Nigeria Federalism II


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In today’s class, we will be talking more about Nigeria federalism. Enjoy the class!

Nigeria Federalism II

Nigeria Federalism |


  1. Cultural diversity: Differences in culture, religion, language, custom, tradition, etc. among different ethnic groups make the operation of a federal system possible.
  2. The fear of one ethnic group dominating others necessitated the establishment of federalism in Nigeria.
  3. To protect the interest of minority groups.
  4. The large population and wide geographical areas of Nigeria make it necessary to establish federalism in Nigeria.
  5. To ensure rapid and even development of all parts of Nigeria.
  6. To bring the government near to the people of Nigeria.
  7. To bring about the division of powers to reduce the burden involved and make the art of governance less energy-sapping, time-saving, less fatiguing and make government more effective.
  8. To create more employment opportunities through the division of powers and the duplication of ministries and offices.
  9. To make it possible for diverse laws that will suit the diverse communities in Nigeria.
  10. To preserve the local independence or autonomy of every ethnic group in Nigeria. 

The structure of federalism in Nigeria will be discussed based on the following;

  1. Federalism before independence.
  2. 1960-1966.
  3. 1967-1975.
  4. 1976 to date.

The colonial system of government in Nigeria introduced the centralization of power. So, from the time of Clifford till about 1939, powers of administration and government were centralized. The other constitutions of Richards of 1946 and Macpherson of 1951 contributed to giving Nigeria different shades of the structure of federalism. It was the 1954 Lyttleton constitution that gave Nigeria a true structure of federalism. The constitution which took effect from October 1, 1954, shared powers between the central and regional governments. The constitution changed the lieutenant governor’s status to that of the governor and the governor to that of governor-general at the federal level. It spelt out how legislative powers should be shared between the centre and the regions in a true federal spirit.


The independence constitution which came into force on October 1, 1960, and which conferred independence status on Nigeria incorporated the federal structure started by Lyttleton constitution of 1954. The independence constitution introduced some minor modifications to the federal structure of Nigeria. This constitution retained the procedure for sharing powers and functions between the central and regional governments as was stipulated in the 1954 constitution. Under the independence constitution, one important feature of Nigeria federalism right from1954 constitution up to 1963 republican constitution is the division of the country into unequal regions.  For instance, the Northern region was larger than the Eastern and Western regions put together. The 1963 Republican constitution increased the regions from three to four with the creation of the Mid-Western region.


This period was the evolution of the military in the political system. The military stunted the growth of political culture in the country. Not only that, it systematically destroyed all democratic and political institutions and other basic features of federalism. The government of Aguiyi Ironsi introduced a unitary system into the country with the promulgation of decree No 34. The overthrow of Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi and the coming to power by the then Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon caused antagonism between the Northern and Eastern regions. Yakubu Gowon created 12 states in an attempt to weaken Ojukwu’s attempt from seceding the Eastern region from Nigeria. Three days after the creation of states by Gowon, Ojukwu proclaimed the Eastern region as an independent state of Biafra. This led to the civil war which started in July 1967.


When General Murtala Mohammed came to power in 1975, a panel headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe was set up to look into the issue of creation of states in the country. As a result of the panel’s recommendation, seven more states were created on February 3, 1976, thereby bringing the number of states to 19. Two additional states of Katsina and Akwa Ibom were created on 23rd September 1987 by General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration. In 1991, 27th August, General Ibrahim Babangida administration also increased the number of states in Nigeria to 30 states by creating additional 9 states. General Sanni Abacha further increased the number of states in Nigeria to 36 by creating additional 6 states on October 1, 1996. Abuja remains the federal Capital Territory (FCT), with its own minister. Besides the Federal and State governments, Nigerian federalism contains local government that is concerned with their respective localities alone. It is the third level or tier of government which is subordinate to the federal and state governments and it is rested with the authority to perform local functions. Presently, that is, as at the period the book is being revised, the number of existed local governments in Nigeria is seven hundred and seventy-four (774). 

  1. Constitutional division of power: There are division and sharing of governmental powers between the federal and regional government.
  2. Written and rigid: The constitution adopted is rigid and written.
  3. The different governments in Nigeria derive their powers from the constitution
  4. Supremacy of the constitution.
  5. Separation of powers: The constitution separated functions and personnel among the three organs of government-executive, legislature and the judiciary.
  6. Existence of bicameral legislature.
  7. Existence of Supreme Court for judicial interpretation and review.
  8. The division of Nigeria into unequal regions/states.
  9. Duplication of organs of government in all governments in Nigeria.
  10. Secession is not allowed in a federal system.
  1. Revenue allocation: This has been a major problem in Nigeria. Government at different periods, have set up commissions to advise on the acceptable revenue sharing formula, especially, as it affects the three tiers of government.
  2. The problem of state creation: Almost every interest group in the country wants a state. This may not be possible in a country with over 250 different ethnic groups.
  3. The problem of federal character: Appointments into federal establishments are not always based on merit. The various ethnic nationalities or groups must be considered in the allocation of appointments. This remains a problem in the Nigerian federalism.
  4. Threat of secession: This threat by some units as a factor of divided allegiance or loyalty of citizens poses a great problem to a federal system.
  5. The problem of minorities: Nigeria is made up of many ethnic groups consisting both majority and minority groups. The minorities are always afraid that the majority will dominate them to the extent that issues of national importance are affected.
  6. Ethnic disharmony: There could be distrust among the various ethnic groups in a federal state. This can affect the unity and the very corporate existence of the country.
  7. Boundary disputes: This has been a continuous problem between states or local governments and has capacity to threaten the corporate existence of the nation state.
  8. Corruption, favoritism and nepotism: These are problems of the Nigerian federalism.
  9. Power sharing: Power sharing among the component units creates a problem to the Nigerian federalism because it is not always properly defined.
  10. Census: For some time now in the affairs of this country, there has been the problem of conducting a reliable and acceptable census.
  1. Account for the structure of Nigerian federalism between 1960-1963.
  2. Discuss the creation of states in Nigeria since 1967.
  3. Highlight 4 characteristics of a federation.
  4. What are the shortcomings associated with Nigerian Federalism?
  5. Discuss five features of nationalism before independence.
  6. How did education contribute to nationalist activities in Nigeria?


In our next class, we will be talking about the Development of Political Parties in Nigeria.  We hope you enjoyed the class.

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