Welcome to myschoollibrary! In our Social Studies lesson today, we will be looking at the topic ” The Nigerian Federation “. Do have an awesome time studying with us!

Lesson Note

Subject: Social Studies

Class: JS2

Topic: The Nigerian Federation

Learning Objectives: The learners should be able to do the following by the end of the lesson:

  1. describe Nigeria as a federation;
  2. State the characteristics of a federation;
  3. State the advantages of a federation;
  4. Mention the disadvantages of a federation;
  5. Narrate the history of the Nigerian federation.



Nigeria as a Federation

Nigeria is a federation. If we take a look at the structure of the government of Nigeria, we will observe that there are more than one level of government. Indeed, in Nigeria, there are three levels of government: the federal government, the state government (36 of them) and the local government (774 of them). These three levels of government are also referred to as the tiers of government. The Nigerian Constitution has these levels of government written in it. Their functions and how they are to operate are also clearly written in the constitution.
In a nutshell, therefore, a federation is a country where the powers of government are shared between a central government (that represents the whole country) and the government of component regions or states or localities. In this arrangement, the existence of each government is not only guaranteed by the constitution, each government is also, to a large extent, independent of others. The powers of government are shared between the central government and the component regions in a way that certain areas are exclusively reserved for the central government, for example, currency, defence, immigration, etc. The state government may exercise powers in some areas with the federal or central government while some are also left to the state government alone.

Characteristics of a Federation

A federation usually has the following features:
i. Governmental powers are divided between the central and component government
ii. The country usually has a written constitution
iii. The constitution spells out the jurisdictions of the various tiers of government
iv. The country is usually a large one in terms of size
v. The legislature or law making body is made up of two houses- the upper and the lower houses.

Advantages of a Federation

i. Unity in Diversity: There is unity in diversity since a federation is usually made of people of different ethnic groupings, religions and languages.
ii. Rapid and even Development: Since the component units are to a large extent responsible for the development of their areas, they do not have to wait for the central government to do things for them and development will thus also be even.
iii. Fear of Domination is Removed: A section of the country will not be afraid of being dominated by another section, as each group will develop at it’s own pace while power is shared among the component parts.
iv. Government is much closer to the People: The people feel the impact of government activities as the government is much nearer to the people of the grassroots through the state and local governments. It is for this reason that there are usually clamours for more state and local government creations in Nigeria.
v. Minority Interests may be Protected: Minority groups may be given the opportunity to form their own states, and through the quota system and federal character have their interests represented at the central government.

Disadvantages of a Federation

i. Sectional interests: In a federation, the tendency exists for people to promote the interests of their states or ethnic groups at the expense of the national interest.
ii. Duplication of Governmental Functions: In a federation government, departments are duplicated with overlapping functions. For example, there are 36 ministries of education, agriculture, and finance each, as well as those of the central or federal government, all performing the same functions. This may lead to wastage in the use of scarce resources.
ii. Expensive to Operate: As a result of the multiplicity if government departments and a large civil service, the cost or running a federation is high.
iii. Decision Making is Slow: Decisions, especially those that concern both the central and state governments, take a long time to be taken. The legislature is usually made up of two houses. Before a bill passes through the two houses and becomes a law, it might have taken a long time.
iv. Problem of Sharing Resources: When it comes to the sharing of resources, the problem of how much should go to the federal government, the other states and the state from which the resources originate becomes a problem. An example is the sharing of the oil wealth from the oil producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria with the rest of the country.

History of the Nigerian Federation

The origin of the federal structure in Nigeria is traced to the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates of Nigeria by the British colonial authorities in 1914. The northern and southern protectorates were amalgamated in order to make the administration of the country better. In 1939, Sir Bernard Bourdillion, the Governor – General, in a bid to further increase the efficiency of administration, split the Southern Protectorate into two. The constitutions of 1946 and 1951 provided for a decentralized administrative structure consisting of Eastern, Western and Northern regions. This decentralisation of administration marked the origin of the federal structure. Although it has been argued that the colonial authorities had no intention of complementing this administrative decentralisation with federal practice, Nigerian rulers and politicians have favoured the federal idea since then.
At independence, Nigeria was a federation of three regions and a federal capital. In 1962, the Midwestern Region was created out of the Western Region making Nigeria a four-region federation. In the first republic when Nigeria was made up of three regions and later four regions, there was a problem of inequality of regions. This is because of the preponderant size and population of the Northern region. This put the rest of the country under the perpetual domination or the Northern region that had more than half of the seats in parliament. Secondly, the number of federating units were too few leading to perpetual face-to-face conflicts. One way the Nigerian elite have tried to resolve these problems is by the creation of new states and local governments. Thus, Nigeria has moved from four regions under the 1963 Constitution to a federation of 36 states under the 1999 constitution.
The first restructuring of the country after independence was done in 1962 under democratic rule when the Midwest was carved out of the Western Region, one or the three regions existing then. The second occurred in 1967 at the beginning of the civil war under military rule. From a twelve-state structure in 1967, Nigeria moved to 19 in 1976, 21 in 1987, 30 in 1991and 36 state in 1996. The number of local governments has moved from 301 in 1979 to 774 in 1996. Currently Nigeria has 36 states. These states have 774 local governments altogether. There is also a Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The FCT has four area councils or local governments.


Done studying? Assess your learning with the following questions:
1. Why is Nigeria a Federation?
2. Mention three characteristics of a federation
3. Describe three advantages and three disadvantages of a federation.
4. Explain briefly the history of the Nigerian Federation.

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