The Three Tiers of Government in Nigeria and their Functions

The Three Tiers of Government in Nigeria and their Functions

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Nigeria is one of the few countries in Africa that adopted a federal system of government, a system that envisages autonomy for every sector of its authorities and effective governance depends on an appropriate division of responsibilities and resources between federal, state and local authorities supported by a sufficient institutional capacity at each of these levels to carry out its assigned functions.

Unfortunately, to suit their political agenda and interests, state governments have maintained a great level of domination and control over Local Governments allocations through State Joint Local Government Account.

Though it is constitutional but in practice the application of State Joint Local Government Account is far from the constitutional provisions and at the same time undermines the principles of good governance like efficiency, accountability, transparency, participation and accessibility. There are three tiers of government in Nigeria, namely the federal, state, and local governments.

These three levels of government share the authority and responsibility for the provision of agricultural services. The federal government is mainly responsible for regulating and funding agricultural research and development activities. It also provides subsidized inputs (fertilizer) and credit, and shares the responsibility for some agricultural services with the State governments.

The State governments share the costs of agricultural subsidies with the federal government, and some of them provide additional fertilizer subsidies. The states are also responsible for providing agricultural extension services. Finally, the local governments are mainly responsible for the actual delivery of various agricultural services.

The Three Tiers of Government in Nigeria and their Functions

Federal Government

The federal government of Nigeria is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the Constitution of Nigeria in the National Assembly, the President, and the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, respectively.

The Constitution provides a separation and balance of powers among the three branches and aims to prevent the repetition of past mistakes made by the government. Nigeria is a federal republic, with executive power exercised by the president.

The president is the head of state, the head of government, and the head of a multi-party system. Nigerian politics takes place within a framework of a federal, presidential, representative democratic republic, in which executive power is exercised by the government.

Legislative power is held by the federal government and the two chambers of the legislature: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Together, the two chambers make up the law-making body in Nigeria, called the National Assembly, which serves as a check on the executive arm of government.


Let’s take a look at the structure of state governments. Keep in mind that the states can organize their governments most any way they choose. However, all state governments use the same structure as the federal government. This means that the states each have three branches of government:

  • The executive branch
  • The legislative branch
  • The judicial branch

Let’s first explore the executive branch. This branch of state government includes the governor of that state and other elected officials like the lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state auditor, and secretary of state. Like the federal executive branch, a state’s executive branch is responsible for executing the laws that are created by the state’s legislative branch and defined by the state’s judicial branch.

A state’s legislative branch includes the elected representatives of that state. The states use a bicameral system, meaning each state has two legislative chambers, much like the federal legislative system. For example, Texas has a state legislature comprised of 31 state senators and 150 state house representatives.

A state’s judicial branch is that state’s court system, including the state Supreme Court justices. A state’s Supreme Court heads up that state’s judicial branch. The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting and defining issues of state law. For example, a case of burglary in Colorado will be heard and decided in the Colorado state courts using the state laws of Colorado. Most cases are heard in state courts, rather than in the federal court system.


Local Government is the focus of government efforts at promoting development. To effectively develop, the people’s efforts must be adequately mobilized. A Purposeful combination oflocal (peoples) efforts and energies with that of government with the objective of improving socio-economic conditions and encouraging political participation are key factors in rural development.

Rural Development as a strategy is designed to improve the economic and social life of the rural people. The core issues in rural development include self-help; attention to needs (felt and latent); integrated community for development; mobilization of human and material resources which could facilitate the provision of social amenities and infrastructures. The organizational environment for enhancing rural development remains the local government.

The Executive Arm of Local Government

The Executive Arm of local government consists of the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Supervisors and Secretary. The Chairman is the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the local government. His designation as the Accounting Officer however excludes signing of cheques and vouchers, though he has to authorize all payment.

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He performs numerous functions. Some of this functions include: observing and complying fully with the checks and balances spelt out in the existing guidelines and financial Regulations governing receipts; he ensures accountability as he can be held accountable while in office and even after the expiration of his tenure and he is to face periodic checks in order to ensure full adherence to all relevant laws on finance.

He is to render monthly statements of income and expenditures and annual reports to the local government council for consideration and debate; he is also to render quarterly returns of the actual income and expenditure of the local government to the state government for further necessary action.

Beyond these, the chairman also directs the affairs of the local government; he allocates responsibilities to the vice chairman, supervisors and the secretary to the local government; he conducts the meeting of the executive committee of the local government – vice-chairman, supervisors and the secretary – at least once a week.

  The Executive Committee of the Local Government

The Executive Committee of the local government consists of the chairman, a vice-chairman elected with him, the supervisory councilors appointed by the chairman and a secretary also appointed by the chairman. Upon assumption of office, the chairman presides over the meetings of the committee.

The committee meets at least once a week. It considers memoranda from the departments and any Head of Departments may be summoned by the committee to make clarification on any matter relating to its memorandum or any issue under the consideration of the committee.

Vice-Chairman: The vice-chairman in the administration of the local government is assigned the responsibility of administering department of the local government. He acts for the chairman in his absence.

 The Secretary to the Local Government

The secretary is an appointee of the chairman. In his capacity as the secretary to the local government, he performs the following functions: Secretary of the meetings of the Executive Committee of the local government and keeping the records of the meetings; coordination of the activities of the departments of the

local government; liaising on behalf of the chairman, with the local government council through the Leader of the Council; liaising with the appropriate officers of the state government on state local relations and carrying out other duties that may be designed to him from time to time.

Supervisors: These are political appointees of the local government. Upon appointment, they are assigned a department each for supervision. More specifically, their functions include: serving as political heads of their respective departments; serving as members of the Executive Committee of the local government;

giving directives to the professional heads of their respective departments on general policy issues; assisting the chairman to supervise the execution of local government projects within their respective departments and carrying out such other duties or functions as the chairman may assign from time to time. In running the affairs of the local government, the Executive arm is assisted by other key support staff.

These are heads of the departments in the local government. They are all equal in status. Chief among them are the Head of the Personnel Management (Director of Administration) and the Local Government Treasurer (Director of Finance).

 The Legislative Arm of Local Government

The Legislative arm of the local government consists of the Leader, the Deputy Leader and Councilors. All the councilors are elected and the leader and the deputy leaders are chosen among the councilors.

The local government council is saddled with the following functions:

  • Debating, approving or amending the annual budget of the local government council subject to the chairman’s veto which may be set aside by two-third majority of the members of the local government council;
  • Vetting and monitoring the implementation of projects and programs in the annual budget of the local government;
  • Examining and debating the monthly statements of income and expenditure rendered to it by the chairman of the local government;
  • Advising, consulting and liaising with the chairman of the local government.

The federal government is responsible for the following basic duties:

  • Providing public amenities like public education, power supply, etc.
  • Provision of security to its citizens’ lives and properties.
  • Creating employment opportunities, and economical environment for businesses to thrive.
  • Protecting the country from external and internal threats.
  • Generating revenue for the country and its states.
  • Establishment of research institutes, educational institutions, health care facilities, etc.
  1. Nigerian Federal Government Maintains Law and Order

It is one of the most important responsibilities of the Nigerian federal government to make sure that, the Nigerian federation is kept intact by ensuring that, law and order are maintained. It is such duty on the part of the Nigerian federal government that brings about peace and tranquility in the nation.

In achieving this noble goal, the police, the armed forces, and also the court of law, have swung into action with a view to protecting the rights and liberties of Nigerian citizens and its residents within the country. Individuals’ conducts and behaviours living together and within the Nigerian society have been regulated in order for them to conform to the laid down rules and regulations, even as those violating the laws are punished.

  1. The Nigerian Federal Government Protects Lives and Properties

Another function of the Nigerian federal government was to make sure that, the lives of its citizenry and their properties are protected. The Nigerian federal government protection of its citizenry covers those living within the country and those living outside the country.

And this function of the Nigerian federal government has provided Nigerian citizens to enjoy the right to life and to also own properties and use these properties. This aspect of the Nigerian federal government function is very important since it will safeguard Nigerian citizens from any threat to life.

  1. The Nigerian Federal Government Promotes Democracy and Social Justice

Democracy is reputed to be the best form of government since the system encouraged political inclusiveness and participatory governance. In other words, democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people, according to Abraham Lincoln. And it is a system that promotes social justice. Going by this, it has been the function of the Nigerian federal government to promote the system of democracy, as well as, promote social justice for the purpose of ensuring that, Nigerian citizens fully enjoy their rights, as well as realizing their individual potentials.

  1. The Nigerian Federal Government Provides Social Welfare Services

It is the responsibility of the Nigerian federal government to provide social welfare for its citizenry, and so, through the internally generated revenue, a number of resources have been harnessed by the federal government, and revenue gotten from these resources have been used to provide some basic life’s necessity for the Nigerian citizens. Some of these basic life’s necessity include road and hospital and pipe-borne water and electricity as well as, education among other important services, such that would help improve the livelihood of the Nigerian citizens.

  1. The Nigerian Federal Government Protects Human Rights

Human rights protection is one of the functions of the Nigerian federal government, and this to the government, is a priority, and so, what the Nigerian federal government does is to make sure that the fundamental rights of every of its citizenry are protected. This is one of the reasons, why there is an advocacy that the Nigerian federal government should allow the judiciary to remain independent in its operations, so as to Carry out its statutory functions without favour or fear, particularly, when any Nigerian citizen attempt to sue for the purpose of redress, when someone infringed on their rights.

  1. The Nigerian Federal Government Provides Employment Opportunities

One of the core functions of the Nigerian federal government has been to provide employment for its teeming citizens. The Nigerian federal government will go about this by promoting and providing employment opportunities for its people. As part of this effort, it is expected of the Nigerian federal government to make sure that, enabling environment is provided, as a way of encouragement to its citizenry to avail themselves of such opportunities to better themselves. The Nigerian federal government will achieve this by given out subsidy, as well as, reducing the excise duty on importation and cut in taxes.

State Government Functions

States were created to achieve effective administration of resources and to serve as a closer link for the people to access the benefits of the federal government.


State governments are charged with the duty to make sure the roads under their care are well maintained. The roads and highways in each state are divided between local, state and federal governments. States build and maintain roads and highways through their local state Department of Transportation.

These state transportation departments oversee the building of new roads and the maintenance of intrastate transportation for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The states are also responsible for public safety, as in the case of state troopers, highway patrol, and Texas Rangers.

Implement Federal Mandates


State governments are responsible for the education of their residents. States have freedom in administering the nation’s public education system, which receives the lion’s share of state and local money. The nation’s 15,000 school districts are governed by elected school boards. The power balance between a state government, which provides a large share of education funding, and local school boards, which are independent and make final decisions for how a district operates, turn into power struggles in some states.

Collecting Revenue

State governments also have the duty of drawing funding to operate its programs. States collect insurance trust revenue from administering retirement, unemployment compensation, and other benefit programs. also collect fees, such as tolls, and lottery ticket sales, hospital charges and liquor sales. States levy sales taxes for consumer goods, at 4 to 8 percent, as well as income taxes. The ratio of state income from consumer sales taxes as compared to income taxes varies from state to state. Some states add a “sin tax” on alcohol or cigarettes, while 17 states operate state-run liquor stores. Other states levy inheritance taxes and administer utility services for income.

Judicial System

State governments are also charged to operate a state judicial system. State supreme courts focus on correcting the errors made in lower state courts, passed up through an appeals system, and don’t try cases. The decision made by the state supreme court, however, can be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, when the question is raised as to whether the state court acted in line with the U.S. Constitution. Each state is free to structure their court system, and to decide whether judges are elected or appointed, in accord with the individual state constitutions


The local government

Local government is the lowest tier in the government structure. You might not know this, but there are actually 774 local government areas (LGAs) in Nigeria, meaning that there are 774 local governments in the country, each administered by a Local Government Council. They all vary in character and size. Every LGA is further divided into wards. Local governments are responsible for small local matters, such as public health, waste disposal, local roads and footpaths, parks, libraries, tax collection and so on.

When it comes to larger projects, local government work with their state government to achieve results. However, this tier of government is meant to bring power closer to the people. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, local governments struggle from the lack of autonomy from the state governments, as well as from the lack of funds.

That was a quick overview of the three tiers of government in Nigeria. Now you know that there is the federal government, 36 state governments, and 774 local governments, each laden with their own functions and responsibilities that sometimes overlap. We hope that you have been able to learn something new about the workings of your country

Other functions include:

  • Protecting the lives and properties of its citizens.
  • Providing basic amenities like education, quality and affordable health care, good roads, etc.
  • Creation of employment opportunities
  • Generation of revenues for the state.

Duties of Local Government

The local governments perform the following duties to perform:

  1. The functions and tasks of the local government are prescribed in the Nigerian constitution of 1999. Representatives of this organization collect taxes, work with tele-broadcasting and radio, transport licenses, cemeteries and provide houses for the people in need.
  2. The local government should ensure order in the markets, provide citizens with amenities, service roads, streets, drains, public places and build new facilities when necessary.
  3. It is responsible for waste removal, evaluation of residential properties for further tax collection and birth, death and marriage registrations.
  4. It monitors the activities of small organizations like restaurants, shops, bakeries, kiosks, and other places where food and beverages are sold.
  5. In addition, functions of local authorities include ensuring the proper functioning of the educational system, the agricultural sector and natural sphere except for mining operations. Attention is also given to medical care and other duties that can be prescribed by a higher government. In order to achieve positive results in Nigeria, it is extremely important to deal with the problem of corruption; it is also necessary to take into account the interests and needs of the general population. The proper management of money will lead to a prosperous life of people in various regions of Nigeria.
  6. consequencely , Local governments play a key role in public education in the U.S. From kindergarten to community college, local governments, along with states, provide the primary funding for public schools, using money largely raised through state and local taxes. Local governments at all levels decide education policy, including county, city, town, and district. Their task is to make critical decisions about funding and pedagogy while serving as a channel between local communities and state education departments.

other duties include:

  • Registration of birth, death, and marriage certificates (take a look at your birth certificate, now you understand, right?).
  • Construction and maintenance of roads, street drains, parks, open spaces, and other public highways.
  • Establishment, maintenance, and regulation of markets, motor parks, etc.
  • Naming of roads, streets, and numbering of houses.
  • Provision and maintenance of public conveniences, and refuse disposal.
  • Control and regulation of shops, restaurants, kiosks, and other venues for sales of food.


The relationship between the three tiers of government in Nigeria goes beyond their division. It involves the power, responsibilities, etc shared among them as stated in the Nigerian constitution. If you were told to explain the relationship between the three arms of government in Nigeria and discuss the relationship among the level of government in Nigeria, how would you go about it? This relationship involves the division of political authority among the three levels of government, hence, the need of specific functions to each level.

   Government may exist under three levels. This are federal, state and local government. All the three tiers of government exist for and have things in common, which, essentially, are to improve the life of their people. Their individual and collective power, functions and limitation and enumerate in the constitution of the country.


Abah, N. C. (2000) Development administration: A multi-disciplinary approach. Enugu: John Jacobs Publishers Ltd.

Adamolekun, L. (1983) Public administration: A Nigerian and comparative Perspective. New York: Longman Inc.

Adamolekun, L. (2002) Decentralisation, subnational governments and intergovernmental relations, in Adamolekun, L.(ed.) Public administration in Africa: Main issues and selected country studies. Ibadan: Spectrum books limited.

Adedeji, B. O. (1987) Strategies for mobilizing the masses for economic progress and developm0ent . Paper presented at national workshop on local government. UNN (November).

Ezeani E.O. (2004) Local Government Administration. Enugu: Zik-Chuks Nig.

Ezeani E.O. (2006) Fundamentals of Public Administration. Enugu: Snaap press Ltd.

Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.Lagos: Federal Government Press.

Mr. Harrison

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