Problems of Federal System of government in Nigeria

Generally, federalism has its own problems. But these problems may differ from one country to another. Today, we shall look at the the problems of federalism as it concerns Nigeria.

In my previous post, I discussed what federalism is all about. I also mentioned the features, advantages, disadvantages of federalism and the factors that necessitate federalism in a country. In addition to that, I explained the kind of Constitution that introduces the federal System of government and how it works.

Nigeria as a multiethnic country with diversities also operates a federal system of government. In that case, it faces some problems which accompany federalism.

Different systems of government have different features. Each with its own peculiar characteristics. The Characteristics, I mean the pros and cons and so is the federal system of government.

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Problems of Federalism in Nigeria

Let us now see the different issues Nigeria is currently facing as a result of the federal system of government which they adopted.

Important: these problems can also be see as the disadvantages of federalism in Nigeria.

1. Revenue allocation method

Revenue sharing
Methods of Sharing of revenue

The method of sharing revenue has been one of the major problems in Nigeria. The problems inherent in the sharing revenue among the federating units have been a source of concern since 1950s.

Since federalism requires that each independent state receives some percentage of fund from the central government, it becomes hard to determine factors to consider while sharing it.

Some States where funds are generated want more revenue than others. In the same way, other states also want more irrespective of their contributions.

For instance, some states in Nigeria are oil producing States, some are in to agricultural productions, some have other natural minerals such as salt, gold zinc etc. In the other hand, some are actually more in population than the other even though they produce less than other states. What should the government consider? Is it the the population or the production levels or should it be by equality?

If you choose population, it means those States which produce more will be left at loss and the cost of production also lost. If you choose to consider the level of production, it means the state with more population will be left to suffer. Then, if the government goes by equality, some states will receive more than enough, possibly because they are not that populated.

However, solutions have been proffered by some learned scholars but those solutions (commission) tend not to work. Examples of such commission are:

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The Philipson Commission (1946)

This commission recommended the principle of derivation, stipulating that each region should obtains revenue that corresponds with the contributed quota.

The Hicks Phillipson Commission (1951)

This commission recommended three principles of sharing revenue which include:

  • derivation
  • need
  • national interest;

The Chicks Commission (1953)

This commission came up with derivation formula.

The Raisman commission (1957)

It recommended the principle of

  • derivation,
  • need,
  • population
  • government responsibility;

Binns Commission (1964)

Recommended the principle of need and even development.

Aboyade Technical Commission (1977)

Recommended minimum national standard for national integration, independent revenue and tax efforts and equality of access to development benefits.

Okigbo commission (1980)

Recommended ratios for the sharing of federally collected revenue (federal – 53%, state – 30%, local government – 10%, special fund – 7 %)

Danjuma Commission (1988)

came up with another ratios (federal – 50%, state – 30%, local government – 15% and special fund – 5%) (Akintoye, 2012).

These are the commission that came up just to proffer solutions to the problems of federalism in Nigeria. But till date, Nigeria still suffers same problem as it is always hard to choose which method to use and cling upon.


2. Inter ethnic rivalry

Inter ethnic rivalry
Struggle by different ethnic groups

This is one of the major issues of federalism in Nigeria. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic state. It has diverse groups of people with different culture, language and religion. Due to these differences, there has been serious rivalry among these ethnic groups especially the major ethnic groups – Igbo, Hausaa and Yoruba.

Each group wants to dominate the other and it has caused power tussle among them. Other minor ethnic groups also hustle for power as no one wants to be left behind.

Nobody, till date knows a solution to this problem as other solutions tried by leaders of the country proved abortive. Personal opinions have also been going on, even the government has tried but, it persists and remains a thorn in Nigeria.

3. Minority issues and creation of States

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There are major and minor groups in Nigeria. The major ones do not like to be dominated by any other. On the other hand, the the minorities are afraid of the domination of the major ones. This causes a problem.

The nature of the multi-ethnicity of Nigeria has brought about the issue of minorities which constitutes a major problem against the development of the nation.

4. The issue of secession

According to Cambridge English Dictionary, secession means, the “act becoming independent and no longer part of a country, area, organization, etc”.

Due to ethnicity and diversities in Nigeria, groups have been agitating for Independence. In other words, they want their own self government.

This has been the fight of the Igbos since 1960s caused by ethnic differences. Some other minor groups in Nigeria also agitate for same.

This continues to be one of the major disadvantages of federalism in Nigeria as such will never or hardly stop.

Federal characters

Appointment or election of Federal characters is another issue. Appointments should be rotated among the different geopolitical zones. It should not be a tribal something. So should elections be. Once its time for each geo-political zone to assume office, they should do so. In the absence of this power rotation, some zones may feel cheated.

Rotation of power will also cause a change of hand in government. This will always bring something new into the government.

A particular ethnic group should not assume power for so long, instead, others should be allowed as well since it’s a multi ethnic State.

Conclusion – Major Problems of federalism in Nigeria

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Right from the time of Independence, there has been differences among the different tribes in Nigeria. These problems majorly came up as a result of the political structure laid down by the British.

The solution to these problems is good governance; a government that can restructure the Country’s government – Arms of government.

Nigeria needs a government that will adhere to the tenets of the law, not obeying it partly.

Furthermore, some sections of the Constitution needs some modifications and some things need to be added too. Example: the mode of impeachment of the president oust the jurisdiction of the court to entertain any matter related to it. This simply means the Constitution has, in a way, removed the major function of the Judiciary.

The rotation of power clause should also be added in the Constitution so as to terminate the struggles for power among the different ethnic groups.

Do well to drop your contribution below. Let’s hear what you have to say.

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