Paper Title
Nigeria and the Challenges of Federalism: A Historical Perspective
Louis Emeka Ezugwu
Law, Leadership, and Social Sciences

Nigeria became a federal state in 1954 when the Lyttleton Constitution came into existence.. Ever since then the country has strived to maintain its federal character. Federalism is the political arrangement in which political powers are shared between the central government and regional or sub-national governments. Federalism has definitive characteristics which differentiate it from unitary government. It is the nature of relationship between the central government and component units that determines if a state is truly federal or not. In this work, we are going to look at the nature of the Nigerian federal character and practices of ideal federal system of government as enunciated by K.C Wheare. The theoretical framework for the present analysis is the dual- federalist theory.The objectives of this paper are to determine the degree in which Nigeria federal system practice the ideal form of federalism and, secondly, to determine the impact of military regime to Nigerian federalism. This research adopts documentary research design which involves the review of relevant documents such as textbooks, journals, periodicals and magazines to identify scholarly postulations on the subject of study. Findings in this work indicates that Nigeria has failed to practice true federalism and recommended that Nigeria 1999 constitution should be amended to reflect true federalism. 

Federalism, Nigeria, revenue sharing, federal character, states


The essence of a state is to enable the citizenry achieve collective well-being and happiness. The state is, therefore, a means to an end; and the end itself is good life for the citizens. For the state to achieve this desired end there should be a functional symbiotic relationship at the horizontal and vertical levels, between the ruling elite and the ruled, and among the heterogeneous component ethnic groups in the state.

The Nigerian state is a British colonial creation. Lord Fredrick Lugard in 1914 foisted “unity” upon the more than 250 heterogeneous ethnic groups of Nigeria through amalgamation. This was in spite of the fact that although these peoples, prior to the arrival of the Europeans, had inter-ethnic relations, they never voluntarily agitated, nor opted for such a merger of Southern and Northern Protectorates. The federal structure began to be formed in 1939 under Sir Bernard Bourdillon who divided the Southern Protectorate into two. The Lythelton Constitution of 1954 created the federal system by devolving powers between the central government and three regional governments of the North, West and East, at that time. This devolution was done ostensibly to eradicate the fears of domination of the minority ethnic groups by the major ethnic groups and also as a framework for development. Unfortunately, notwithstanding these lofty reasons for federalism, communities in Nigeria feel very much marginalized and alienated from the central system. This has resulted in series of agitations for Constitution review and adoption of “true” federalism.


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