Assignments

Nigeria is Federal in Name but Largely Unitary in Practice

Nigeria is Federal in Name but Largely Unitary in Practice

DISCOUNT Sales!!! GET COMPLETE  PROJECT MATERIAL FROM US TODAY AT A DISCOUNT PRICE OF 50% WHICH IS  ₦1500 instead of ₦3000. Call/WhatsApp 08127963962

Abstract

This paper critically examines the assertion that Nigeria, despite its constitutional designation as a federal republic, functions predominantly as a unitary state in practice. By analyzing Nigeria’s historical context, constitutional framework, and governance mechanisms, the study reveals substantial centralization that compromises the federal structure.

The federal government’s dominant control over fiscal resources, security forces, and the judiciary, along with the states’ heavy reliance on federal allocations, underscores the unitary characteristics within Nigeria’s ostensibly federal system. The essay argues for comprehensive political and structural reforms to realize authentic federalism, which better accommodates Nigeria’s complex and diverse socio-political landscape.

 

 Introduction

Federalism, as a system of governance, is designed to balance the distribution of power between a central authority and constituent political units, allowing for both national cohesion and regional autonomy. This theoretical framework has been adopted by numerous countries to manage their diverse socio-political landscapes, with varying degrees of success. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is one such country that has embraced federalism. However, the practical application of federal principles in Nigeria has been a subject of intense debate and scrutiny.

The statement that “Nigeria is federal in name but largely unitary in practice” encapsulates this ongoing discourse. Nigeria’s journey toward federalism is deeply rooted in its colonial past and the subsequent efforts to manage its ethnically and religiously diverse population. The country’s federal structure was formally established with the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954, which aimed to provide a framework for regional autonomy within a united Nigeria. Despite this foundation, the post-independence era has witnessed significant centralization of power, particularly during the prolonged periods of military rule. This historical centralization has profoundly influenced the current governance structure, where the federal government retains substantial control over resources, security, and political decision-making.

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which remains the supreme law of the land, ostensibly enshrines the principles of federalism by delineating powers across three tiers of government: federal, state, and local. However, a closer examination reveals a considerable gap between constitutional provisions and practical realities. Key areas such as revenue allocation, security apparatus, and judiciary operations exhibit significant centralization, undermining the autonomy of the states and local governments.

This centralization has fostered a dependency relationship, where states rely heavily on federal allocations for financial sustenance, and local governments are subordinate to state governments. The practical implementation of federal principles in Nigeria is further complicated by its ethno-religious diversity, economic disparities, and political dynamics. The country’s complex socio-political landscape poses significant challenges to the equitable distribution of power and resources. Wealthier states often advocate for greater autonomy to manage their resources, while poorer states rely on federal subsidies and resist decentralization. Additionally, the political elite’s vested interest in maintaining centralized power further hampers the drive toward genuine federalism.

This exploration aims to dissect the extent to which Nigeria’s federalism is nominal rather than substantive. By analyzing the historical evolution, constitutional framework, and practical implementation of federal principles, this discussion will illuminate the factors that contribute to Nigeria’s unitary tendencies.

The examination will also highlight the challenges and prospects for achieving a more balanced federal structure that truly reflects the diversity and aspirations of its constituent units. Through this comprehensive analysis, the assertion that “Nigeria is federal in name but largely unitary in practice” will be critically assessed, providing insights into the complexities of Nigerian federalism and the pathways to potential reforms.

The Concept of Unitary System of Government

A unitary system of government is here seen as an administrative process in which the whole governing and administrative authority of a nation resides in the central or federal government of that collectivity, leaving the regional or federating units with little or no administrative authority. It is therefore, a society or state that is governed as a single power, in other words, making the central government ultimately supreme and absolute. It is in this regard, the final legal depositary of the social wills within its boundary, because it set the perspectives of all other federating units or regions that made up the country as is evident in Nigeria.

See also  Complete analysis and Synopsis of in Amma Darko Beyond the Horizon

A unitary system of government brings within its power all forms of human activity the control of which it considered attractive and pleasing without regards to what the federating units may think of it (see the federal government perception of anti-open grazing laws in some states in the Middle-belt region of Nigeria). In other words the federating units or regional governments can only exercise those powers that the central government chooses to delegate to them even in matters of internal security; this is inimical to federal principles and is not obtainable in a true federalism. It is as a result of this oblique logic of this supremacy of central government in a unitary system that it is here argued that whatever remains free of its control does so by its own authorization.

 Since it can infuse its will on any internal issue irrespective of its status in the particular region or the federating unit to which it is domicile with no legal limitation of any kind, what it purposes as a matter of fact becomes right within that geographical expression by mere announcement of intention. In a unitary system of government, the regional government or the component units is established or created at will by the central government as is evidence in Nigeria (from three regions to thirty six states and FCT) for administrative reasons, instead of the regions demanding for the unions called Nigeria, in form of federalism.

In a unitary system these component units or regions can also be abolished at will by the central government as is evidence in the twenty two (22) mainland regions of France that was merged or reduced to thirteen (13) regions. The central government can as well broaden their political and administrative authority just like it can narrow it down at will, as is evidence in the history of Nigeria states or regional political and administrative powers from independence to the present times. Although, political power may be delegated to the federating units in form of devolution of power to the third tier of government by statute in a unitary system of governments, recall that the central government remains supreme in a unitary system and can abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail their powers.

The Structure of Authority in a Unitary System of Government

Nigeria is Federal in Name but Largely Unitary in Practice
Nigeria is Federal in Name but Largely Unitary in Practice
  • The Federal System of Government: The federal system of government is a political structure in which power is divided between a central authority and various constituent units, typically states or provinces. This division of power is constitutionally enshrined, ensuring that both levels of government have distinct areas of authority and governance. Federalism aims to balance the need for a unified national policy with the preservation of regional autonomy, making it a suitable system for countries with diverse populations and large geographical areas.

The Structure of Authority in a Federal System of Government

  • Theoretical Foundations of Federalism

Federalism, as a political concept, involves a system of government where power is constitutionally divided between a central authority and constituent political units (Elazar, 1987). Key characteristics of federalism include a written constitution that specifies the distribution of powers, the existence of multiple levels of government, an independent judiciary, and a mechanism for resolving disputes between levels of government (Riker, 1964).

Nigeria is Federal in Name but Largely Unitary in Practice

  • Historical Evolution of Nigerian Federalism

Nigeria’s journey towards federalism is deeply intertwined with its colonial past. The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 by the British colonial administration laid the groundwork for a unified governance structure (Coleman, 1958). The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 formally established Nigeria as a federation with three regions, each enjoying significant autonomy. However, the post-independence era, marked by a series of military coups, saw the centralization of power, especially under military regimes such as those of General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjo. These regimes restructured the regions into states, ostensibly to promote unity but effectively centralizing power at the federal level (Suberu, 2001).

  • Constitutional Framework

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which is still in force, outlines the federal structure with three tiers of government: federal, state, and local. It delineates the powers of these governments through three lists: the exclusive list (federal powers), the concurrent list (shared powers), and the residual list (state powers) (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999). Despite this formal division, several areas reveal the unitary nature of Nigeria’s federalism:

Revenue Allocation

The federal government controls over 80% of Nigeria’s revenue, primarily derived from oil and gas. This revenue is then distributed to the states and local governments, creating a dependency that undermines the fiscal autonomy of the states (Akpan, 2011). This centralized control of fiscal resources diminishes the capacity of states to generate and manage their revenues independently.

See also  The Definitions of Learning by Various Scholars for 2023

Security Apparatus

Nigeria’s security forces, including the police and military, are centrally controlled by the federal government. The constitution vests the power to maintain law and order in the federal government, leaving states with limited control over security within their territories (Ojo, 2009). Despite calls for the establishment of state police to enhance localized law enforcement, this has not been realized, further entrenching central control.

Judiciary

The judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has the power to override state laws. This central judicial authority often undermines the legal autonomy of the states (Olakanmi, 2010). The centralized judiciary reinforces federal dominance over legal matters that could otherwise be handled at the state level.

Local Government Administration

Although local governments are constitutionally recognized, their creation, funding, and administration are heavily influenced by state governments, which are themselves dependent on federal allocations (Arowolo, 2011). This hierarchical structure weakens the autonomy of local governments, making them extensions of state governments rather than independent entities. Practical Implementation of Federal Principles

Practical Implementation of Federal Principles

In practice, several aspects of Nigeria’s governance reflect unitary tendencies rather than federal principles.

  • Centralized Decision-Making

Major policy decisions often emanate from the federal government, with states having limited input. This centralization is evident in critical areas such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure development, where federal policies and funding dominate (Ejobowah, 2000). States often find themselves implementing federal directives rather than crafting policies tailored to their unique needs.

  • Intergovernmental Relations

The relationship between the federal and state governments is marked by a lack of true collaboration. States frequently find themselves in a subordinate position, dependent on federal approval for significant initiatives (Suberu, 2001). This dynamic hampers the ability of states to act independently and innovatively address local challenges.

  • Political Influence and Patronage

The federal government wields significant influence over state governments through political patronage, further undermining the independence and autonomy of states (Aiyede, 2009). This patronage system entrenches central control and diminishes the effectiveness of federalism as a system of governance.

NIGERIA IS FEDERAL IN NAME BUT LARGELY UNITARY IN PRACTICE

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, operates under a federal system of government, as enshrined in its 1999 Constitution. However, in practice, Nigeria exhibits significant unitary characteristics, undermining the federal principles that ostensibly govern it. This discrepancy arises from historical centralization efforts, the overwhelming control of resources by the central government, and the practical execution of power across its regions. As a result, Nigeria’s federal structure is more theoretical than practical, with substantial central dominance in fiscal, security, and administrative matters.

The historical evolution of Nigeria’s federalism reveals a consistent trend toward centralization. Initially, the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 established a federal system to accommodate the country’s diverse ethnic and regional interests (Coleman, 1958). However, post-independence military regimes, particularly those led by General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjo, centralized power significantly by restructuring the country from three regions into multiple states. This restructuring, while aimed at promoting national unity, effectively diluted regional autonomy and entrenched central control (Suberu, 2001). This historical context set the stage for the current quasi-federal system where the central government holds substantial sway over the states.

Central to Nigeria’s unitary practice is the control of fiscal resources. The federal government manages over 80% of the nation’s revenue, primarily from oil and gas, and allocates funds to the states (Akpan, 2011). This arrangement fosters a dependency of states on federal allocations, undermining their financial autonomy and capacity for self-governance. Moreover, the federal government’s control over critical sectors such as oil revenue, which constitutes the bulk of national income, restricts states from independently managing their resources and revenues. Consequently, states have limited fiscal power, which contradicts the core tenet of federalism that emphasizes regional autonomy in financial matters.

Additionally, Nigeria’s security apparatus exemplifies its unitary tendencies. The federal government retains exclusive control over the police and military, which are essential for maintaining law and order. States have no independent control over security forces, limiting their ability to address localized security challenges effectively (Ojo, 2009). Calls for the establishment of state police to enable more localized and responsive law enforcement have been resisted, reinforcing the centralized control. This centralized security structure compromises the states’ ability to exercise their constitutional authority over internal security, further highlighting the unitary nature of Nigeria’s federalism.

See also  The Role of Science and Technology in the Development of Nigeria

Administrative and judicial structures also reflect central dominance. Local governments, constitutionally recognized as the third tier of government, are heavily dependent on state governments, which in turn rely on federal allocations (Arowolo, 2011). This dependency chain dilutes the autonomy of local governance, making them extensions of state and, indirectly, federal authority. Furthermore, the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has overarching power to override state laws, centralizing legal authority and diminishing state autonomy in judicial matters (Olakanmi, 2010).

These structural arrangements underscore the substantial central control inherent in Nigeria’s federal system. While Nigeria is constitutionally a federal republic, its practical governance reveals significant unitary characteristics. The centralization of fiscal resources, security apparatus, and administrative and judicial power undermines the autonomy of the states, creating a dependency relationship that contradicts federal principles. The historical context of military rule, coupled with the central government’s overwhelming control of critical sectors, has entrenched a unitary practice within a federal framework. For Nigeria to achieve genuine federalism, there must be a concerted effort to redistribute powers more equitably, enhance regional autonomy, and foster a political environment conducive to true federal principles.

Challenges and Prospects

Several challenges inhibit the full realization of federalism in Nigeria:

Ethno-Religious Diversity

Nigeria’s diverse ethnic and religious composition complicates the federal structure. Regional autonomy could exacerbate tensions and secessionist movements, as seen in the agitation for Biafra’s independence in the 1960s (Osaghae, 1998). Managing this diversity within a federal framework remains a significant challenge.

Economic Disparities

Significant economic disparities exist between regions. Wealthier states, primarily in the south, advocate for greater autonomy to manage their resources, while poorer states, mostly in the north, benefit from federal subsidies and resist decentralization (Suberu, 2001). Addressing these disparities is crucial for achieving balanced federalism.

Political Will

A lack of political will among the ruling elite to implement true federalism persists. Centralization consolidates their power, making it difficult to devolve authority effectively (Aiyede, 2009). Political reforms are necessary to foster genuine federalism that reflects Nigeria’s diverse realities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while Nigeria is a federal republic in name, its practical operations reveal significant unitary characteristics. The centralization of fiscal resources, security apparatus, and judicial power undermines the autonomy of the states, creating a dependency relationship that contradicts federal principles.

The complexities of Nigeria’s socio-political landscape, including ethnic diversity and economic disparities, pose substantial challenges to the implementation of genuine federalism. To move towards true federalism, there needs to be a concerted effort to redistribute powers more equitably, foster intergovernmental collaboration, and promote political and economic reforms that respect federal principles. Addressing these issues can pave the way for a more balanced and effective federal system in Nigeria.

References

Arowolo, D. (2011). Fiscal Federalism in Nigeria: Theory and Practice. Canadian Social Science, 7(2), 73-78.

Akpan, U. (2011). Fiscal Federalism in Nigeria: Theory and Dimensions. International Journal of Development and Management Review, 6(1), 9-20.

Coleman, J. S. (1958). Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. University of California Press.

Ojo, E. O. (2009). Mechanisms of National Integration in a Multi-Ethnic Federal State: The Nigerian Experience. Ibadan Journal of the Social Sciences, 7(1), 101-118.

Olakanmi, J. (2010). Handbook on Nigerian Constitutional Law. LawLords Publications.

Suberu, R. T. (2001). Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria. United States Institute of Peace Press.

Aiyede, E. R. (2009). The Political Economy of Fiscal Federalism and the Dilemma of Constructing a Developmental State in Nigeria. International Political Science Review, 30(3), 249-269.

Akpan, U. (2011). Fiscal Federalism in Nigeria: Theory and Dimensions. International Journal of Development and Management Review, 6(1), 9-20.

Arowolo, D. (2011). Fiscal Federalism in Nigeria: Theory and Practice. Canadian Social Science, 7(2), 73-78.

Coleman, J. S. (1958). Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. University of California Press.

Ejobowah, J. B. (2000). Ethnic Politics and Constitutional Design in Nigeria. Journal of Modern African Studies, 38(2), 231-258.

Elazar, D. J. (1987). Exploring Federalism. University of Alabama Press.

Federal Republic of Nigeria. (1999). Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Ojo, E. O. (2009). Mechanisms of National Integration in a Multi-Ethnic Federal State: The Nigerian Experience. Ibadan Journal of the Social Sciences, 7(1), 101-118.

Olakanmi, J. (2010). Handbook on Nigerian Constitutional Law. LawLords Publications.

Osaghae, E. E. (1998). Crippled Giant: Nigeria Since Independence. Indiana University Press.

Riker, W. H. (1964). Federalism: Origin, Operation, Significance. Little, Brown and Company.

Suberu, R. T. (2001). Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria. United States Institute of Peace Press. 

Mr. Harrison

Project Gurus is a subsidiary website owned by Harrilibrary Integrated Services which was registered under the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria that was established in 1990 vide Companies and Allied Matters Act no 1 1990 as amended, now on Act cap C20 Laws of Federation of Nigeria. Our aim and objective is to assist students all over the world on their educational research works. We are committed toward assisting students at all level of education in their academic work. We have a team of seasonal writers who are vested with the current knowledge in research work. For more information contact on via Email @[email protected] or WhatsApp us on +2348127963962

Related Articles

Back to top button