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


Federalism | classnotes.ng

This is a system of government in which political powers in a country are shared between the central government and the component units.

The central government is the federal government and the component units are the state and local governments.

Nigerian federalism can be traced back to 1914 when the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated because, during this period, the powers of government were shared between the central government headed by the Governor-General and the governments of Southern protectorates and Northern protectorates.

Reason for the adoption of federalism in Nigeria

  1. Fear of domination: in a multi-ethnic nation such as Nigeria, the fear of one ethnic group dominating other smaller groups led to the adoption of federalism in Nigeria.
  2. Tribal differences: the differences in culture, religion, language, custom and tradition also contributed to the adoption of federalism.
  3. Protection of minority group: it was also adopted to protect the minority groups from being oppressed by the majority group.
  4. Size of the country and large population: the large geographical size of the country and the high population also contributed to federalism.
  5. To bring the government closer to the people: federalism makes the government nearer to the people e.g. local government in various states and communities.
  6. For the larger market: federalism will bring about an expansion in the local markets.


  1. What is federalism?
  2. State the reasons for adopting federalism in a state.
Features or characteristics of federalism
  1. Division of governmental powers between the central government and the component units.
  2. The different levels of government derive their powers from the constitution.
  3. Adoption of a written constitution.
  4. The constitution is rigid.
  5. The constitution is supreme.
  6. The supremacy of the central government.
  7. Existence of bicameral legislature.
Advantages of federalism
  1. It brings about unity.
  2. It brings about faster economic development.
  3. It brings government closer to the people.
  4. It prevents dictatorship.
  5. It prevents fear of domination.
  6. It protects the interest of minority groups.
  7. It increases the participation of people in government.
  8. It encourages checks and balances.
  9. Human rights are protected.
  10. It encourages healthy competition among the different states.
Prpblems or disadvantages of federalism
  1. It can lead to inter-tribal conflict.
  2. It is expensive to operate.
  3. It causes a delay in decision making.
  4. It can result in unhealthy rivalry among the different regions or state.
  5. It can lead to secession.
  6. It leads to election rigging and violence.
  7. Brings about the problem of revenue allocation.
  8. The constitution is difficult to amend.
Sharing of power under the federal system of government

In a federal system of government, powers and duties of government are shared between the central government and the component units. This is to ensure that no level of government dominates or oppresses another level of government and to also ensure independent of the different levels of government.

The powers are shared as follows:

  1. Exclusive list or power: The exclusive power resides mainly with the federal government (central government). Some of the powers or subject matters in the exclusive list include – police affairs, currency, foreign affairs, defence, telecommunication, immigration and emigration, census, passport etc.
  2. Concurrent list or power: these are powers shared between the central government and the state government as stipulated by the constitution. However, if there is a disagreement between the central government and the state government on issues contained in this list, the central or federal law will prevail over the state law. Matters on the concurrent list include – agriculture, health, education, road, banks, insurance etc.
  3. Residual list or power: In Nigeria, residual powers are put under the control of the local government to maintain law and order at the grass root level. Powers under this list include – chieftaincy matters, motor parks, markets etc.
General evaluation
  1. What is federalism?
  2. Explain the advantages of federalism.
  3. Mention the disadvantages of federalism.
  4. What is drug abuse?
  5. Highlight the causes of drug abuse.

Reading assignment

Read on the federal system of government in Fundamentals of Civic Education for Senior Secondary School by Sola Akinyemi.


  1. State five advantages of federalism.
  2. Highlight five disadvantages of federalism.


In our next class, we will be talking about Civil Society.  We hope you enjoyed the class.

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