The diversified nature of the Nigerian state necessitated three levels of government. They are: Federal, State and Local Governments. Each of this level has its specific function towards the cooperate existence of Nigeria as a federal republic.
Federal system of government in Nigeria started during the colonial era and it dates back to 1946 when Richardson’s constitution laid the foundation. But true federalism started in Nigeria in 1954. In 1946, Nigeria was divided into three regions of the North, East and West. In the provisions of the 1946 constitution, an amendment was made for the creation of the House of Assembly and House of Chiefs in Nigeria. At the centre was the Federal House of Representatives while each region has house of chiefs except the Eastern region.
A federal government is the type of government where the power of the government, its functions and duties are divided among the levels of government in the country. A good example of federal state includes; United States of America (USA), Canada, Nigeria etc. Nigeria as a nation adapted this system because of the following reasons:
- Historical antecedent of the people of Nigeria: Nigeria had similar and cultural relationships before the coming of the Europeans and colonization.
- The largeness of the country and its diversified nature in-terms of religion, ethnicity, tradition, norms, ethic, values etc.
- The ethnic groups are geographically very close to one another which gives them the opportunity to speak each other’s local languages.
- The Nigerian nationalist leaders such as; Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, approved the adoption of federal system.
- Federal system also breeds unity inspite of the political, ethic, religious and socio-cultural differences etc.
- Federalism: This is a system of government where political powers in the state or country are shared or divided between the federal or central government and the constituent units making up the federation. Nigeria is an example of a federal system of government. The constituent units are: the state and the local government. Other examples of federal state includes: U.S.A, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Belgium etc.
- The State Government: The constitution that established the federal system recognizes the state government as unit under the federal or central government. The state has the power to legislate under the concurrent power list, such as power on education, agriculture, health etc. The head of the government in the state is the governor and there are 36 states in Nigeria.
- The Local Government: The local government is otherwise known as the grass root government. It has the power to legislate on residual power list only. The local government was established to maintain peace and orderliness at the grass-root level. In Nigeria, we have 774 local governments. The administrative and political head of the local government is called local government chairman.
Division of Power under Federalism
In a federal state like Nigeria, it is clearly stated in the constitution how the powers should be shared among the tiers and levels of government. The powers in the federal state are shared thus:
- Exclusive Power: The exclusive powers reside mainly with the federal or central governments and no other components, or a tier of government shares it with the central government. Some of the exclusive powers include; police affairs, currency, foreign affairs, defense, telecommunications, internal security etc.
- Concurrent powers: These are powers that are shared constitutionally between the central government and the state government. If there is disagreement between the central government and state government on any of the items, the federal law will prevail over the state law to maintain law and order in the country. For example, the federal government has the power to declare a “state of emergency” on any state in case of insecurity of the nation. The concurrent power list includes; agriculture, health, education, road, networks, youth and sports, recreational centres, banks, insurance etc.
- Residual Power: The residual powers in Nigeria are put under the control of the local government in order to maintain peace and order at the grassroots level. For example chieftaincy matters, motor parks, stores, grades “C” roads etc.
Other Pillars of Democracy
The armed forces are another very strong pillar of democracy. The armed forces comprises of the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Air-force, the Navy, the Nigeria Police Force and other paramilitary forces such as; Federal Road Safety Commission, Civil Defense, State Security Service, Customs and Immigration etc. They help to make the country a safer place for citizens. They also secure lives and properties in time of disasters or during important national events like elections.
Political party is an organized group of people that share common political beliefs, values, philosophies, ideologies and interest with the motive of contesting and winning elections so as to control the machinery of government.
Free press is otherwise known as press freedom. This is a situation whereby the press has the opportunity to express its opinion and views on national issues. In civilized societies, there is freedom of press law; for instance, The Freedom of Information Act of May 2011. This law enables the press to comment on national issues independently without fear of intimidation or harassment. Free press therefore is freedom of the pressmen and women from intimidation and harassment from the government and powerful individuals in the society.
These are the duties and obligations of citizens to his/her community, state and country:
- Payment of taxes and other levies as at when due.
- Peaceful co-existence with fellow citizens.
- Obedience to law and order.
- Respect for constituted authorities.
- Respect for the national symbols.
- Defend the nation when called upon etc.