level of project completion.
e. To examine the rate of project abandonment
f. To identify the factors militating against effective citizen participation in the study area.
g. To suggest ways of improving citizen participation in the study area.
1.4 SCOPE OF STUDY
The study is limited to Ibeku autonomous community in Aboh Mbaise local Government area. The study also will examine various self-help projects initiated by the citizens, those completed, those under construction and those abandoned.
It will also look at the extent to which those projects have attained to the felt needs of the community. It also contains the issues of problems citizen encounter in course of project execution.
Lastly, it will also make recommendations to government and various stakeholders, the need for improved citizen participation in rural/community development activities.
1.5 THE STUDY AREA
Starting from the apex, Nigeria as a country is bounded to the North by Niger Republic and to the South by equatorial Guinea and Atlantic Ocean to the East by Cameron and to the West by Benin Republic and fall under the latitude of 307’N and longitude of 308’E.
In the same vein, Imo state lies within latitudes of 4051’N and 7015’N and longitude 6050’E and 7025’E with an area of around 5,100sqkm. It is boreded by Abia State on the East, by the River Niger and Delta on the West, by Anambra state to the North and River state to the South.
Down to the Local Government, Aboh Mbaise Local Government area is bounded on the North by Ahiazu Mbaise and Ikeduru L.G.A, on the North-West and South West by Ngor-Okpala and Owerri North Local Government areas. While on the North-East and South-East, it is bounded by Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area and Isiala-Ngwa South Local Government of Abia State respectively.